Silviu Serdaru

Silviu Serdaru

SILVIU SERDARU, Front-End & Drupal Developer

Constantly seeking to enrich the "arsenal" of technologies that I already have a hands-on experience in working with (HTML5 to CSS3, JavaScript, jQuery, PHP...) and on a permanent lookout for front-end development challenges with a Drupal-specific flavour.

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Adaptive vs Responsive Design: What Is the Difference? Which One Is Better for You?
Adaptive vs responsive design. Is there really a matter of “better vs worse”? What's the difference anyway? For the boundaries sure look blurry enough. Especially since both types of web design provide you with a solution to the same challenge. The one you're facing as a web designer: A design that should cater to all screen sizes. Now, instead of delving into this confusion even deeper, let's shed some light on:   the responsive design key features the adaptive design's particularities each option's advantages and drawbacks key differences between adaptive and responsive design   1. Responsive Design: What Is It?  Using one single layout when designing a web page, that adjusts itself to fit the given screen size. This would have to be a concise, yet comprehensive definition. If I am to add a bit more details to it, I would have to say that: It's a “fluid” layout, a “fluid” grid that we're talking about here, one using CSS, Content (Based Breakpoint) and media queries  … for setting up different style roles for each device/media type Long story short: the responsive design approach enables your site's pages to (more or less seamlessly) adapt to various screen resolutions. Note: implementing a responsive design does call for a website conceptualization phase and a deep understanding of the end user's needs and expectations!   2. Adaptive Design: A Concise Definition Or “progressive enhancement of a website” if you prefer: This approach to web design is centered around “multiple fixed layout sizes”. Basically, you'll need to create different layouts, one for each screen size. Once the website “identifies” the type of device the user's accessing it from, it just triggers the appropriate pre-set layout. A layout that you/your team will need to prepare in advance, needless to add (so, you'll need to plan your time and budget accordingly). Who's leveraging this approach? Apple, About.com, Amazon are just some of the big names. It's an alternative to the “one-size-stretches-to-all” option in modern web design. Note: since we can't be talking about a unique layout being re-sized over and over again, there's no impact on the overall design; no more over-stretching or other inconveniences of the sort.   3. Responsive Design: Why Would You Use It? And What Could Discourage You? Why and when would/should you be “tempted” to go with this approach to modern web design?  Let's go through some of this type of web design's most “irresistible” strong points, shall we?   it's easier to set up and less time-consuming to implement since the same design is being used, seamlessly, on all devices, a certain feeling of familiarity is being instilled, enhancing the overall user experience … we can talk about a unified visual (and operational) end-user experience  the collection of affordable templates at hand, suitable for most CMSs, is ideally rich and particularly “tempting” if it's a brand new website that you need to design a “one size fits all” type of flexibility it's SEO-friendly; since we can't be talking about distinct design versions, there's no negative impact on the SEO strategy either lower maintenance costs no redirection needed for establishing the connection between mobile and desktop sites   And yet, this approach does come packed with certain disadvantages, as well. Limitations that you need to note and ponder on before you make your adaptive vs responsive design decision:   you'll have less control over the screen size design expect longer mobile download times no possibility to fine tune the advertisements showing up on your website expect to have certain elements scattered, moving around the screen once the design readjusts itself to the given screen's width   4. Adaptive Design: Main Advantages & Drawbacks Your “adaptive vs responsive design” dilemma becomes even acuter when you realize that you need to choose between: A seamless design, plus a certain sense of familiarity and a suite of tailor-made design solutions catering to users' specific needs. And how do you choose, since both familiarity and customization have a huge impact on the user experience? Now, let's have a look at some of the adaptive design's strong points:   as mentioned: it enables you to deliver custom-made web design; different layouts created for various screen resolutions (instead of one layout “stretched/shrunk to all of them”) it complies with the requirements of modern user experience: personalization-focused UX and user-centric approach to web design  … meaning you're not creating the best UX, but the best UX for each one of the devices that your users will be accessing your website from by “tailor-made” I do mean “tailor-made advertisements”, perfectly optimized to your relevant user interface and tailored to the user data collected from smart devices in an adaptive vs responsive design debate, the first one will always win when it comes to performance: sites using an adaptive design are just faster … and speed will always be a differentiating factor in Google's eyes coding an adaptive design is more time-efficient implementing it is more cost-effective managing it tends to be easier since you only need to consider few states testing it is much easier (with more accurate results, as well)   And now, are you ready for a list of drawbacks to balance adaptive design's advantages with? Just so you can gain a more objective understanding, evaluating all the pros and cons in full:   it usually requires more work, and therefore it's used mostly for overhauling existing websites, rather than with new websites (considering that “more work” stands for “more time-consuming”) the site configuration being either desktop or smartphone-focused, tablets and notebooks users are... left in the middle it impacts your SEO strategy, since search engines will detect and penalize identical content showing up on different websites (“.com” and “m.com” sites)   5. Adaptive vs Responsive Design: Key Differences to Take Away The most notable differences for you to keep in mind from this comparative analysis of the 2 popular options at hand are the following:   a responsive design is a consistent one: what you get on desktop, you get on a smaller screen size, as well a responsive design might turn out to be easier to maintain on the long run: with every new screen size emerging, it will adapt to it, by default … by comparison, with an adaptive design you'll need to create a brand new layout for every new possible device, with a specific screen width, that might get released on a long-term, we could say that maintaining a site using adaptive design gets more challenging: it's several fixed layouts that you'll need to manage (instead of just one) the adaptive screen size (you'll be using static breakpoint for building adaptive design) is less flexible than the responsive screen design: you'll need to design (from scratch) for every display that you target   The END! Are all these strengths and limitations of the two popular approaches to modern web design of any help to you? For solving your “adaptive vs responsive design” dilemma? ... Read more
Silviu Serdaru / Apr 13'2018
What Are Some of The Best Free Drupal 7 E-commerce Themes?
