This is a general overview of what the Android SDK is, what it does, and how it can benefit you. This guide also contains instructions on how to set up the Android SDK on Ubuntu 10.04 onwards.


The Android Software Development Kit (AKA SDK) is a software suite for the Android mobile operating system that allows you to write applications for Android in the Java programming language. Most people who use the Android SDK either develop applications for the Android operating system OR they use it for other purposes, such as obtaining elevated privileges on an Android device with the help of third-party software or use it for diagnostic purposes in case of malfunctioning.

The vast majority of Android users probably won't have to make use of the Android SDK, however, it is useful if you wish to learn more about the Android operating system and even then it's still a handy tool to have in case something goes wrong.

This tutorial covers Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid Lynx onwards. For anything prior to Lucid, you will have to find it yourself.

Preparation and Installation

Before we set up the SDK, we have some preparation to do. Due to some major changes in the Android SDK made in the last couple of months, setting up the Android SDK is not as easy as it was two years ago, when Android was starting to take off. Setting up the SDK itself is relatively easy once the preparation has been done.

Downloading the SDK Starter Package

First things first, we have to obtain the starter package. The SDK starter package can be obtained at

Download the one for Linux (.tgz file) and once it's finished downloading, extract it to somewhere safe and easy to reach. For example, the home folder. To do so, open up a terminal, navigate to the directory where the SDK was downloaded and enter the following command:

$ tar -xvzf android-sdk_rXX-linux.tgz && mv android-sdk-linux ~/

As of 12 May 2012, the Android SDK is currently up to r18, however that is set to change in the near future, and as such, replace XX with the version of your SDK.

Setting up Java

Prior to SDK r08, everything you'll need to develop applications was included on a 100-200MB .tgz archive. However, with the release of SDK r08, the tools necessary for creating and building applications was removed and can be obtained by using the Android SDK and AVD Manager which is located in the /<sdk>/tools folder.

However, you should not execute the Android SDK and AVD manager just yet, as you'll most likely get a Parse: XML error notice. The reason for this is that after SDK r08, it's now required to have Java installed before you set up the SDK. To do this, we'll download the OpenJDK and the Icedtea browser plugin. In a terminal window, enter the following command:

$ sudo apt-get install openjdk-6-jre openjdk-6-jdk icedtea6-plugin

This will download and install the OpenJDK implementation of Java, which will be sufficient enough for us to download the SDK platform tools.

Downloading the SDK platform tools

This is pretty much the actual "installation" of the SDK's platform tools. One key reason why this step is important is that it contains an important protocol called the Android Debug Bridge (ADB).

ADB comes bundled with the SDK platform tools. It is a command-line tool used to communicate with and control the device over a USB link from a computer. The tool comes bundled with the Android SDK and is commonly used for diagnosing problems with the device. Once you have ADB installed, you can use ADB to copy files to and from the device's internal memory, install apps, run commands, see logs and more. This makes it an invaluable tool if your device is running into some trouble that might warrant a new device.

Now, in order to obtain the SDK platform tools, we'll need to initialize the Android SDK and AVD Manager that I mentioned earlier. To do so, enter the following commands in a terminal. The first command will direct you to where the Android SDK and AVD Manager is located, and the second will execute said program.

$ cd ~/android-sdk-linux/tools

$ ./android

Once you do that, a new window will pop up, which is the actual Android SDK and AVD Manager. Click on "Available Packages" and you will be presented with two boxes. One is the Android Repository and the other is the Third-party Add-ons. Click on "Android Repository" then click on Install Selected. A confirmation window will pop up. Click on "Accept All" and then click on the Install button to install the SDK platform tools. It's quite a bit to download so make sure you have at least 512MB to 2GB of hard drive space available. Once the download has finished, you'll get a notice saying that the ADB daemon needs to be restarted. Click on "Yes" and everything will finish downloading.

