apkc is a bare-bones Android app build system. It lets you build simple native Android apps in APK or AAB format without entire Android IDE. It does a subset of what Android Gradle plugin does. This makes it quick and runs with low resources. apkc is mostly suitable for learning purposes.


  • Base project has zero dependencies. APK is 6 KB.
  • Builds base project in 2 seconds.
  • Can use external JAR libraries.
  • Can use external native shared libs built with C/Go/Rust etc.
  • Code completion can be setup in VSCode or other editors.

Getting started

  1. Install JDK and Android SDK and make sure to have ANDROID_HOME and JAVA_HOME env variables setup.
  2. Download apkc from Github releases for your OS/ARCH.
  3. Use doctor command to verify all the paths are correct.

$ apkc doctor

[doctor] java /usr/local/opt/openjdk@11/ 
[doctor] javac /usr/local/opt/openjdk@11/bin/javac 
[doctor] jarsigner /usr/local/opt/openjdk@11/bin/jarsigner 
[doctor] sdk /Users/ajinasokan/Library/Android/sdk 
[doctor] aapt /Users/ajinasokan/Library/Android/sdk/build-tools/30.0.3/aapt 
[doctor] aapt2 /Users/ajinasokan/Library/Android/sdk/build-tools/30.0.3/aapt2 
[doctor] d8 /Users/ajinasokan/Library/Android/sdk/build-tools/30.0.3/d8 
[doctor] zipalign /Users/ajinasokan/Library/Android/sdk/build-tools/30.0.3/zipalign 
[doctor] android jar /Users/ajinasokan/Library/Android/sdk/platforms/android-30/android.jar
  1. Create a hello world project.

$ apkc create myapp

Package name (com.myapp): com.ajinasokan.myapp
App name (My App): Hello World
  1. Build APK and run in connected device. Logs from app will be streamed after successful run.

$ cd myapp

$ apkc build

[build] compiling res/layout/main.xml 
[build] compiling res/values/styles.xml 
[build] bundling resources 
[build] compiling java files 
[build] bundling classes and jars 
[build] bundling native libs 
[build] no native libs 
[build] signing apk 
[build] running zipalign 
[apkc] finished in 1.580135483s

$ apkc run

[run] installing in device(serialabcxyz) 
[run] launching main activity 

07-06 11:23:29.894 22390 22390 I libc    : SetHeapTaggingLevel: tag level set to 0
07-06 11:23:29.933 22390 22390 E jinasokan.myap: Not starting debugger since process cannot load the jdwp agent.

To build AAB run apkc build --aab. Output file will be at build/app.{apk/aab}.

You can add external jar dependencies to myapp/jar directory and native libs to myapp/lib in appropriate architecture sub directories.

Code completion in VSCode

  1. Install Java extension
  2. Add android.jar path from doctor command output to referencedLibraries list of your workspace VSCode settings file. myapp/.vscode/settings.json

    "java.project.referencedLibraries": [
  1. You could also add other external jar file dependencies


apkc was born in 2016 as a bash script for some of my experiments. It then evolved into a Makefile and was used for production builds of one of my apps. Since the Play Store started enforcing AAB files for publishing I had to move away from apkc. This project is a rewrite of the Makefile, without the incremental compilation. Incremental compilation is in the todo list.


View Github