Building or “redecorating”? Are you putting together your online store from scratch or refurbishing your current one? No matter which one of these 2 scenarios fits your plan, you must be running your own “investigations” right now: which are the very best free Drupal 7 eCommerce themes out there? Having a “top X” selection at hand would definitely speed up your “research”, right? A top including:   feature-rich themes, “loaded” with all those functionalities crucial for any eCommerce business, such as freedom to style your own product pages, checkout forms, custom cart, “add to cart” button, custom login and logout    Drupal 7 responsive themes themes empowering you with plenty of customization freedom   Well here's the selection of 5 Drupal themes for e-commerce that you should start your "investigations" with.   1. Omega Kickstart Jumpstart your Commerce Kickstart theme development using this base theme as a... strong “push”. A responsive subtheme, a “kickoff” to your whole theme development process on Commerce Kickcstart, Omega Kickstart comes packed with all the crucial features:   it's free it's built with Drupal Commerce in mind its layout is fully adjustable to any screen size (desktop, tablet, smartphone) it's conveniently more user-friendly than the pre-built Omega   Therefore, it makes the perfect impetus for kick-starting your theme development plans!   2. AT Commerce, One of the “Feature-Overloaded” Free Drupal 7 eCommerce Themes  A “full-option” Drupal commerce theme we could say! AT Commerce “spoils” you with out-of-the-box support for the Drupal Commerce module and Ubercart and .... “overwhelms” you with a heavy load of great features. Now to name just a few:   it's equipped with support for a lightweight and nonetheless responsive slideshow pre-built support for a Color module (Garland or Bartik); this enables you to go beyond the 3 default color combinations and, using the color picker at hand, to “color up” your theme to your liking heading styles that you're free to customize built-in Superfish module support  custom login block support for 26 regions a custom and configurable responsive grid layout for the front page and the taxonomy pages (that you're free to disable if you want to) Google fonts  mobile support  multiple image field alignment options   And the list is a never-ending one.  As you can see, AT Commerce is a theme that not only that provides you with a wide range of e-commerce-specific functionalities, but with almost unlimited customization freedom, too. You'll get to put together your site's “signature” web design in no time, with no need to “get your hands dirty” in code. From creating your “trademark” color scheme, to “playing” with all the settings that would impact the overall design and layout, your styling power is significant. A word of caution: do keep in mind that this is a sub-theme; before you get to leverage all the above-mentioned AT Commerce features (plus a few more) on your own website, you'll need to install the latest version of the AdaptiveTheme. It's this theme that will provide the needed core functionality   3. Commerce Theme Here's another one of those free Drupal 7 eCommerce themes geared at helping you get a fully functional and attractive online store up and running in no time! Moreover, the theme behind this theme “tempts” you with a Commerce Installation Profile bringing you, right out-of-the-box, all the needed functionalities to start selling your products. A profile coming with built-in Drupal Commerce support and perfectly organized files enabling you to easily customize any eCommerce component you need to.   4. Storefront As its name suggests:   if it's a clean and “inviting” storefront that you need to implement on your eCommerce site, this is the theme to consider! One that “plays well” with Drupal Commerce and that you can easily style up, further, adjusting it to your customer's future preferences. In short: Storefront is that Drupal commerce theme that will implement a clean and appealing interface to your Commerce Kickstart installation. And now if I am to highlight some of its key features:   responsive techniques via media queries various settings to “play with” for customizing your site framing, home grids, your color schemes, layout... an entire collection of template files essential for eCommerce sites: review pane, cart block, product-node options for cleaning up checkout panes, various form elements (specific to add-to-cart links, product attributes) and check-out layouts   Note: since this theme's compatible, out of the box, with the first version of Commerce Kickstart, the team behind it commits itself to making Storefront “play well” with the second version, as well.   5. Metropolis A versatile (“fitting” all site types) and feature-rich theme “praising” simplicity. This is a concise, yet comprehensive definition of Metropolis, one of the most popular free Drupal 7 eCommerce themes. A more detailed definition would need to include “details” such as:   the fact that it's a tableless theme, with a 1-2 column layouts it provides you with a superfish drop down menu comes “equipped” with 10 collapsible block regions an image slideshow, that you get to customize to your liking via the Views Slideshow heading H1 optimization for boosting your SEO efforts primary and secondary links custom login and logout options   The END! These are the top 5 free Drupal 7 eCommerce themes that you should consider evaluating first. To check whether their built-in collections of eCommerce-specific features suit your own needs and goals or maybe just partially.  ... Read more
Silviu Serdaru / Mar 09'2018
PhoneGap vs React Native: Which Platform to Choose for Building Your Mobile App? And Why?
