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Simple DirectMedia Layer for Android
Android SDK (version 12 or later)
Android NDK r7 or later
Minimum API level supported by SDL: 10 (Android 2.3.3)
Joystick support is available for API level >=12 devices.
How the port works
- Android applications are Java-based, optionally with parts written in C
- As SDL apps are C-based, we use a small Java shim that uses JNI to talk to
the SDL library
- This means that your application C code must be placed inside an Android
Java project, along with some C support code that communicates with Java
- This eventually produces a standard Android .apk package
The Android Java code implements an "Activity" and can be found in:
The Java code loads your game code, the SDL shared library, and
dispatches to native functions implemented in the SDL library:
Your project must include some glue code that starts your main() routine:
Building an app
For simple projects you can use the script located at build-scripts/
There's two ways of using it: com.yourcompany.yourapp < sources.list com.yourcompany.yourapp source1.c source2.c ...sourceN.c
sources.list should be a text file with a source file name in each line
Filenames should be specified relative to the current directory, for example if
you are in the build-scripts directory and want to create the testgles.c test, you'll
./ org.libsdl.testgles ../test/testgles.c
One limitation of this script is that all sources provided will be aggregated into
a single directory, thus all your source files should have a unique name.
Once the project is complete the script will tell you where the debug APK is located.
If you want to create a signed release APK, you can use the project created by this
utility to generate it.
Finally, a word of caution: re running wipes any changes you may have
done in the build directory for the app!
For more complex projects, follow these instructions:
1. Copy the android-project directory wherever you want to keep your projects
and rename it to the name of your project.
2. Move or symlink this SDL directory into the <project>/jni directory
3. Edit <project>/jni/src/ to include your source files
4. Run 'ndk-build' (a script provided by the NDK). This compiles the C source
If you want to use the Eclipse IDE, skip to the Eclipse section below.
5. Create <project>/ and use that to point to the Android SDK directory, by writing a line with the following form:
6. Run 'ant debug' in android/project. This compiles the .java and eventually
creates a .apk with the native code embedded
7. 'ant debug install' will push the apk to the device or emulator (if connected)
Here's an explanation of the files in the Android project, so you can customize them:
AndroidManifest.xml - package manifest. Among others, it contains the class name
of the main Activity and the package name of the application. - empty
build.xml - build description file, used by ant. The actual application name
is specified here. - holds the target ABI for the application, android-10 and up - holds the target ABI for the application, android-10 and up - holds the SDK path, you should change this to the path to your SDK
jni/ - directory holding native code
jni/ - Android makefile that can call recursively the files
in all subdirectories
jni/SDL/ - (symlink to) directory holding the SDL library files
jni/SDL/ - Android makefile for creating the SDL shared library
jni/src/ - directory holding your C/C++ source
jni/src/ - Android makefile that you should customize to include your
source code and any library references
res/ - directory holding resources for your application
res/drawable-* - directories holding icons for different phone hardware. Could be
one dir called "drawable".
res/layout/main.xml - Usually contains a file main.xml, which declares the screen layout.
We don't need it because we use the SDL video output.
res/values/strings.xml - strings used in your application, including the application name
shown on the phone.
src/org/libsdl/app/ - the Java class handling the initialization and binding
to SDL. Be very careful changing this, as the SDL library relies
on this implementation.
Build an app with static linking of libSDL
This build uses the Android NDK module system.
1. Copy the android-project directory wherever you want to keep your projects
and rename it to the name of your project.
2. Rename <project>/jni/src/ to <project>/jni/src/
(overwrite the existing one)
3. Edit <project>/jni/src/ to include your source files
4. create and export an environment variable named NDK_MODULE_PATH that points
to the parent directory of this SDL directory. e.g.:
export NDK_MODULE_PATH="$PWD"/..
5. Edit <project>/src/org/libsdl/app/ and remove the call to
System.loadLibrary("SDL2") line 42.
6. Run 'ndk-build' (a script provided by the NDK). This compiles the C source
Customizing your application name
To customize your application name, edit AndroidManifest.xml and replace
"" with an identifier for your product package.
Then create a Java class extending SDLActivity and place it in a directory
under src matching your package, e.g.
