BlackBerry Application Development - Getting Started

Developer
By Michael Hepples on 31 Dec 2009 01:10 pm EST
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2009 was a HUGE year for BB development. It started with BlackBerry App World, and has steadily snowballed from there. At DEVCON, RIM broke the news on several stunning new additions to the BB development world, highlights being Open GL, the 5.0 API library, and Widgets. With New Year's fast approaching, addicts the world over are looking forward to 2010 as a banner year for development. I am totally pumped to see the offerings brought forward this year by the development community as a whole.

Are you excited at the possibilities? Interested in getting involved, or maybe know someone who is? Perhaps you're already a developer, and you've been thinking about developing for BB? We would love to see what you can do! I would love to see our developer community grow, producing more and better apps for us to toy with.

To get you started, I'm going to compile the best of the links for developers from RIM, and finish off with some reference materials to give you a place to learn from. I'll start with Java apps, then cover Widgets. More info after the jump.


Java

First thing you will need is the basic tools to get you started.

  • Number one on the list is the Java SE Development Kit, or JDK., which you can download from http://java.sun.com/javase/downloads/index.jsp
  • Most of the RIM tutorials use the Eclipse SDK, which can be downloaded here. Select the Eclipse IDe for Java Developers, and the version you require.
  • You will then need to get yourself the BlackBerry Plug-in for Eclipse, and JDEs for any OS you wish to develop for. These can be found here.

NOTE: If you don't wish to use Eclipse, you can get the BlackBerry JDE here. This is a stand alone tool which will provide you with the no-frills basics.

Install the JDK first, then Eclipse, then move on to the BlackBerry tools. The installation for the first two is quite simple, and a video can be found here on how to install the Plug-I.

Let's Get Going

Now that you are up and rolling, you need to learn how to develop using the tools you have installed. RIM has provided some excellent labs and tutorials to get you started both here and here. These will have you writing and compiling a basic app in no time, but in order to create some of the best applications we have seen to date, and the better ones to come, you will need to have a good understanding of the Java programming language.

You can find several titles which will get you pointed in the right direction on Amazon.com, or even in your local book store.

Java

If you are a complete rookie to Java development (like me) Head First Java is an excellent starting point. I have used it myself, and it really focuses on helping you understand what you are doing, giving you a better grasp of the language overall. You can find it and purchase it at Amazon.

Development Fundamentals

A good title to start with is BlackBerry Development Fundamentals by John M. Wargo, which will give you the basic knowledge you will need to get started writing for the BlackBerry OS. You can purchase it at Amazon.com.

As you gain more understanding of development, you can move onto heavier titles, such as Advanced BlackBerry Development by Chris King. This will get you moving towards creating better, more involved apps. You can purchase it here.

Advanced Development

Widgets

One of the most exciting introductions to the BlackBerry development world in 2009 was the ability to create Widgets. Widgets allow developers with HTML, Javascript, CSS, SQlite, and Google Gears experience to create lightweight, feature-rich applications for the BlackBerry platform. You don't have to be a Java guru to create a great Widget application. To learn more on exactly what widgets are, and what they do, read through this article from Bla1ze.

Now that you have an understanding of what a Widget is, let's set up the tools required. Just as in Java development, the first thing you will need is the Java JDK, found here. You will also need to install the Widget SDK from RIM here.

*Quick note: at the time of this article, the Widget SDK is not compatible with 64 bit systems, or Windows 7.*

The next step now that you have the right tools installed will be to get some knowledge into your brain on how to create these wonderful Widgets. RIM has articles and labs available (NOTE: this link will also provide you with several other resources, such as installation guides for the tools above, should you run into trouble.

While texts specific to Widget development for BlackBerry have yet to really make a presence known, as the tools are still in Beta, rest assured that some should be published within the next few months, as they gain popularity. This should give you a good head start. Now, get coding and show the CrackBerry Nation what you're made of!

Reader comments

BlackBerry Application Development - Getting Started

16 Comments

>> Number one on the list is the Java SE Development Kit, or JDK.,

No, number one on the list is a Windows PC. Mac and Linux users need not apply, unless they want to stand on their heads installing the various Java bits and pieces.

Well that isn't necessarily true. I am a Mac user and have been working on BlackBerry development using JDE. I use all the tools on Windows 7 Pro virtualized through VMWare Fusion. So while yes, you are right that Windows is the first tool that you need, it is not correct that you need a "Windows PC" to develop.

Good point. I should have said "Windows", not "Windows PC".
But it still does not help those of us running older (non-Intel) Macs.

I followed your exact instructions but the first thing I see when installing the blackberry plug-in is an error telling me that the blackberry plug-in is not compatible with the version of JDE that I have installed.

It would be EXTREMELY helpful to have links to the EXACT install packages that should be downloaded rather than links to the various packages that one could download.

Please help!

RIM has dropped the ball with no Windows 7 support. Better start uninstalling it all. I only installed the components and Visual Studio last night.

I use windows 7 and it works pretty good, just a couple of quirks. Which is why its probably not supported, but that doesn't mean it won't work.

My company has just started doing apps for the BlackBerry, and I'm really excited to try creating these widgets. It will certainly open up the platform to new developers. I know the new Palm OS uses something similar to code their programs using Javascript.

I can't understand why RIM hasn't released tools that work on OS X yet. Think about all of the App Store developers out there. How awesome would it be if suddenly they had tools to build Blackberry apps too? Running Windows virtualized is a pain in the ass and an obstacle to me saying "oh let me play with this and see what I can make."

I can't download anything form the BlackBery web site. I have an account. I have tried using both Chrome and IE8. Any suggestions?

My friend and I groaned loudly when we saw this post the first time because we had just started down this path a couple of weeks earlier. We're trying to learn Java first. I have very little coding background and he has a little more. After that, we plan to move to a Blackberry-specific book, so your post is extremely helpful.

My question to you is about the first book - Head First Java. Did you look at any other books, and if so, how do you think they compare for a newbie? My friend is going through Java: A Beginner's Guide. And I'm using Learning Java. He likes to say his book "breaks it down Barney style." Mine - not so much. It doesn't seem organized real well for a someone just learning from scratch. Before I buy a copy like his or buy a copy of Head Start Java for each of us, I was wondering if you could share any thoughts about these kinds of books in general.

Thanks for the post! And thanks for any response.

Interesting article, but now that we have seen the release of OS 5 for may RIM handsets as well as the JDE 5 can you post links to books or tutorials geared specifically towards these versions? :)