Learning Java Application Development

The Java platform is ideal for any developer who wants to create rich client apps, because it is capable of providing the most flexibility and power. The possibilities are literally endless because Java can be used to create a wide array of applications that feature a broad reach in terms of functionality. Whether you want to create games or corporate apps, it’s all possible using Java.

Java development enables users to take advantage of many BlackBerry smartphone features, such as the camera, GPS and Bluetooth, and integrate those features seamlessly with already-existing BlackBerry apps such as the address book, calendar, and maps features. The only downfall — if it could even be called that — is the fact that Java provides greater functionality, which also requires the developer to have certain skill requirements.

Java application development is not the kind of thing you can jump into headfirst and learn along the way, though in truth if you even have a modicum of programming experience, you should have no trouble. You have to be somewhat familiar with how Java works, which is why it’s only recommended that you develop apps for BlackBerry using Java if you are already somewhat familiar with Java application development.

Because Java isn’t really the kind of thing you can pick up during a marathon learning session over the course of one day, we will concern ourselves instead with simply becoming familiar with Java application development: what it entails, what tools it utilizes, and what it offers you as a developer.

BlackBerry and Java Overview

Every single application for the BlackBerry has been written in JavaME, and all BlackBerry devices support MIDP 1.0 and CLDC 1.0. Smartphones running BlackBerry Device Software v4.0 or higher support MIDP 2.0/CLDC1.1.

The biggest pull of using Java for application development is its ability to develop rich client apps, which is something we touched on earlier. The APIs available on BlackBerry devices enable a developer to create apps that provide customizable user interfaces, event listening, system interfaces, secure wireless transport, local data storage, and seamless roaming support, among other things.

Creating a BlackBerry app in Java has never been so easy, as RIM provides users with all the tools, labs and tutorials necessary to learn the basics of BlackBerry development. In order to get started as a BlackBerry developer, you will need to become accustomed to using these tools, understanding how they work and what they are capable of doing.

Java Development Tools

Research in Motion (the creator of the BlackBerry) has created top notch tools to be used for BlackBerry development. These tools enable developers to create world class applications like never before. As a matter of fact, the tools are so impressive that they’re the same ones used by in-house BlackBerry developers. Thankfully though, these tools are also provided to the development community at no cost.

BlackBerry’s Java Development Environment (JDE) is an integrated environment that houses RIM’s APIs, smartphone simulators, and the BlackBerry signing authority tool. It is available as both a standalone tool and a plugin for Eclipse. As a developer, you should consider the environment your playground and the tools your toys; the more imaginative you are, the more amazing your apps can turn out to be. After all, there’s no excuse when Java is providing you with everything you could possibly need to not only create a well-running app, but a world class one at that.

{mospagebreak title=JDE and the BlackBerry JDE Plug-in for Eclipse}

As mentioned previously, there aren’t too many major differences between the JDE and the JDE plug-in for Eclipse; this is illustrated by the fact that they provide the same tools to developers.

Essentially, BlackBerry’s JDE is a fully-integrated development environment and simulation tool intended to be used to build Java platform, Micro edition apps for Java-based BlackBerry devices. It can also act as a mobile information device profile (MIDP) compliant Java ME environment for any developer who wants to keep seamless portability in their wireless apps. The BlackBerry JDE also provides developers with a wide array of interfaces and tools, which should help them fully take advantage of some of the more unique features that are built into each and every Blackberry device.

Any Java developer who’s used the Eclipse Integrated Development Environment (IDE) will find that BlackBerry’s free JDE plug-in for Eclipse offers them a more familiar way to build and test their rich mobile apps.

Like the BlackBerry JDE, the plug-in for Eclipse enables Eclipse developers to write, test, and compile Java platform, mobile edition apps that run on smartphone devices; it enables them to simulate both the online and offline user experience of any BlackBerry device from their own desktop; it enables them to take advantage of the most current Java ME developments, because it features the integration of key Java specification requests (JSRs); and lastly it enables them to integrate with native smartphone apps in order to provide their users with a seamless smartphone experience.

Another benefit to these tools is the ability to easily create and test your apps. You will never need to buy an expensive SDK, and signing keys are relatively cheap (and in fact, signing keys are truly only necessary if you wish to access certain APIs, such as those that deal with personal information stored on the device, or ones that are capable of compromising security, etc)

Also, you may find that getting applications onto the device is really simple. In fact, you can even skip the App World store if you like (though it is an excellent marketing tool for your product). The webloader is quite easy to use over the traditional air loading technique of dragging and dropping your cod and jad files into your webfolder and properly setting up your MIMEtype. In fact, it is even easier that using your Desktop manager for installation. 

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