Intel® XDK Update for April 2014

The April release of the Intel® XDK offers new "Live Development" support, and some new services.

In the past couple of months we had some insightful meetings at MWC, the Games Developers Conference, and the most interesting was a hackathon at the Bergen County Academy in Hakensack, NJ.  This hackathon was conceived, organized (including getting sponsors and funding), and completely run by high school students for high school students.  They had over 200 students attend from many schools in the area and it was amazing at the skills they have, and the apps, games, and robotics they created in a mere twenty-four hours.  Most had started learning programming with Python and Java, but picked up HTML5 very quickly; we were happy that the Intel® XDK could help them learn.  Kudos to the Bergen County Academy for offering such a great learning experience for the students.    Ok, on to the Intel XDK update...

In this April release of the Intel® XDK, we offer a first cut at what we call "Live Development" - the ability to see your changes rendered simultaneously as you edit them. More about it at the end of this blog.  We have a number of other new features and improvements in this release, in addition to many bug-fixes.  Here's the full list of what we did in this release:

  • New web services support:  This allows for easier exploration, management, and embedding of APIs into your app.  It starts in the "Services" tab of the Intel XDK, where you can explore the APIs available, enter your credentials with the service provider (appMobi* and Mashery* currently).  Then you can embed the API code into your app through the App Designer UI Builder or the editor and go straight into testing in the Emulator or on-device.   This is a start at providing more services in addition to those from appMobi.  The Mashery APIs supported now are: USA Today Census, Rotten Tomatoes, and Klout.  If you have a service provider not listed, there is an option to create your own service offering within the XDK.  You provide the REST API configuration info, create an iodocs* format json file for the API, then fill in the javascript to connect the REST APIs to iodocs json.
  • Cordova 3.x in the Build System for iOS and Windows* 8 in addition to Android.  The Android and Windows 8 targets have the full IntelXDK device APIs supported in addition to the Cordova default device APIs; iOS just has the Cordova base APIs for now.
  • "Start with a Template":  A new way of getting started with the XDK is to use a simple UI template for common web-apps, like logins, lists, different menu and view templates.  These are intended to help you get started quickly by just adding your own content and javascript instead of working from one of the fully functioning demo apps.
  • A new App Preview is available in the app stores for iOS, Android, and Windows 8.  It has some cosmetic changes (new icons and images), and now allows the XDK to push apps to your device (with your permission) for Live Development.  More below on how this works.
  • A new "Settings" dialog box allow you to set common appearance and file-usage settings throughout the XDK.
  • Crosswalk:  We upgraded to the latest Crosswalk 5 build as the "beta" version you may select in the Crosswalk Build settings, and upgraded Crosswalk 4 to the "stable" build option (default).  New features in Crosswalk 5 include a new SIMD Javascript API that takes advantage of SIMD instruction-set support on Intel processors when you build x86 targets.  Here are the Crosswalk 4 and 5 release notes:
    https://crosswalk-project.org/#wiki/Crosswalk-4-release-notes
    https://crosswalk-project.org/#wiki/Crosswalk-5-release-notes
  • App Starter was updated to support App Framework 2.1.  App Framework 2.1 was announced just a couple of weeks ago.  Be sure to visit the new App Framework site - new documentation and a new web-site:  http://app-framework-software.intel.com
  • Some of our customers were giving us feedback that XDK can be slow on big projects. We fixed that - at least we think we did - we've seen a huge improvement with some large projects containing hundreds of files and lots of images.  Let us know if you have one that still performs poorly.
  • Other key issues customers reported were addressed as well.  See the Release Notes for more details.

Now, a bit more on Live Development.  There are two parts to it:  "Live Preview" - simultaneously rendering your changes in a separate window, and "Preview on Devices" to preview/test your app on a device.   Live Preview offers the ability to see your edits simultaneously rendered in a Chrome* browser window as you edit your app.  You can find it on the Develop tab in a side-panel to the right of the editor.  It greatly improves your ability to test & preview your UI and re-edit as you need.  A limitation with it, though, is that it does not work with DOM changes.  Thus, we do not have it enabled with the UI Builder tools yet - UI frameworks such as App Framework and Bootstrap* frequently change the DOM.   "Preview on Devices", however, a feature for Android* only (for now), works with any app changes since it runs directly on the device.  It uses a new App Preview (available in the app stores) that allows the XDK to push the app you are editing to your device connected via USB whenever there is a file-save.  Thus, you can edit your app and upon save, have it automatically synced with your device so you can test it.  This is different than the on-device testing through App Preview you may be familiar with as the app does not go through our cloud file system - it goes straight to your device.

Again, this Live Development is a preview feature now, and you can see that there are some limitations in its use.  We'll keep working on it with your feedback.  We are striving to provide you with real simultaneous edit/test functionality to make your app development as efficient as possible.  Stay tuned for more!

Joe