How Often Should You Update Android Studio?

An Android Tool Time Pro Tip

One of the beauties of Android Studio is how quickly is evolves and improves. Each new release introduces a set of new features, new tools, and a collection of bug fixes — all of which can potentially improve your productivity.

You want to take advantage of all the new hotness, but don’t want to risk your stable dev environment. So which update channel should you be on, and how often should you accept updates?

Canary, Beta, or Stable?

Canary builds are a early access preview of what’s coming next. They include exciting new features, but they’re not fully baked so they tend to be a little less stable. The canary channel will always get the newest build — even when that build is actually a new Beta or new Stable release.

Beta versions are release candidates for stable releases. They should be relatively bug free and quite stable. The beta channel will be silent while the canary releases are iterating, followed by weekly or bi-weekly updates in the lead-up to the stable release.

Stable releases are well tested and are expected to be more robust than the previous stable release. Frequency varies, but it’s not unusual to see a new stable build every 6–10 weeks.

Using Canary Builds for Fun and Profit

Using canary builds can be a double-edged sword:

  • You can take advantage of new features (like Instant Run in Android 2.0) that may dramatically improve your workflow.
  • New features may not yet be reliable or easy to use leading to decreased productivity.
  • Annoying and disruptive bugs may be fixed!
  • Canary builds tend to be less stable and more prone to crash.

I love playing with pre-release software. It’s fun to get a sneak peak, and providing feedback on early access products is a great way to influence the product.

But as a professional, putting my (or my team’s) productivity at risk it gives me pause.

When we start early dogfooding of the next Android OS version, I’ve been known to carry around two phones.

Which is exactly what I do with Android Studio.

Two Installations, Twice the Fun

By having two version of Android Studio installed, keeping one on the stable channel, and the other on the canary channel, you get the best of both worlds.

Setting up parallel canary and stable Android Studio Installations
Android Studio stores its settings in version specific folders; the exact locations depend on your OS. So the two versions,won’t interfere with each other.

You can play with the new features, check which bugs have been fixed, and keep an eye out for anything that may be disruptive to your workflow if it ends up in the next stable release.

If you’ve been seeing the canary builds become more stable and less disruptive, you’ll have much more confidence to update your stable channel when the next stable release happens.

On Update Frequency

You probably download the first canary build after an announcement, play with it for a bit, write it off as buggy and go back to your stable environment.

That first canary is a minimum viable product, and each following build is going to be a significant improvement over the last; so it’s worth getting every new update as soon as it’s offered and taking another look.

Using this approach, you should already be familiar with the state of the build when it’s offered on stable — allowing you to comfortably accept new updates on the stable channel when you’re notified that one’s available.

To get update reminders, open up the Android Studio “Preferences” menu item,— navigate to “System Settings” > “Updates” and make sure the “Automatically check updates” checkbox is checked.

You’ll be notified and asked if you want to install a new version of Android Studio in either installation and for any channel before it happens.

How do you use two installations in practice?

This varies based on your own tolerance for disruption. My personal approach to using a canary build looks like this:

Canary build use algorithm

Personally, I like to repeat this daily — another approach is to repeat it each time there’s a new canary release.

What constitutes a blocking bug is going to vary based on your workflow, as will your value for ALLOWABLE_SWEARS_PER MINUTE.

In either case, if you encounter a bug using the “Help” > “Submit Feedback” menu item will file a bug directly with the Android Studio team. They triage these bugs daily and use them to help decide when a canary release should graduate to Beta, and from Beta to Stable.

What’s your ALLOWABLE_SWEARS_PER MINUTE value?

Actively trying each new canary release will help you know what’s coming, and gain confidence in the reliability of each new stable release when it’s fully baked — allowing you to take full advantage of improvements to your workflow.

You’ll also be helping the Android Studio team get new versions out faster, and make them more stable (plus you’ll have their full attention when reporting bugs).

What’s your approach to testing canary builds of Android Studio?


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