A great developer experience or a great user experience? A familiar web technology for you to code in or native-like performance for your users? And these are just some of the questions “taunting” you right now, while dealing with a PhoneGap vs React Native dilemma, right? Each platform comes with its own “temptations” to... lure you in:   PhoneGap promises you an “easy life” as a mobile app developer, enabling you to use any JavaScript library and framework that you're comfortable working with React Native promises you to inject native-like performance into your app and thus...  to perfect the user experience   So, which one to go with?   PhoneGap: A Brief Overview A compromise! This is, in my opinion, the perfect word/metaphor to describe PhoneGap. A compromise in terms of user experience and performance, since it's hybrid mobile apps that you get to build using this technology:   a JS/CSS/HTML app having a browser-based UI (giving you the freedom to work in any of your preferred web technologies) that exposes native mobile device APIs and data; accessing phone components through the API navigator   While a more “formal” definition would go something like this: PhoneGap is a distribution of Apache Cordova — coming with a few tweaks and custom packages —  that you can use for embedding websites in mobile apps via WebView. In short: more than a website, yet not a fully native mobile app. A hybrid app compromise!   A Few Words About React Native  In a  PhoneGap vs React Native debate, the latter would always have its native components rendering “trump card” up its sleeve: For a React Native-powered app is written in JS, like a PhoneGap one, yet it doesn't just render a webview, but REAL native components instead! And that, my friend, would also win over users: it's better user experience and zero compromises on performance that you get “rewarded” with for using React Native. You could also take this mobile app development platform as the answer to users' becoming more and more demanding: If hybrid, HTML 5 and/or mobile web apps used to be enough to “satisfy” their needs, while being a “blessing” for developers' budgets, as well, mobile users started to crave native-like performance. And so, React Native emerged! It's a convenient “bridge” between JS and native platforms:   React Native apps get written in JavaScript they “play by the rules” and meet the standards of the operating system ... while accessing a big part of the native platforms via this metaphoric “bridge” that React Native creates   PhoneGap: Tempting Benefits vs Discouraging Disadvantages Now in order to get an accurate score to our “PhoneGap vs React Native” debate here, we'd better go “pros and cons harvesting”, right? So, without any further ado, I'll list some of PhoneGap's “irresistible” advantages first:   it “spoils” the developer with a wide range of frameworks/libraries to choose from; if you're a big fan of web technologies, if you enjoy building UIs in HTML and CSS, you'll love the rich collection of choices that PhoneGaps puts at your disposal therefore, PhoneGap is easy to work with and developer-friendly it's not bound to any specific framework  PhoneGap-based apps perform within wrappers targeted to each platform and use API bindings that comply with the all the given standards for accessing each mobile device's data, network status, sensors it's based on the “write once run on every platform” philosophy: you get to “reap” the benefits of cross-platform development; just “work your magic” in any of the web technologies that you're comfortable with and have your app running on all available platforms … with no need to get yourself tangled up in each platform's native development language your app will have a similar UI on all native platforms    And now, the limitations that you need to consider when building mobile apps using PhoneGap:   by far the biggest inconvenience is the sluggish performance (leading to poor user experience, needless to add); and it's a more than predictable drawback considering that the web was created for web pages, not for heavy, animations-loaded, complex apps you risk to get all the issues of the web, as well, right out-of-the-box, along with your PhoneGap hybrid app. Bugs specific to certain browsers or styles that work differently depending on the browser here included!    In short: on one hand, you get to enjoy a great developer experience, on the other hand, you risk to compromise the user's experience!   React Native: Top Pros and Cons In a PhoneGap vs React Native “competition” the former would always fall behind when it comes to performance: React Native is undoubtedly faster. And here are some other benefits to "reap" for using React Native to build your mobile app:   it renders real native components instead of a webview also, since it renders NATIVE views without using webview as an intermediary, expect to face no browser compatibility challenges there's strong social proof, highly relevant evidence for its reliability: Instagram, Airbnb, Uber it's committed to the “learn once, write everywhere” philosophy; once you're familiar with React, you'll be writing native apps in no time, with no need to delve into Java or Objective-C coding, unless you want to extend your app's functionality moreover, React's backed by a huge community, so during your learning time and then during your app development process, you can rely on plenty of “expert” support  the user experience is significantly improved: a React Native app will always have a native look and feel to it compared to a mobile web app  also, since it renders native views, expect smoother, high performant animations, as well   Yet, React Native does come with some drawbacks, as well, that might discourage some (even you!):   you need to be familiar with React, there's way around it you'll need to write an app for every native platform (due to that above-mentioned JS-native platform based structure) since some of the components might be platform-specific don't expect to be able to use HTML: it's native components that you'll need to "juggle with" And The Answer to “Your PhoneGap vs React Native” Dilemma” Is... “It depends!” If you've already used React for the web, so you're definitely not stepping on alien ground, go with React Native! It would be a pity not to leverage your React knowledge and not to benefit from all the top performance that you get to inject into your mobile app! Not familiar with React? And, moreover, you love having an entire “palette” of familiar web technologies at hand, to just “grab and use”? Then you'll love PhoneGap's “developer friendly” approach! The END! Hope I've included all the most relevant pros and cons and managed to pull off some good explanations on why some developers get seduced by Facebook' baby, React Native, while others prefer to tap into familiar PhoneGap's own advantages. How about you? Where do you stand now?  ... Read more
Silviu Serdaru / Mar 01'2018
How to Use Gulp To Streamline Your Theme Development Process in Drupal 8
