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 !