Sharing modules across Android apps

Sharing modules across Android apps

While most android apps are created with a single default app module, in the last few years people have started
moving to a multi module structure for their Android apps. Having multiple smaller modules have a few distinct
advantages

  • Build times are noticeably faster
  • Your code is decoupled with clear dependencies
  • Better distribution of ownership across different parts of the app
  • Allows modules to be reused across apps

Example modules

A possible strategy is to have one module per feature.

  • app: This is the main module which will be the entry point into your app. It acts mainly as a coordinator between
    other modules
  • core: This will contain the model definitions that are core to your app and will be required across modules
  • networking: This provides the networking code for the other modules
  • login: Login/Signup logic goes here
  • dashboard: User dashboard will be here

There are many posts on the advantages and strategies for modularizing your Android apps. For this post, we will
focus on the strategy to reuse modules across apps.

Reusing modules across apps

We have multiple apps in our company that share the core and login logic. So we decided to share these modules among
the two applications.

hierarchy

One obvious way to share Android Library modules would be to share the generated .aar files and add them as
dependencies to the different apps. While this is simpler, the main applications and the library modules will be
different Android Studio projects. If any change needs to be done in the library, the .aar will have to be regenerated
and manually updated. There has to be a better way.

The solution we decided to use for sharing modules is git submodules. Though it had a small overhead in bringing
the entire team up to speed with submodules, it has worked exceptionally well for us.

In the above example, we have two git submodules, core and login.

submodules

And the submodules will be added as dependencies just as any Android module,

dependencies

Creating a new submodules

To create a new submodule, we follow the following process

  • Create an empty repo on Github and initialize with a README
  • Add a new submodule to our app git submodule add git@github.com:username/core.git
  • Create a new Android Library module in the new directory
  • Commit the changes in the library module and push
  • Commit the changes in the main repo and push

Next time we need to use this submodule in another app, we only need to

  • Add a new submodule to our app git submodule add git@github.com:username/core.git
  • Add the newly added module to settings.gradle and a dependency in build.gradle

Committing changes to a submodule

Every time we make some changes to a submodule, we just need to make sure that we commit and push those changes
before committing the changes in the main repo.

Submodule:

  • If you are on a detached head, git checkout -b new-branch
  • git add . && git commit -am "commit message"
  • git push origin new-branch

Main repo:

  • git add . && git commit -am "commit message"
  • git push

Fetching remote changes

Every time we do a git pull, we just need to remember to update the submodules as well

git submodule update

and that’s it. We have the latest version of the submodule locally!

Hope this works for you.

Happy coding!

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