Automate all site-building tasks and streamline your theme development process! In short: reduce development time and boost your productivity as a Drupal 8 themer with Gulp! But how to use Gulp to automate your workflow? How do you set it up and run its toolchain in conjunction with Drupal? How do you move away from the old practices of the “good old days”,  when you had to write your themes in pure CSS? Since you had no alternative... How do you “harness Gulp's power” to automate tasks that are crucial for your Drupal 8 theming process such as:   compiling SASS and LESS watching/generating CSS files from SASS testing generating static design pattern pages reloading the browser  optimizing assets: images, JavaScript, CSS   Well, keep reading and “thou shalt find out”!   But What Is Gulp, After All? I confess I couldn't come up with a better definition for Gulp, than the one on the official site: "… a toolkit for automating painful or time-consuming tasks in your development workflow, so you can stop messing around and build something." More often than not referred to as “build tools”, Gulp is a front-end automation tool aimed at streamlining your theme development process. Basically, it enables you to have all those tasks that are critical (and time-consuming) for your workflow run... automatically! And thus to give your productivity as a Drupal themer a significant boost!   Why Use Gulp over Other Theme Development Streamlining Tools? Here are 3 of the strongest reasons why:   because Gulp configurations are conventionality simpler, shorter because using Gulp you get to capitalize on a wider community support because it runs faster, as well   How to Install Gulp A word of caution: since Gulp is a node module, make sure you install Node.js (this, of course, if you haven't installed it already) first things first. Needless to add that:   you should go for the latest version of Node.js the installation process depends (and may differ) greatly on the Operation System that you're using   Install Homebrew, then run the following command: $ brew install node Now, for installing Gulp, type the following command: npm install gulp-cli -g Where “npm” stands for the “Node Package Manager” used for installing Gulp on your PC. And where the “-g” flag signals that Gulp should be installed globally on your PC.   Creating Your Gulp Project: Set Up Your Package.json File As you well know, Node.js uses “npm”, a package manager “in charge” with downloading and installing all the modules required for a given project. And all these modules get defined in a “package.json” file.  So, this is the step you, too, should take now: setting up your package.json file in the very root of your Drupal 8 installation. For this, just run the following command inside that directory: npm init It's inside this newly created package that all the key information about the node packages required for your specific project gets stored! Therefore, make sure to fill up all the needed information as you put together your package.json. Note: still, you should also know that all the prompts are ideally intuitive and that even if you leave those fields blank, you can always come back later and change the default values. Remember to set the entry point to “gulpfile.js” and, once you add the required information for your project, keep in mind to specify your git repository. An Important Word of Caution! Your “How to use Gulp to automate my theming tasks in Drupal 8?” question should be accompanied by: “How to prevent triggering a segmentation fault?” One that you might involuntarily trigger once you run Drush. Since Drush will consider the node package's own .info file files as part of Drupal and since it doesn't recognize their format... trouble happens. Here's how you avoid segmentation fault: add a script to the package.json file, whose main role will be to remove all the .info files from the node_modules folder And now, let's go back to our package.json setting up process! One last piece of advice that I'd like to add: if you've run the “npm init” command for creating your package.json file, remember to identify the “scripts” section and to replace the following line: "test": "echo \"Error: no test specified\" && exit 1" … with this one: "postinstall": "find node_modules/ -name '*.info' -type f -delete" And one more thing: set up the following .npmrc file in your theme folder's root: unsafe-perm = true Here's how the “intro” of your package.jso file' structure will look like: "name": "...",   "version": "...",   "description": "...",   "main": "...",   "author": "...",   "private": true,   "devDependencies": {     "browser-sync": "...",     "gulp": "...", Once you have your package nicely set up, go ahead and install Gulp into your project by running this command: npm install gulp --save-dev  Note: you might be wondering why you need to install Gulp... again. The answer is simple: first, you installed Gulp globally and now you're installing it into your Drupal project! In this respect, it's  “--save-dev” which will let your PC know that Gulp needs to be added as a dev dependency in your packgage.json. All Gulp files and dependencies associated with it will get downloaded and a “node_modules” folder will get created.   Set Up Your Gulpfile.js You're not yet done with setting everything up! There's still one important step to take before you discover how to use Gulp to create and to automate your site building tasks: setting up the gulpfile.js! For this, just:   go to your custom theme directory manually create a gulpfile.js file by either using the cmd/terminal or just by right-clicking to create a new file   Note: keep in mind to change the config variable so that it should match your paths! Also, make sure that all your CSS gets stored in the same “CSS” directory in your theme (for example: sites/all/themes/my_theme/css/application.sass)    How to Use Gulp to Create and Automate Key Tasks for Your Workflow And finally, we've reached our “destination”!  The very goal of this blog post after all: determining which site building tasks are crucial for my/your own workflow, creating them and then automating them all with Gulp! Do you fancy automated:   Sass compiling into CSS? cache clearing “detection” of all the changes you will have applied to your .scss files? page reloading?   And your “wishlist” might go on...  Well, the answer to your “How to use Gulp to automatically run task “x” or “y”?” is simple:   Just run the gulp [task_name] “magic formula” in your terminal!    Here are some examples:    gulp.task('watch', function () which will watch for all the changes applied to your scss files and automatically recompile  gulp.task('reload', ['clearcache'], function () which will clear cache, then automatically reload the page  gulp.task('browser-sync', function() which will automatically run the BrowserSync server In order to get the whole process started, simply type “gulp” in your terminal. The END! Your turn now! Time to use Gulp to its full potential and to automate all those key (and time-consuming) aspects of your theme development process in Drupal 8!  ... Read more
Silviu Serdaru / Feb 28'2018
15 Android App Development Tools Essential for Every Developer's Toolbox
Simplify! This is the right way to go if you're “obsessing” over your productivity as an app developer. Declutter your toolbox and keep only the truly essential Android app development tools in there!   But which are they? What are the tools for developing Android applications that shouldn't miss from any developer's personal “arsenal”?  The most effective ones when it comes to helping you:   become (even) more efficient by improving your workflow and thus speeding up your development process develop higher-quality apps And this is where this blog post here comes to “the rescue”! It's a selection of THE fundamental Android app development tools that you should keep at hand (take it as your productivity-boosting toolkit). Ranging from: IDEs to emulators to design tools to game engines … and geared at streamlining your debugging, your performance-checking, they make the best Android developer tools to rely on in 2018: 1. LeakCanary Stay vigilant and alert for detecting any memory leaks in your Android apps right on the spot! But mind this doesn't take too much of your valuable time! Instead, rely on this powerful tool in your developer's toolbox for identifying them. It will take this time-consuming “burden” off your back and alert you any time it tracks down a memory issue threatening your app.  