Examples of Android applications written in Kawa scheme
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Kawa Scheme on Android

This started as a collection of examples of Kawa on Android because I couldn’t find anything substantive. It will slowly morph into a tutorial. At the moment it consists of a number of examples ported from Java and an application written from scratch in Kawa, SpeedRead. If you’re new, work your way up with the simpler examples first. If you want to dive right in, look at SpeedRead. It’s much cleaner.

Setting up

We’ll first need to get an Android SDK set up, skip this if you’ve already got one. You’ll need to install the Android SDK; your distribution’s package management software will help with this. Once you’re done, run android, select and install the latest API revision (17 as of this document).

To get started with Scheme you’ll need a custom build for Kawa, this will fetch and build the latest sources

bin/setup-kawa <android-home> <android-platform>

You’ll need to point it to your android SDK directory and give it the platform number. On my machine this looks like:

bin/setup-kawa /opt/android-sdk-update-manager android-17

Creating a new project

To create a new project you can use

bin/make-project <android-platform> <project-name> <activity-name> <package>

for example

bin/make-project android-17 HelloWorld hello kawa.example

The arguments are: the platform/api level, the project name and the original activity name. This calls ‘android create project’ and patches the resulting build.xml file. It will create a trivial application that displays a message. Sources are in <project-name>/src/kawa/android/<activity>.scm. The resulting application will have package name kawa.android. You should probably change this, It’s recorded in src/kawa/kawa/example.java, AndroidManifest.xml, and build.xml. The <package> name is how Android will internally refer to this application. So if you want to start it or for example uninstall it you would use the package name, for example

adb uninstall kawa.example

Running on the phone

Building and running are both done by the same script.

cd SpeedRead && ./make-and-send

This will create an apk and send it out to the phone and run it. When you modify the code just rerun make-and-send. Your first compile will likely be slow but subsequent ones will be much faster. When you’re done you can clean up with

adb uninstall zeroxab.speedread

Running in the emulator

You first need to set up the emulator by running

android create avd -a -n Test -t 1 --abi armeabi-v7a

and accepting the defaults. If you’ve got a plain-vanilla SDK setup id 1 will be the basic android platform. You can check with android list targets and adjust accordingly. Once it’s setup it, just run


to fire it up, it’ll take a while… The emulator is so obscenely slow that you’ll want to either run things on your phone or set up vmware.

Running and building work the same way they do for the phone from the same make-and-send script.


While debugging I have


running in a terminal to easily spot log messages.

XML sanity

I highly recommend editing your UIs and Manifest files in Eclipse with the Android plugins available from


Click Help, Install New Software, add the above repository, and install all of the software it provides. Once you’ve created a project with the make-project script above import it into Eclipse. Click New, Project, choose Android, Android Project from Existing Code and select the toplevel directory of the project. Eclipse will eventually complain that classes are missing because it doesn’t know about our Scheme code but editing Manifests and resources with the Eclipse UI isn’t too bad.

Click AndroidManifest.xml, select Application (bottom), Theme, Browse, and pick Holo.Light.ButtonBar and save. Navigate to res, layout, main.xml and there’s the UI of the application we just made and it’s now using the pretty Holo UI.

The default application that make-project creates doesn’t use the xml file at all, it creates its own TextView widget on the fly:

  text: "Hello from Kawa Scheme!"))

Replace that code with

((this):setContentView <package-name>.R$layout:main)

Note the R syntax for accessing resources. and you’ll see the UI from Eclipse.



  • KawaHello is a simple hello world application
  • LunarLander is a reimplementation of the SDK example
  • LearningAndroid-chapter{6,7,8,9,10} are implementations of the main projects for most of the chapters from Marko Garneta’s “Learning Android”

These were written while I was figuring out if Kawa can be used for Android development and how to work out various Android&Kawa-specific quirks. All examples try to mostly stay true to their source however badly designed that source was. As such this isn’t a good place to look for good Scheme style or idiomatic Kawa.

In general these are meant to be read, not necessarily run as such I don’t always keep them up to date.

You may need to update local.properties in each of the examples directory to change the path to the Android SDK.

LearningAndroid examples need to a copy of jtwitter.jar and signpost-core- from http://www.winterwell.com/software/jtwitter.php in each of their libs directory.


SpeedRead is an app for rapid sequential visual presentation (RSVP) of text. It flashes text to allow you to read more quickly. This is a working application. With some love it will one day make its way into the app market. It was designed for the ground up as a Kawa application and has much nicer style than the other examples. It’s also a much more complex application than the other examples while still being quite small. Note all of the macros which make unpleasant repetitive code much nicer. One day these and other code will make their way into a standard library for Android Kawa.

Troubleshooting the build system

bad magic bits with dex

You’ve somehow managed to install with 1.7. Delete your old install entirely, downgrade to 1.6 and reinstall.

make-and-send fails

If you see


after running make-and-send, you’ve got a copy of apk you’re trying to send to the phone already installed but it was compiled on a different machine with a different certificate. You just have to uninstall it. Keep in mind that if you’ve never changed the name of a project you’ve left the default (kawa.android) in. You’ll want to uninstall the old package with

adb uninstall kawa.android

and read the section above on creating projects for how to change the internal project name.

unable to resolve project target ‘android-number’

You’re compiling a project for an SDK version you don’t actually have installed. The simplest solution is to just edit project.properties and change the SDK version.

Troubleshooting kawa

By far the most difficult and frustrating part of writing code with Kawa for Android is going to be dealing with Kawa’s extremely unhelpful error messages. I’ve listed some of the common ones and what they mean.

more than one possibly applicable method ‘<init>’ in …

A common error with a pretty unhelpful error message. Usually happens in code that looks like:

(make <org.apache.http.client.methods.HttpGet> x)

Kawa is getting confused about the type of x, so you have to give it a hand by casting it explicitly.

(make <org.apache.http.client.methods.HttpGet> (as String x))

no known slot ‘…’ in java.lang.Object

As above, Kawa can’t figure out the type of the object you’re trying to use and at some point ended up casting it to Object. Vou’ve got something like a function or let binding where you didn’t specify a type. You can either specify one or cast as in the above section.


This might also happen if you have a misspelled identifier.

no possibly applicable method ‘<init>/valueOf’ in …

You’ve got code like

(make <something> args ...)

and one of the arguments is of the wrong type.

Unfortunately, <application name> has stopped.

Run ‘adb logcat’ or ‘bin/colorize-adb-logcat’ and have a look at the RuntimeException. Right now there’s no interactive debugger but one is in the pipeline.