How to develop applications for BlackBerry

User guides Creating apps 15:54, 1 Mar 2010

Want to know how to develop and submit application to App World? Take a look at our step-by-step guide

Unlike developing iPhone apps, there are two very different ways you can develop for BlackBerry - by using the Java Development Environment (JDE) or RIM's MDS.

Which you choose depends on what kind of app you're developing.

If you want to create an app that will run independently of a BlackBerry solution - whether that's a BIS (BlackBerry Internet Service) or BES (BlackBerry Enterprise Server), a Java app will give you a much richer experience.

If you require your app to communicate with email, the interebt or any other internet-based service, you'll need som e kind of BlackBerry back-end to help it operate. For this, you're beter off using MDS to develop your app.

Java-based applications
BlackBerry’s Java Development Environment (JDE) is not a mobile version of Java – far from it.

RIM’s BlackBerry JDE includes access to many enterprise features that are used for desktop and server application development, so you have more freedom when creating and coding.

In addition to this, RIM has also included several key Java standards into its MDS, which means developers can build location-based apps with access to GPS hardware.

There is also the option to include accessibility and internationalisation options, as well as multimedia using the BlackBerry Media player. And if that’s not enough, you can also write apps that run in the background, as well as ones that take advantage of BlackBerry’s push server.

Another cool feature of the BlackBerry MDS is that you can use it to personalise your handset. For example, the latest developer tools now allow you to create animated backgrounds, new icons and fonts for your BlackBerry device – it doesn’t always have to be about business after all!

BlackBerry also has a thriving online developer community where you can get hold of all the tools, advice and information you’ll ever need. In short, you can always find what you’re looking for within the community and, in this context, it’s an essential reference tool for both beginners and pros alike.

RIM includes the following BlackBerry application-development tools for developing software for smartphones:

  1. Development Environment
  2. MDS Studio Rapid-Application-Development tool
  3. Eclipse

All of the above tools, as well as documentation, sample code and support forums, are free when you sign up to the BlackBerry developer website. Following registration, developers can begin downloading any part of the BlackBerry development software, which is fully supported for BlackBerry 4.0 OS onwards.

The BlackBerry JDE is the core development tool for BlackBerry applications and, while it is a sizable download, users are also advised to ensure that they are running the latest version of Sun’s Java SDK.

Once the JDE is downloaded, developers can work in a familiar environment, featuring both a text editor and access to online documentation.

That said, there’s no UI design tool, so developers are reminded to keep track of any UI components in their application and to use the built-in simulator to test the look and feel of their creation before finalisation.

In addition to this, RIM also provides a whole host of sample code to get the creative juices flowing – examples include GPS and multimedia applications. However, if you wish to develop for the Storm, with its accelerometer, then you’ll need to download the latest version of JDE, which will give you full support for the latest devices that use BlackBerry OS 5.0.

RIM recognises the popularity of Eclipse and this is the reason it has released its first public beta version of an Eclipse development plug-in. The addition of the Eclipse plug-in means that developers can build and test end-to-end Java apps from the server to the handset.


Other sections in Developing for your BlackBerry:

Our Ultimate Guide to BlackBerry includes more information about how to develop for the BlackBerry

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