Moreover, LeakCanary provides you with a full stack trace so you can have those memory leaks fixed right away, too. 2. AIDE You'll have a crush on this tool if: you're a beginner, struggling to get started with that innovative Android app idea of yours (and, hopefully, to turn it into the next big thing in terms of Android app development) you're planning to learn Java and Android SDK: it will practically enable you to follow your favourite tutorials with highlighted code and then to get them tested... in real-time, on the very same device! In short: the irresistible advantage of AIDE and the very reason why it's got included in this selection of essential Android app development tools is that it runs on Android! Just imagine it: You get to develop your Android app on your device, nice and easy, then you get to test it... on that very same device! This is the true “superpower” that this development tool provides you with!  Note: don't expect it to be free, for it isn't, nor to “spoil” you with a full load of features.  3. Vysor The power that you'll unlock by including this tool in your smartphone application development process? It mirrors your real device on your PC. And this does turn into a true power if you're one of those developers who hate building their apps on emulators, yet they crave the advantage of using one. There's more! Vysor will even mirror your live app demos on projectors and big TV screens. So, if you think that this functionality matches your own work style, that it streamlines your workflow and helps you create a better app with greater ease, go for it! 4. Stetho Debugging native Android apps will never be the same again! That if you use this open-source platform wearing Facebook's signature here when you go “bugs hunting”.  And not only that it makes your debugging work so much easier, but it's also geared at landing you a much needed helping hand with your: inspecting the SQLite database checking the View hierarchy monitoring network operations A debugging tool that shouldn't miss from your toolkit! 5. B4A, One of “Speed-Injecting” Android App Development Tools  For “rapid development” is what you'll achieve by leveraging this tool's features. And these are: the ability to develop Android apps using the much simpler BASIC programming language  a visual editor for manipulating your views to your liking wireless debugging In short, B4A (Basic for Android) makes such a convenient IDE and interpreter enabling you to create your app in a simpler procedural programming language. Plus, it comes packed with other advanced features to speed up your development process (as above-mentioned).   6. Android Studio The “Holy Grail” of all Android app development tools! Officially it's the IDE for Android.  But in reality, it's your own “Swiss knife” to use as an Android developer! Since it plays multiple roles crucial for your mobile app development workflow: it's a compiler that you get to leverage to create a file system for arranging your app project, to create multiple APK files it's an editor for the programming language that you'll decide to use in your app's development process (whether it's Java, Kotlin, C++...) it's an XML editor (providing you with a “design view”, as well, that will guide you in displaying your app's elements on the screen; crucial for keeping up with Google's Material design guidelines) it also includes the Android SDK itself (yet, the Java SDK needs to be downloaded separately) In terms of pros and cons, do expect a steep learning curve for developing with Android SDK and Java. But once you've got through it, do expect to gain access to unlimited support, to a whole bundle of advanced features and to unmatched integration functionality. From this standpoint, Android Studio is the “can't live without” tool-set for any developer!  7. Codota Does this scenario sound familiar to you? You hit a dead end down your app development roadmap and you need to go over to Github or StackOverflow and have a quick look at some code examples! Well, Codota enables you to do precisely that, but without having to leave your IDE. Talking about speeding up your development process, right?   8. GenyMotion Far gone are the days when GenyMotion used to be “just” the developers' top choice whenever they wanted to create their apps using an Android emulator. It has now grown into a complete platform whose powers you get to harness for: developing your app testing it deploying it Do consider it as a “candidate” to be included in your own toolbox of Android app development tools essential in your work this year. 9. Visual Studio with Xamarin These days you get Xamarin right out of the box with Visual Studio, Microsoft's IDE. One supporting a whole wide set of languages: JavaScript, C#, VB.net, and others, too, via extensions. And what's the “deal” with Xamarin? What makes it “essential” for your toolbox?  it enables you to develop cross-platform apps using C# (have you been “toying” with the thought of developing an app both for Android and iOS using the very same code?) … to test them on different devices that are connected to the cloud A word of caution: accessing and working with Java libraries isn't really “a child's play”, do be prepared for that; also, you need to accept that you'll be losing some of Google's cool integrated features and support. 10. Source Tree It makes any smartphone app developer's trump card making his work on Git as efficient as it can get! Basically, this tool's aimed at making Git cleanly organized so you can visualize all your work there — commits, changes, branches — in the form of an easy-to-navigate-through structure. And all this without the need to use the command-line! One that can only boost your productivity, as it helps you sweep through Git with great ease! 11. Fabric, One Those Powerful Android App Development Tools You Should Be Using And its power lies in all the capabilities that it's been invested with. It provides you with a whole set of features designed to help you: develop deploy extend … your Android apps' functionality fast and easily.   12. Eclipse Once developers' very first choice when they started selecting the Android app development tools to build their toolboxes with. This until it got “dethroned” by Android Studio! And yet, Eclipse should still be part of your toolkit. It's an IDE that supports a wide range of programming languages after all (Java with the Android SDK here included).   Note: still, do not expect it to get you “spoiled” with out-of-the-box support, like Android Studio does, so be ready for some setting up work! 13. InstaBug A tool that takes “bug hunting” to a new level! Practically it empowers users to share video, audio recordings, screenshots, detailed logs whenever they detect anything suspicious in your app. And these user-generated “signals” become priceless in your constant attempt to keep your app bugs-free! 14. Unreal Engine If it's a cross-platform, feature-packed game app that you're planning to build, this game engine might turn out to be your best “ally”! Here's why: it provides easy support for Android it's open source when it comes to graphics, it does have an advantage over its “rival”, Unity   15. Takt Team up with Takt in your major lags and bugs detecting “adventure”!  This library will help you check your app's FPS thoroughly and spot down bugs right in its development phase.  For you don't want them to linger on in there once your app's being used in its production phase, now do you? The END! I know what you might think right now: Each developer's toolbox depends solely on his/her preferences, goals and personal work style. It's perfectly true and I've anticipated this “objection” myself. Therefore, I've grouped here only those truly essential Android app development tools that one should “carry” in his/her toolbox. ... irrespective of his work style and goals set for his/her app. ... Read more