Here's an example of a minimal class file:
--- --------------------------
* A sample wrapper class that just calls SDLActivity
public class MyGame extends SDLActivity { }
Then replace "SDLActivity" in AndroidManifest.xml with the name of your
class, .e.g. "MyGame"
Customizing your application icon
Conceptually changing your icon is just replacing the "ic_launcher.png" files in
the drawable directories under the res directory. There are four directories for
different screen sizes. These can be replaced with one dir called "drawable",
containing an icon file "ic_launcher.png" with dimensions 48x48 or 72x72.
You may need to change the name of your icon in AndroidManifest.xml to match
this icon filename.
Loading assets
Any files you put in the "assets" directory of your android-project directory
will get bundled into the application package and you can load them using the
standard functions in SDL_rwops.h.
There are also a few Android specific functions that allow you to get other
useful paths for saving and loading data:
See SDL_system.h for more details on these functions.
The asset packaging system will, by default, compress certain file extensions.
SDL includes two asset file access mechanisms, the preferred one is the so
called "File Descriptor" method, which is faster and doesn't involve the Dalvik
GC, but given this method does not work on compressed assets, there is also the
"Input Stream" method, which is automatically used as a fall back by SDL. You
may want to keep this fact in mind when building your APK, specially when large
files are involved.
For more information on which extensions get compressed by default and how to
disable this behaviour, see for example:
Pause / Resume behaviour
If SDL is compiled with SDL_ANDROID_BLOCK_ON_PAUSE defined (the default),
the event loop will block itself when the app is paused (ie, when the user
returns to the main Android dashboard). Blocking is better in terms of battery
use, and it allows your app to spring back to life instantaneously after resume
(versus polling for a resume message).
Upon resume, SDL will attempt to restore the GL context automatically.
In modern devices (Android 3.0 and up) this will most likely succeed and your
app can continue to operate as it was.
However, there's a chance (on older hardware, or on systems under heavy load),
where the GL context can not be restored. In that case you have to listen for
a specific message, (which is not yet implemented!) and restore your textures
manually or quit the app (which is actually the kind of behaviour you'll see
under iOS, if the OS can not restore your GL context it will just kill your app)
Threads and the Java VM
For a quick tour on how Linux native threads interoperate with the Java VM, take
a look here:
If you want to use threads in your SDL app, it's strongly recommended that you
do so by creating them using SDL functions. This way, the required attach/detach
handling is managed by SDL automagically. If you have threads created by other
means and they make calls to SDL functions, make sure that you call
Android_JNI_SetupThread before doing anything else otherwise SDL will attach
your thread automatically anyway (when you make an SDL call), but it'll never
detach it.
Using STL
You can use STL in your project by creating an file in the jni
folder and adding the following line:
APP_STL := stlport_static
For more information check out CPLUSPLUS-SUPPORT.html in the NDK documentation.
Additional documentation
The documentation in the NDK docs directory is very helpful in understanding the
build process and how to work with native code on the Android platform.
The best place to start is with docs/OVERVIEW.TXT
Using Eclipse
First make sure that you've installed Eclipse and the Android extensions as described here:
Once you've copied the SDL android project and customized it, you can create an Eclipse project from it:
* File -> New -> Other
* Select the Android -> Android Project wizard and click Next
* Enter the name you'd like your project to have
* Select "Create project from existing source" and browse for your project directory
* Make sure the Build Target is set to Android 2.0
* Click Finish
Using the emulator
There are some good tips and tricks for getting the most out of the
emulator here:
Especially useful is the info on setting up OpenGL ES 2.0 emulation.
Notice that this software emulator is incredibly slow and needs a lot of disk space.
Using a real device works better.
You can create and run an emulator from the Eclipse IDE:
* Window -> Android SDK and AVD Manager
You can see if adb can see any devices with the following command:
adb devices
You can see the output of log messages on the default device with:
adb logcat
You can push files to the device with:
adb push local_file remote_path_and_file
You can push files to the SD Card at /sdcard, for example:
adb push moose.dat /sdcard/moose.dat
You can see the files on the SD card with a shell command:
adb shell ls /sdcard/
You can start a command shell on the default device with:
adb shell
You can remove the library files of your project (and not the SDL lib files) with:
ndk-build clean
You can do a build with the following command:
You can see the complete command line that ndk-build is using by passing V=1 on the command line:
ndk-build V=1
If your application crashes in native code, you can use addr2line to convert the
addresses in the stack trace to lines in your code.