Post-Installation Configuration

Now once the download has finished, or while you're waiting for the download to finish, we have to configure Ubuntu a little to meet our needs. First, we have to set up the PATH variable to include ADB and other SDK tools, and we have to make sure our hardware will be detected once we initialize ADB.

Modifying the PATH Environment Variable

In the days before Android 2.2, a good number of people used to place their various projects and applications in the directories where the necessary tools they used existed. This was in itself a very flawed method because it cluttered up the directories, and while cleaning up the SDK, one might accidentally delete a crucial file, which will cause the SDK to fail and having to completely reinstall everything.

Modifying the PATH Environment Variable will help out immensely when it comes down to making use of SDK tools like ADB. Doing this will also allow you to execute certain protocols like ADB from ANY location. So if you're operating from the Desktop, you don't have to redirect to the SDK's platform-tools folder to make use of ADB if you need to make use of it.

Enough chatter, let's get busy. To modify the PATH variable of your system, you need to edit your .bashrc file. To do so, in a terminal, execute the following command:

$ nano ~/.bashrc

You will now have the Nano text editor enabled on the terminal. Now, at the very top of the file, enter the following:

#AndroidDev PATH

export PATH=${PATH}:~/android-sdk-linux/tools

export PATH=${PATH}:~/android-sdk-linux/platform-tools

Once you're finished, press CTRL + X, Y, and then hit Enter to save your changes and exit the Nano text editor.

Preparing Hardware

Now that we have our PATH variable set up, we need to make sure our hardware will be detected once we initialize ADB. However, up until Natty, udev in Ubuntu wouldn't allow ADB access to the Android phone via USB. This was fixed in udev version 165-0ubuntu1 — if you are running an earlier version (apt-cache policy udev will tell you whether you are), you'll need need to create a new udev rule file as root.

In a terminal, execute the following command that will create the rule file. This will utilize the graphical sudo command, so that we can still have control over the file if we're not a root user.

$ gksudo gedit /etc/udev/rules.d/51-android.rules

Copy and paste the following udev rules in the text editor that opened up which contains the new rule file we created. The rules included should work with most if not all Android devices across multiple manufacturers, such as HTC, Motorola, LGE, and so forth.

SUBSYSTEM=="usb", ATTRS{idVendor}=="0bb4", MODE="0666"

SUBSYSTEM=="usb", ATTRS{idVendor}=="0502", MODE="0666"

SUBSYSTEM=="usb", ATTRS{idVendor}=="12d1", MODE="0666"

SUBSYSTEM=="usb", ATTRS{idVendor}=="1004", MODE="0666"

SUBSYSTEM=="usb", ATTRS{idVendor}=="22b8", MODE="0666"

SUBSYSTEM=="usb", ATTRS{idVendor}=="04e8", MODE="0666"

SUBSYSTEM=="usb", ATTRS{idVendor}=="0fce", MODE="0666"

SUBSYSTEM=="usb", ATTRS{idVendor}=="0489", MODE="0666"

SUBSYSTEM=="usb", ATTRS{idVendor}=="18d1", SYMLINK+="android_adb", MODE="0666"

SUBSYSTEM=="usb", ATTRS{idVendor}=="04e8", MODE="0666", GROUP="plugdev"

Once you've copied and pasted the udev rules in the text editor which contains your newly created rule file, save your changes and quit. Now that you've set your udev rules you have to reboot so that ADB will be in your path.

To test your changes, open up a terminal and execute the following:

$ adb devices

Note: You may need to enable USB debugging mode on your phone first in order for it to be recognised.

This will give you two messages:

1) It will tell you it's initializing the ADB daemon. 2) It should show you a list of connected devices.

If all went well you should see your device's serial number under the list of connected devices. If you see a message like:

List of connected devices

???????? No permissions

This means your hardware was detected, however you made a mistake in configuring Ubuntu or the udev rule for your phone's manufacturer was not listed.


AndroidSDK (last edited 2012-07-28 15:47:15 by 91-157-202-210)