Silviu Serdaru / Feb 24'2018
4 Free Drupal 8 Themes for eCommerce Trending Right Now
Just imagine: all that masterfully coded back-end, all that hard work performed in the “backstage”, all those great features that you've created from scratch... turned into a worthless effort. And this because you haven't invested the same amount of time and effort in selecting your e-commerce site's theme, as well. So the question that arises now is: what are the free Drupal 8 Themes for eCommerce worth checking out? So you can pick your perfectly suitable one, that would: meet, greet and retain your online visitors and spotlight your products. Well, we've read your thoughts and done our research for you! We've dug deep into the “pile” of free Drupal 8 Themes designed specifically for online stores and put together a top 4. And now, without further ado:   1. SShop, A Bootstrap-Based, Responsive Theme Let's get straight to the features that convinced us that yes, this is a theme that deserves its place in the top 4 Drupal 8 responsive themes for e-commerce sites: it “spoils” you with out-of-the-box Drupal Commerce  it's ideally quick & easy to install  it provides you with a homepage slideshow (delivered by the Views Slideshow module, one of the many modules that the SShop theme supports) you get a multi-level responsive header menu out-of-the-box, as well it enables you to add as many fields as needed to your Default Product type  and should I also add that you get Slider content types and a Blog out-of-the-box, too? A whole “plethora” of built-in features offered to you “on a silver plate” for this theme not to get levelled up from just “another one of those free Drupal 8 eCommerce themes available on the web” to... one of those “definitely worth checking out”!   2. eStore, One of the Feature-Packed Free Drupal 8 Themes for eCommerce If it's a fully responsive, Bootstrap Drupal theme, conveniently “overloaded” with e-commerce site features, that you need, than eStore is the one! Now allow me to dig deep into this out-of-the-box “load” and take out some of the key features and cool functionalities that you'll get: a product layouts collection for you to scan through and select from the option to add your own fields to the Default Product type content types included in the configurations an out-of-the-box Blog to integrate with your e-commerce website Slider content types   And the list of features could go on. Do check it out before investing valuable time in looking through a whole load of Drupal 8 Themes based on Bootstrap available on the web!   3. Commerce Bootstrap-Based Theme: Designed to Speed Up Your Theming Process  That's right, this is one of those free Drupal 8 ecommerce themes —  a sub-theme of the Bootstrap theme — geared towards speeding up the whole theming process of your e-commerce store. And how does it do that? It just overrides the Drupal Commerce templates so that they match both Bootstrap and all the other helpers.  So, it's practically your “trump card” theme boosting the theming process by automatically handling all the matching —  Drupal Commerce vs Bootstrap —  for you. Pretty convenient and definitely worth taking it out for a “drive test”, don't you think?   4. Belgrade: Fitted With Drupal Commerce in Mind Another Drupal theme suitable for your (future) Drupal 8 e-commerce site. An out-of-the-box one, designed specifically for Drupal commerce and developed via the previously mentioned Drupal theme here: the Commerce Bootstrap base theme. Built, from the ground-up, to meet any online store's specific functionality needs. Therefore, worth taking it for a spin, don't you agree? END of the list! Can't hide that I'm more than curious how your own top free Drupal 8 ecommerce themes looks like. What other visually-appealing, feature-packed themes does it include?  ... Read more
Silviu Serdaru / Feb 08'2018
Docker Image vs Container: Closely Related, But Distinct. What's The Difference?
Welcome to... Dockerland, a place of never-ending confusions! The most frustrating one of them all — for every novice planning to explore Docker — being the “Docker Image vs Container” dilemma. “What, aren't they one and the same concept?” But you know that this is a rhetorical question: you just sense that they're 2 distinct concepts... Yet, you can't really identify the differences: How are Docker containers and images different after all? Now let's clear up the Docker Image vs Container confusion once and for all: First Things First: What's a Docker Image? A file (or file-like... thing) that gets built from a Dockerfile, by running a "build" command.  Moreover — and this is particularly important in defining a Docker image and setting it apart from containers — it's an inert, immutable type of file. A template-like file (you could also imagine it as a snapshot of a container). It's only when started, with the docker command, that a docker image starts producing a container. And since images in Docker tend to grow quite large, they're built on a layered structure (multiple players of other images). This way, only a small “load” of data gets sent when loading images over the network. Wrapping Up:   you can take the docker image as an application that you'd like to run a docker image can't be “running” or be “started”; once the “docker run” command is... run (obviously!), the image grows into a docker container, so... mind the inevitable confusion   Which Leads Us to The Question: “What's a Docker Container Then?” The not 100% accurate, yet generally accepted (even if halfheartedly) definition is:  “A container is a running instance of an image” Now, let me detail... Practically, the very act of running a Docker image produces a Docker container. You won't find a more straightforward explanation than this one! And containers are (or they should be) the very reason why “learning Docker” turned into one of your top resolutions for 2018 in the first place. For they're:   lightweight using fewer resources portable easy-to-be-deployed   … ways of running and managing your applications. If you're fond of analogies, here's one that will undoubtedly help you come up with a clear answer to your “Docker container vs image” dilemma: If a Docker image was a class, then a Docker container would be an instance of a class (a runtime object).  Wrapping up now:   once you start an image in Docker (so once you use the “docker run” command) you basically have a running container of this image in question   a container is created by adding a top writable layer to a Docker image and thus by initializing multiple settings (container name, ID, network ports etc.)   and it's due to that very writable layer, storing all the changes applied, that you can have multiple containers running off the same image; each and every one of them preserving its own distinct data state   Docker Image vs Container: Key Difference Revealed The most significant difference clearing up the confusion is the following: There is a top writable layer setting Docker images and Docker containers apart It's that very layer, storing all write operation corresponding to the containers in question, which:   gets deleted along once/if the container, itself, gets deleted, while the underlying image remains intact   enables multiple containers to share the very same underlying image   Now to better explain the key differences founding this dichotomy, let's reduce everything to a simple, clear-enough (hopefully) formula: a docker image + a docker run command = a docker container (meaning a running instance of the docker image) … a container equipped with its own writable layer and which can get listed via a "docker ps" command Is everything any clearer and simpler to you now?   