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Introducing the Mono for Android UI Designer

by Jonathan Allen on Mar 26, 2012 |

Mono for Android will soon have its own visual UI designer. Currently a private beta is available; developers interested are encouraged to sign up for the Mono for Android Designer Beta program. We spoke with Lluis Sanchez, the UI designer architect, for more information.

InfoQ: Will this tool work with AXML or does it have its own file format?

The designer works with the standard Android xml layout format.

InfoQ: How are you rendering an Android UI inside the IDE? Is it hosting a variant of the emulator or did you have to reimplement the UI stack?

The Android UI is rendered in an external Java process, using the installed Android SDK. MonoDevelop talks to this process to obtain an image of the UI every time something is changed in the layout XML. All the mouse handling and the selection decorations are done in MonoDevelop.

InfoQ: Are you looking at a Visual Studio plugin or will this be only for MonoDevelop?

We are already looking at this. We hope to provide a designer beta for VS soon.

InfoQ: Will the design tool support custom written child views or only the ones offered by the Android SDK? By that I mean can I take a view that I've created for my project and use it inside another view in the same project?

Custom views can be used but they won't be rendered, a mock view will be shown in their place. We'll look into rendering custom views, but that's not in the short term plan.

InfoQ: Are there any plans to offer XAML-like data binding?

We haven't considered it, but we are open to suggestions. One of the goals of the beta program is to know more about what people need and how can we improve the designer to support it.

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