How to develop for Android using only free software?

Hi, I’m curious to know your recommendations for what tools to use when creating Android apps, since Android Studio and the Android SDK are proprietary. Is there any way to improve this, for instance can I edit the code using Gedit and compile it somehow on the command line? I’m fairly new to Android development. Thanks!

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Good questions actually. Android Studio and most parts of the android SDK should be free software. But finding any definitive statement is rather tricky.

There is this, though that’s not really conclusive: https://stackoverflow.com/questions/18565464/is-it-ok-to-use-android-studio-for-production-license-concern

The sdk components we are using should all be under Apache-2.0 but I’d need to re-check that again to be absolutely sure.

In any case you don’t need android studio to develop android applications. What you need is the sdk-tools bundle and gradle.

then it’s calling ./gradlew assembleRelease and you get the same thing androdi studio does.

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Thank you! This is the answer I was hoping for.


I was on my phone when I wrote this, but I can elaborate a bit more now. It seems Android Studio is source available and based on the Apache-licensed IntelliJ IDEA Community Edition. Supposedly it too is Apache-licensed although I haven’t yet looked at the source tree of Android Studio because it’s kind of obfuscated, so I don’t know whether it includes a LICENSE file.

Anyway, when you go to download Android Studio a giant terms and conditions pops up:

I haven’t read it throughly, but this for instance jumps out at me:

3.2 You may not use this SDK to develop applications for other platforms (including non-compatible implementations of Android) or to develop another SDK. You are of course free to develop applications for other platforms, including non-compatible implementations of Android, provided that this SDK is not used for that purpose.

According to the free software definition, you must be able to use the software for any purpose, without restriction, so the SDK is not free software if you can’t use it to develop applications for other platforms.

It seems like this is all a license for the SDK, by the way, and maybe not for Android Studio itself. So maybe Android Studio is fine, and the SDK is the issue. Hoping someone can clear this up.

  1. rumors say that Android Studio isn’t free. Meanwhile SDK is definitely OpenSource (as a proof you can see Replicant distributing their own build of SDK, yet very old). Not sure about its effective license though I suspect it’s Apache-like.

  2. The freedom of a piece of SW doesn’t depend on what tools or compilers build em. But what’s really interesting that while using free SW almost fully for F-Droid builds, they use Google SDK binaries…

There is also a paragraph in this license popup where it says that for the parts of the SDK that are under an open source license no such restrictions apply. Now there are parts of the SDK that are definitely not under a free license, I.e. the android wear parts.

It’s all a mess really :-/

There are not libraries called “open android” ?!

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