Or Maybe a Metaphor Example Suits You Best? In addition to my “class vs instance of a class” analogy, let me try now explaining this tricky Docker dichotomy by using a metaphor... or two:   Let's say you have a film and a VHS of (which stands for our “image” in Docker). Then, imagine you'd place that VHS into your “virtual” VCR. In this case, the VCR stands for your Docker container. Better?   Or you could see the Docker image as an executable file on a disk (an app's file); once you run your application, it promptly creates an instance running in its memory. Now that very instance is our metaphorical Docker container.   Have I managed to clear up your confusion or just... deepen it instead?   Docker Image vs Dockerfile: How Do You Set Them Apart in “Dockerland”? Now, let me rewind to the stage where we can't even be talking about containers (not just yet). Where not even Docker images are yet built: the Dockerfile stage. You can take a Dockerfile as a... recipe for creating Docker images. And here's how the “cooking of an image” takes place:   a Docker command is run in that Dockerfile and so an image gets built   Clear as daylight: a Dockerfile is a... file that you create which, in return, creates a Docker image when you run a separate build command.   The END! Do be honest now: have I managed to clear up your “Docker Image vs Container” confusion? If so, then “solving the puzzle” around this dichotomy will make a huge jump start on your Docker learning plan for 2018. Happy learning!             ... Read more
Silviu Serdaru / Jan 23'2018
Progressive Web Apps vs Native Apps: Which Type of App Best Serves Your Needs? Part 2
Native Apps: They're Not Going Anywhere... Not Anytime Soon In other words, in the "progressive web apps vs native apps" competition PWAs make an alternative, not a replacement for native apps. For native apps are here to stay and still offer plenty of advantages themselves, too, (while progressive web apps do have their own limitations to consider, as well) for companies and developers not to give them up anytime soon. And here are just some of the key reasons why they continue to steal the spotlight. Reasons that might help you find your own answer to the “PWA or native app?” question:   big brands, already having their own native apps running on their preferred platforms, don't feel the same pressure as low-budgeted companies to switch to PWAs; it's some sort of “inertia-driven stubbornness”   app developers with a wide experience with IOS or Android don't feel like replacing their familiar work routines with a PWA-specific one, even if the latter is less complex   let's admit it: the web-based app development does come with its own limitations that still need to be addressed    Progressive Web Apps vs Native Apps: 6 Reasons to Go With a Native App As PWAs exploit some of the native apps' drawbacks, so do the latter turn some of their “rivals'” limitations into their own strong points. For instance:   PWAS might be widely adopted thanks to their universal compatibility, hassle-free user experience and short development time, yet they're not capable to interact with the devices that they run on   native apps can do that; moreover, they're perfectly adapted to leverage a mobile device's smart functionalities   also, PWAs run in web browsers, which, might turn into a disadvantage: it could slow them down    … whereas native apps, being installed on the given devices, first things first, will inevitably load a lot faster; there's no longer a browser intermediating the process    Now, let's dig out other strong reasons for... going native:   1. No Ifs and Buts: They're Faster As previously mentioned: with the web browser acting as an intermediary, progressive web apps can't compete with their native “rivals” in terms of performance. As opposed to PWAs, native apps are installed on the devices that they run on. Therefore, not only that their code practically “lives” there, but it's platform-bound. Written with the requirements of that specific mobile operating system in mind.   2. They Come With Built-In NFC Support  The “Near Field Communication” support is vital for certain businesses. So, do consider this native apps' advantage (or this PWAS' shortcoming, depending on how you want to put it) before you give a final answer to your “progressive web apps vs native apps” dilemma. If it's of critical importance for you that your customers should be able to pay for your services with their phones, then you need to go native. There's no way around this! PWAS can't yet interact with the NFC chip enabling this type of payment.   3. They Provide a Quality Control Guarantee  All the app stores' “bureaucracy” might be discouraging enough, yet there are good intentions — resulting in a quality guarantee —  behind all those steps to take: filling out forms, reading specific forums, following strict app development guidelines, waiting for your app's review process to be carried out etc., etc. Instead of seeing them strictly as... highly restrictive, take them as multiple filters that clear your app of any malicious code. As for PWAS, just think about it: The easier it is for anyone to access your app by just visiting the web page hosting it, the easier it is for a hacker, as well, to exploit the vulnerabilities of that connection.   4. GEO-fencing: A Superpower Placed in Your Hands And this is no exaggeration, especially if it's a retail app that you're planning to develop. Just give it a moment of thought: GEO-fencing will enable you (your marketing team) to define virtual “boundaries” in the real world; once a customer's mobile device enters or exits that defined area, a push notification gets triggered. A powerful functionality to ponder on when you're facing a “progressive web apps vs native apps” decision-making challenge. A smart functionality that native apps can easily exploit, while PWAs can't.   5. They Can Leverage a Device's “Smart” Capabilities And this is one of the major advantages of native apps over progressive web apps! They interact with the mobile devices that they're installed on, meaning that they use their smart features to their full potential. Features such as:   proximity sensor wave lock: you don't want your users' phone screens to go black right in the middle of a video you've inserted in your app, now do you? ambient light   6. They Easily Interact With Other Apps Take for instance this highly frequent scenario: A user tries to set up his/her account within your app and he's given the option to enter his Facebook login details It's the perfect example of native apps interacting with one another. And this is but just one example of inter-app communication that helps users save valuable time.   So, What Kind of App Should You Develop After All? “ The one that best serves your needs.” So, get them clearly defined first things first:   Do you need to develop a basic customer service/retail app? And, moreover, you're both budget and time-limited, as well? Then a progressive web app might just be the perfect fit for your project's needs.    Is it a mobile app exploiting smartphones' advanced functionalities to the fullest that you need to build? Then you should consider opting for a native app: it's fast —  which will definitely impact the overall user experience — it integrates with multiple payment gateways and it harnesses the power of “smart” features (Geo-fencing, NFS, wave lock etc.)   Also, when trying to pick your winner in the “progressive web apps vs native apps” contest, consider the expected future advancements, as well:   mobile devices will get injected with more and more advanced technologies, tilting the balance in native apps' favor    progressive web apps will continue to be constantly supercharged with new and new functionalities, that go beyond a web browser's standard ones (integration with Bluetooth, with NFC, with smart devices' hardware features)   That being said: the choice is yours to make! I've only pointed out the main criteria and the key benefits/limitations for you to weigh and to compare, so you can make a fully informed decision. ... Read more
