A no-longer-maintained SCons tool for compiling Android code and creating APK files
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A SCons Tool to Build Android Applications

WARNING - this project is now no longer maintained

The original ant-based Android build system was pretty slow, but it has improved a lot. Keeping up with the changes in the platform has become increasingly difficult for me, and the "next gen" Android build system looks like it will be Gradle-based.

Finally, SCons itself seems to be in a rather tragic state, with little development in recent times and increasing bit-rot. You should probably not use it for new projects.


The easiest way to use this tool is to clone it into a site_scons/site_tools directory:

mkdir -p site_scons/site_tools
cd site_scons/site_tools
git clone git://github.com/richq/scons-android.git android

There are no formal release versions - I keep master usable at all times and push out bug fixes and new features as I discover/need them.

Basic Usage of the AndroidApp function

Add the tool to the Environment in your SConstruct file and use the AndroidApp construction function:

var = Variables(None, ARGUMENTS)
var.AddVariables(PathVariable('ANDROID_SDK', 'Android SDK path', None))
env = Environment(tools=['android'], variables=var)

This assumes a standard layout, with an AndroidManifest.xml file, and src and res directories. To run the compilation:

scons ANDROID_SDK=/path/to/sdk

The advantage over a regular ant build is that dependencies are handled better

  • instead of regenerating R.java every time, it is only generated when the resource files change. This means builds do not take as long.

Using NdkBuild to Build Native Code

In addition, you can incorporate NDK code quite easily:

var = Variables(None, ARGUMENTS)
        PathVariable('ANDROID_NDK', 'Android NDK path', None))
        PathVariable('ANDROID_SDK', 'Android SDK path', None))
env = Environment(tools=['android'], variables=var)
lib = env.NdkBuild('libs/armeabi/libmyshared.so', ['jni/my_code.c'])
apk = env.AndroidApp('MyApp', native_folder='#libs')

This will use SCons's SharedLibrary builder to create a shared library from your code. If you want to use an Android.mk-style build, which requires creating an Android.mk file, then you can use NdkBuildLegacy:

lib = env.NdkBuildLegacy('libs/armeabi/libmyshared.so', ['jni/my_code.c'])

This is the older way of doing things and scons passes the native compilation work off to GNU Make. You can use more of the ndk-build features, but at the cost of extra rebuilds and having to maintain both SCons script and Makefiles.

As the "Legacy" tag suggests, I no longer use this method for my own projects and it may disappear in the future.

Application ABIs

To compile multiple architectures at once, you can use the app_abis argument. This is a list of ABIs or a space-separated string value. Suitable values are armeabi, armeabi-v7a and x86. The default is armeabi.

libs = env.NdkBuild('libmyshared.so', ['jni/my_code.c'],
                        app_abis='armeabi armeabi-v7a x86')

If you don't specify the explicit output libraries then they are placed in sensibly named directories for the architecture. In the example above, these are:


You can also specify the full path of each library, but they must match up with the list of app_abis:

libs = env.NdkBuild(['arm/armeabi/libtest.so', 'intel/x86/libtest.so'],
                    ['jni/test.c'], app_abi='armeabi x86')
env.AndroidApp('TestArm', native_folder='arm')
env.AndroidApp('TestIntel', native_folder='intel')

This way you can create multiple APK files each with a single library, rather than fat APK files with multiple libraries for different architectures.

AndroidManifest.xml with NdkBuild

In order to determine the minimum target platform the NdkBuild needs to know where the AndroidManifest.xml file is. The default location is '#AndroidManifest.xml', which corresponds to an AndroidManifest in the top of your project. The argument manifest can be used to override this:


This is useful if your project does not use the standard Android layout.


Enabling ProGuard in your project is done by setting PROGUARD_CONFIG to the name of the configuration file. This is analogous to the way it is done in the official build system and lets you make use of the android command line tool to generate the correct configuration. For Android SDK r16 and earlier you should use a line like this to use the generated configuration file:

env['PROGUARD_CONFIG'] = 'proguard.cfg'

Prior to Android SDK r17 the proguard.cfg file contained all of the configuration settings needed for Android. This was a bad idea as updates to the defaults would mean manual steps to regenerate proguard.cfg for every Android developer. From r17 onwards a default configuration template is included in the SDK, so your PROGUARD_CONFIG value should look like this:

# Android SDK r17+
env['PROGUARD_CONFIG'] = '$ANDROID_SDK/tools/proguard/proguard-android.txt:proguard-project.txt'

This will use the SDK's configuration followed by your own. Note the name change to proguard-project.txt. You must separate configuration files with the path seperator symbol ':' or ';'. The android tool actually creates an empty proguard config file now (it just has comments) so there's really no need to use your own if you are happy with the defaults. In that case, the PROGUARD_CONFIG value can be:

# Android SDK r17+, just the defaults
env['PROGUARD_CONFIG'] = '$ANDROID_SDK/tools/proguard/proguard-android.txt'

ProGuard is only executed when you run a release build, which is only performed when the ANDROID_KEY_STORE and ANDROID_KEY_NAME variables are set in the Environment used in env.AndroidApp().

Native Activity

The native activity feature was new in Android 2.3 and provides a way to create an Android application without any Java source code. In order to use it, you have to include a bit of glue code that is distributed in source form in the Android NDK. The source code is in "NDK Module" form, which sadly depend heavily on the ndk-build infrastructure and Makefile syntax for their meta-data.

However, since this is such a simple module you can make some assumptions and use the following snippet to build the glue code together with your native activity:

glue_code = env.Glob('android/native_app_glue/*.c')
env['CPPPATH'] = 'android/native_app_glue'
env.MergeFlags('-llog -landroid')
env.NdkBuild('libmyactivity.so', ['jni/my_code.c', glue_code])

Using a Repository means SCons will search for files there as well as in your local project. This means you don't have to copy the native_app_glue code into your own project.

The Glob call picks up any C code in that directory. This is a bit naughty, as the real code contents is defined in the Android.mk file inside the module.

Setting the CPPPATH to android/native_app_glue is another slight compromise, since again the real "export path" is described in Android.mk.

Adding -llog to the list of link flags is also an assumption based on inspection of the Android.mk file.

In future versions of this tool, I am toying with adding an NdkImportModule feature to automate the above snippet. I've had no need for this yet though, so it isn't high priority.

Environment Variables

The following environment variables or SCons Variables are used to control the build:

  • ANDROID_KEY_STORE: Android keystore
  • ANDROID_KEY_NAME: Android keyname
  • ANDROID_NDK: Android NDK path
  • ANDROID_SDK: Android SDK path

The NDK/SDK paths are hopefully obvious. The key store and key name are used to create the final signed release. Without these being set, a debug build is created using the debug key. See the official documentation for more details. To create a release build with your keys in 'my-release-key.keystore' and the key to be used 'alias_name', you would run the following:

scons ANDROID_KEY_STORE=my-release-key.keystore ANDROID_KEY_NAME=alias_name

This assumes you are using SCons's Variables API to keep track of options.

Installing to a Device

An install target is added which will run adb install for your generated APK file. This means to install on the device, just run:

scons install

If no changes have been made since the last install, nothing is installed.


Not requiring an Android.mk file for NDK builds gives tighter dependency tracking and less spurious rebuilds. However Android's ndk-build has a great deal of features to cover and creating a suitable SCons API is time consuming, error prone and can become obsolete or broken between NDK releases.

There is no way to create an Android library project, only applications.

Only compilation on Linux has been tested.