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What's new in Android Studio 1.4
Google has just released Android Studio 1.4 and it is more than just a minor update. Although lots has changed under the hood, these improvements won’t be directly visible to developers other than perhaps in performance improvements. However Google has added new features in three key areas: Design Tools, Performance Monitoring, and Developer Services.
One of the new features that appeared in Android 5.0 Lollipop (that is API 21) was Vector Drawables for image assets. A major benefit of vector drawables, rather than raster type images, is that they help reduce the number of density dependent drawables you need to maintain, as vector drawables can scale nicely to different screen densities. With Android Studio 1.4, Google has made the process of importing SVG images or Material icons much easier.
But what is even more interesting is that Android Studio 1.4 now offers some backwards compatibility for vector assets. The new software will now automatically generate raster PNG images for API level 20 and below during build time. This means you can safely move over to using vector drawables (where applicable) and Android Studio will handle the image conversion process for pre-Lollipop versions of Android!
Google has also added two more design related new features. First, there is the new Theme Editor to help you manage your app’s theme and style. This first preview version of the Theme Editor allows you to edit and update the material theme colors (colors.xml) for your app. Google plans to cover more app attributes in later versions of the tool. You will find the editor under Tools → Android → Theme Editor.
The other change is to the New Project Wizard. Google has added app templates for the Android Design Support Library and the AppCompat Support library. Google has also re-introduced the empty app template for those who want minimum code generation when adding a new activity to your project. Also to coincide with the release of the Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P, Android Studio 1.4 allows you to validate your apps against the new Nexus screen sizes.
App performance tuning is always an important part of the development cycle, especially for games or any app that performs intensive tasks. To that end Google has added some new performance monitoring features to Android Studio 1.4.
It is now possible to quickly inspect the GPU rendering performance of your app. To enable GPU monitoring you need to turn on monitoring for your Android hardware device or emulator under Setting → Developer Options → Profile GPU rendering. GPU profiling is a complex topic, but thankfully Google has lots of GPU profiling documentation.
For apps which rely a lot on the cloud, you can now monitor the network usage of your app. With the monitor you can track the transmit and receive rates of your app over time.
Talking of the cloud, with Android Studio 1.4, Google has made it even easier to add a Firebase mobile backend to your Android app. Firebase is a platform for building cloud dependent apps, it includes data storage, user authentication, static hosting, and more. Firebase is a platform for building cloud dependent apps. A Firebase database is stored as JSON and synchronized in realtime to every connected client, via the cloud. It is cross-platform and all of your clients share one Firebase database and automatically receive updates with the newest data. To access this feature, go to File → Project Structure → Cloud. If you want to know more Google has a tutorial on how to use Firebase and Google App Engine in an Android App.
One final thing to note, if you want to use some of these new features (like vector assets) you need to use Gradle Plugin 1.4 for your app project. The beta version of the Gradle plugin (1.4.0-beta3 ) is available today on jcenter and Google says that the final version will be released in the next few weeks.
To update you version of Android Studio you can check for updates from the navigation menu (Help → Check for Update [Windows/Linux] , Android Studio → Check for Updates [OS X]).