For example, if your crash looks like this:
I/DEBUG ( 31): signal 11 (SIGSEGV), code 2 (SEGV_ACCERR), fault addr 400085d0
I/DEBUG ( 31): r0 00000000 r1 00001000 r2 00000003 r3 400085d4
I/DEBUG ( 31): r4 400085d0 r5 40008000 r6 afd41504 r7 436c6a7c
I/DEBUG ( 31): r8 436c6b30 r9 435c6fb0 10 435c6f9c fp 4168d82c
I/DEBUG ( 31): ip 8346aff0 sp 436c6a60 lr afd1c8ff pc afd1c902 cpsr 60000030
I/DEBUG ( 31): #00 pc 0001c902 /system/lib/
I/DEBUG ( 31): #01 pc 0001ccf6 /system/lib/
I/DEBUG ( 31): #02 pc 000014bc /data/data/
I/DEBUG ( 31): #03 pc 00001506 /data/data/
You can see that there's a crash in the C library being called from the main code.
I run addr2line with the debug version of my code:
arm-eabi-addr2line -C -f -e obj/local/armeabi/
and then paste in the number after "pc" in the call stack, from the line that I care about:
I get output from addr2line showing that it's in the quit function, in testspriteminimal.c, on line 23.
You can add logging to your code to help show what's happening:
#include <android/log.h>
__android_log_print(ANDROID_LOG_INFO, "foo", "Something happened! x = %d", x);
If you need to build without optimization turned on, you can create a file called
"" in the jni directory, with the following line in it:
APP_OPTIM := debug
Memory debugging
The best (and slowest) way to debug memory issues on Android is valgrind.
Valgrind has support for Android out of the box, just grab code using:
svn co svn:// valgrind
... and follow the instructions in the file to build it.
One thing I needed to do on Mac OS X was change the path to the toolchain,
and add ranlib to the environment variables:
export RANLIB=$NDKROOT/toolchains/arm-linux-androideabi-4.4.3/prebuilt/darwin-x86/bin/arm-linux-androideabi-ranlib
Once valgrind is built, you can create a wrapper script to launch your
application with it, changing to your package identifier:
--- start_valgrind_app -------------------
export TMPDIR=/data/data/
exec /data/local/Inst/bin/valgrind --log-file=/sdcard/valgrind.log --error-limit=no $*
Then push it to the device:
adb push start_valgrind_app /data/local
and make it executable:
adb shell chmod 755 /data/local/start_valgrind_app
and tell Android to use the script to launch your application:
adb shell setprop "logwrapper /data/local/start_valgrind_app"
If the setprop command says "could not set property", it's likely that
your package name is too long and you should make it shorter by changing
AndroidManifest.xml and the path to your class file in android-project/src
You can then launch your application normally and waaaaaaaiiittt for it.
You can monitor the startup process with the logcat command above, and
when it's done (or even while it's running) you can grab the valgrind
output file:
adb pull /sdcard/valgrind.log
When you're done instrumenting with valgrind, you can disable the wrapper:
adb shell setprop ""
Why is API level 10 the minimum required?
API level 10 is the minimum required level at runtime (that is, on the device)
because SDL requires some functionality for running not
available on older devices. Since the incorporation of joystick support into SDL,
the minimum SDK required to *build* SDL is version 12. Devices running API levels
10-11 are still supported, only with the joystick functionality disabled.
Support for native OpenGL ES and ES2 applications was introduced in the NDK for
API level 4 and 8. EGL was made a stable API in the NDK for API level 9, which
has since then been obsoleted, with the recommendation to developers to bump the
required API level to 10.
As of this writing, according to
about 90% of the Android devices accessing Google Play support API level 10 or
higher (March 2013).
A note regarding the use of the "dirty rectangles" rendering technique
If your app uses a variation of the "dirty rectangles" rendering technique,
where you only update a portion of the screen on each frame, you may notice a
variety of visual glitches on Android, that are not present on other platforms.
This is caused by SDL's use of EGL as the support system to handle OpenGL ES/ES2
contexts, in particular the use of the eglSwapBuffers function. As stated in the
documentation for the function "The contents of ancillary buffers are always
undefined after calling eglSwapBuffers".
Setting the EGL_SWAP_BEHAVIOR attribute of the surface to EGL_BUFFER_PRESERVED
is not possible for SDL as it requires EGL 1.4, available only on the API level
17+, so the only workaround available on this platform is to redraw the entire
screen each frame.
Known issues
- The number of buttons reported for each joystick is hardcoded to be 36, which
is the current maximum number of buttons Android can report.