Silviu Serdaru / Jan 12'2018
Progressive Web Apps vs Native Apps: Which Type of App Best Serves Your Needs? Part 1
The paradox of choice, right? Didn't it use to be so much easier back in the old days, when you had just one option at hand? "You wanted to go mobile, you just knew this meant “pumping” money into a native app." Clear as a day! But what do you now, when you're facing a "progressive web apps vs native apps" situation? Which app development approach is the perfect fit for you? For the nature of your business and for your app project's specific needs? PWAS seem to be “stealing the show” these days: first they intrigue, next they “seduce” with the hard-to-resist-to promise that they deliver: Empowering small businesses to compete against the "giants" in the mobile app development arena! And still: native apps won't be going anywhere anytime soon! Moreover, they'll get even more robust and faster, as the devices that they run on get more and more advanced. And as they'll continue to leverage their great advantage over progressive web apps:  Leveraging mobile devices' smart features and capabilities and thus delivering an enriched user experience. Now, to put an end to your “turmoil”, I've come up with a sort of “inventory” listing the set of benefits that you can reap from choosing one type of app over the other. Here it goes:   But First: What's a PWA? And How Is It Different from a Native App? “An app running inside the user's web browser, that he/she doesn't need to download and install beforehand. And which, moreover, is injected with native app-like functionalities and wrapped in a seamless user interface.” This should be a clarifying enough answer to your “What's a PWA?” question. Bottom line, the key difference between PWAs and native apps is: The first ones run inside web browsers, while the latter run on the mobile devices that they're installed on. The concept behind this revolutionary approach to app development is both daring and ambitious: Cutting down the overhead and the discouraging complexities usually associated with a native app's development process. And thus:   reducing time and costs eliminating the step where your users download it from an app store    Progressive Web Apps vs Native Apps: Top 7 Benefits From Choosing a PWA For it all comes down to benefits, right? What's in it for you if you choose one app development approach over the other? The level popularity that one type of app has gained falls shortly behind the very set of benefits that you get. Now here are the most valuable ones to consider when you're having a “PWA vs native app” dilemma:   1. You'll Reach Out to A Significantly Wider Audience, With Fewer Resources As compared to developing an Android-focused or an IOS-focused native app, a PWA will practically grant you access to all platforms. It's a “develop once, run everywhere”, type of situation: A PWA is a “platform-agnostic” type of app. Needless to add that your progressive web app's extreme versatility will help you reach the widest audience way quicker and with minimal costs.   2. You'll Reduce The App Development Cycle Times  And this is, undoubtedly, that heavy-weighting advantage tilting the “progressive web apps vs native apps” balance in PWAs' favor. The very reason why progressive web apps gained so much attention in the first place. With native apps' development process “famous” for:   all the headaches it causes all the complexities specific to any platform-bound solution all the time-consuming steps to take: crafting some eye-catching screenshots, writing down the description, identifying the right keywords and strategically sprinkle them across the description...   ... PWAs emerged in a highly favorable context and they “exploited” precisely the overhead associated with a native app development cycle. So, they managed to “lure” developers unsurprisingly easily by:   eliminating most of those complexities from the app development process eliminating the need to build multiple platform-bound versions of the same app   Also, it goes without saying that reduced development times translate into reduced costs.   3. It's a Unified User Experience That Your App Will Deliver  The advantage of being platform-agnostic bubbles up to the user experience itself. Having a unique version of your PWA running on all platforms, accessible to all customers, it'll be easier for you to deliver the same user experience to your entire user-base.   4. A Hassle-Free User Experience Requiring the Minimum of Effort Compare the 2 following scenarios: a. a hypothetical user visits a certain app store, chooses an app, waits for it to download and then goes through all the steps required for installing it on his/her mobile device b. a hypothetical user lands on a website and gets to use the app right there, almost instantly, with no prior installation; moreover, if he/she wishes, he can save the link as an icon on his device's home screen Isn't it obvious why, in a "progressive web apps vs native apps" competition, the advantage of easy access will always outweigh most of the native apps' benefits? In a few words:    you, as the app owner, get to deliver the content you wish to deliver with utmost ease while your users access it using the fewest numbers of steps … and high accessibility translates into a higher level of user engagement   A win-win situation!   5. Users No Longer Need to Install The Latest Updates Themselves A major convenience both for you and for your apps' users:   you'll get to easily keep them up to date with all the changes that you might apply to your services with no updates to run and no need to re-download the app, users always get the latest version of your app, upgraded with the most recent functionality features that you will have added to   6. Extended Compatibility: All It Takes Is a Modern Web Browser That's right since PWAs run on HTML 5 — the standard for web content — a modern web browser on his/her mobile device is all that a hypothetical user needs for accessing your app. Talking about maximizing your app's reach, right?   7. You'll Cut Down Costs For Building and Marketing Your App You can get a progressive web app up and running (and marketed) in no time! With considerably fewer resources of time and money to invest. So, if:   you're facing a limited budget you're in the retail or hospitality business   … the benefit of bringing your customer service app to your customers quickly and in a cost-effective way is just... priceless.   The END! Well, not the end on my post on the progressive web apps vs native apps “competition”, but the end of the list of reasons why you should consider going with a PWA instead of a native app. Stay tuned, for in the second part of this post I'll be:   putting the spotlight on mobile native apps revealing to you all the benefits that you can enjoy from choosing this type of app development approach ... Read more
Silviu Serdaru / Jan 12'2018