Creating a “Hello, World !” Kindle Fire app using App Inventor – it’s easy, it’s free !

I was browsing the Amazon app store today morning, looking for an app for my Kindle Fire, but unfortunately I just couldn’t find one that looked as sleek as the iPad counterparts. I even upped my budget from FREE to 0.99$, but in vain. So being a developer, I did what came naturally to me – reinventing the wheel by creating an app of my own.

Step 1 of 2 – Creating the application on your computer

So, first things first, a “Hello, World!” application. I stumbled upon the the App Inventor by Google that allows you to create apps for the android phone and as luck would have it the apps work on Kindle Fire too. A perfect start for someone like me who knows nothing about mobile development.

Installing the necessary components so that the App Inventor can work in your browser is really easy and hassle free. Just visit App Inventor Website and follow the instructions to a T !

I’m not going to repeat the instructions, as it has been explained very well on the App Inventor website. You need to follow the section that explains how to create an app using an emulator (and not the phone). I’ve added a few snapshots and some notes on slight glitches I faced.

A snapshot of the App Inventor with the “Hello World” interface – a button and a label :

Note 1. I installed the app inventor on OS X Lion and Windows 7 Home Premium without any hassle at all using Chrome.

Note 2. After I closed and restarted the browser, the app inventor did not load correctly. I fixed this by explicitly executing the adbdevices.bat file which can be found at “C:\Program Files (x86)\AppInventor\commands-for-Appinventor\adbdevices.bat” on a 64 bit windows machine.

The Block Editor allows you to define the behavior for your user interface. The graphical model for describing the logic seemed a little too cute to be very practical but it does get the job done and worked without any problems. I am going to have to dig deeper and figure out if the App Inventor allows you to define logic the ‘text editor’ way, or if I am going to have to switch development environments for building applications that do more than purr.

A snapshot of the Block Editor – toggles the label on button click :

Note 3. On the mac, the “connect to device..” button on the Block Editor was grayed out for me. I am sure this can be fixed but I just switched to Windows 7 to avoid being derailed.

So at the end of this process you should have a .apk file somewhere on your computer.

Step 2 of 2 – Installing the application on your Kindle Fire

This was easy, now comes the frustrating part of transferring the .apk file to the Kindle without a USB cable. Eventually I did find a roundabout way of getting this done.

Firstly, you need to install the ES Explorer application on your Kindle Fire. Next, you need to enable application installation from “unknown sources”. Unknown to Amazon that is, not you. If the application is unknown to you, you might be better off without it. This option can be found under settings -> More -> Device -> Allows Installation on Applications -> ON.

Install the ES Explorer app on Kindle Fire

Turn on app installation from unknown sources for Kindle

You now need to send the .APK file to your kindle. Emailing the file to your-amazon-id@kindle.com does not work. If you have a USB cable thats great, but since I didn’t have one I mailed myself a copy of the file and downloaded it via the Email app on Kindle.

You can install the application by launching the ES Explorer application and locating your .apk file. If you downloaded it via email, you will find it under the “Downloads” directory. Install the application and your app will be added to “Apps” available on your Kindle.

Our HelloWorld app under “Apps”

You are now ready to greet the world !

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12 thoughts on “Creating a “Hello, World !” Kindle Fire app using App Inventor – it’s easy, it’s free !

  1. wow that sounded like a fairy tale!! almost impossible in the walled garden of apple.. cant believe at multiple levels, editor in browser, transferring file and then just “installing” an application.. sounds too good to be true.. but now the question how good can you get with this approach.. one of the reason Apple tightly controls all the different things in the walled garden is because they want to protect the user experience which is precisely the thing that motivated to create an app for Kindle. I think you tell me how your quest for creating slick apps for Kindle goes. Good luck and best wishes! :)

    • Apparently App Inventor is no longer going to be supported by Google :-/ Pff ! There goes my enthusiasm. But I shall find another way to create slick apps… or maybe I will simply use your iPad ;-)

  2. I’ve been thinking about getting a reader. The Kindle sounds good, but I’ve also heard good things about the Nook.

    Your article is very helpful and was a welcome addition to my inbox today.

    • @Scott, thank you ! The classic Kindle (not the Fire) is indeed a good reader. If you use amazon heavily, the Kindle might offer some advantages over the Nook. Never used a Nook, so really do not know anything about it !

      The Kindle Fire however I believe is not a good eReader because there is too much screen glare and its too heavy to hold for long periods of time. I got it to watch some lectures while I travel / workout :)

  3. Signs of life finally :). …. App Inventor looks interesting .. This really leaves no sane excuse for not writing an Android app :( … Lets write one dudette !!!

    • Lets write one ! Totally ! The App Inventor was really so easy, I was really impressed at the fact that I didn’t have to spend hours configuring something here.. something there… as with most new dev environments… HOWEVER, when I logged in later that evening I got a notice that said “thank you for your interest, but please note we are shutting down end of december !” .. ! Anyway, this is old news, it was all announced way back in July / August … it’s a part of the Google Labs which is shutting down… I should read the newspaper more often ! Tch… tch …

  4. @Carl, Thank you so much for sharing that. It’s good to know app inventor is back, since it was really so easy and fun ! I look forward to going beyond Hello, World this time :)

    • Preeti, inspired by your essay and with Christmas money in hand last December I decided on the NOOK color. I read over the documentation in Barnes and Noble, while drinking a tall Starbucks, and found that they use a “special” version of Android, but that it is possible to jailbreak with some potential risks in order to use it as an Android tablet. Since I’m only using the NOOK with our two year old as a Dr. Suess reader the BN version is okay. He has the menu system figured out and is able to pull up Cat in the Hat at will.

      • @Scott, Congratulations on your new purchase! It’s no surprise your son is enjoying the NOOK, technology does not scare the little :) I haven’t been using the Kindle Fire a lot, and it’s partly because it crashes too often. I think the general opinion is that the NOOK color is much smoother to use than the Kindle Fire, so congratulations on making a better choice :) Happy reading … !

  5. I followed your instructions but got a parsing error when I tried to install. Any suggesions on what to do next?

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