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Sagar Viradiya
Sagar Viradiya

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Modern Android app distribution with GitHub Actions Part - I

Photo by Bernd Dittrich on Unsplash

Hey folks 👋 , First thing first, I hope everyone is safe and sound. With that out of way, let me ask you a couple of questions about your build/distribution cycle :

  1. Do you manually create a build for your testing?
  2. Are you still distributing your app over email/G-drive?
  3. Want to automate the process of building and distributing?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, you need to stop what you're doing right now and automate your build/distribution cycle.

This is a 2 part series on Modern Android Distribution with GitHub Actions. I am going to help you automate your app distribution through GitHub Actions. So let's get started.

This blog assumes that you are well versed with GitHub Actions. If not then I highly recommend exploring it and come back.

In this part, we will be looking at how to automate internal app distribution through Internal App Sharing.

Automating internal app distribution through Internal App Sharing

Internal App Sharing is an excellent tool on Play console which allows you to share aab/apk internally with your QA and other stakeholders. At BookMyShow we are using it for sharing feature builds and integrated builds with QA. The whole experience is as good as installing an app from the play store except it is restricted to whitelisted emails. No more sideloading needed, and if that wasn't good enough, you could even integrate it into your workflow to share it on Slack once you upload apk/aab to Internal App Sharing(IAS).

At a high level, we are looking at this

Build --> Upload aab/apk to IAS --> Share link from the previous step on Slack.

Let's build our workflow.

You need to decide on an event that will trigger your workflow. It could be a push event to a specific branch or some other event. In most of the cases, it is a push event to a branch from where you are sharing internal build to QA. Let's configure that first.

name: Build, Upload to IAS and share on slack.
      # Specify branch from where you are sharing build
      - [branch_name]
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Now let's see how to configure the build step we discussed earlier.

    name: Building app
    runs-on: ubuntu-latest
      - name: Checking out branch
        uses: actions/checkout@v2
            # Specify branch from where you are sharing build        
            ref: '[branch_name]'
      - name: Settting up JDK 1.8
        uses: actions/setup-java@v1
          java-version: 1.8
      - name: Runing build command
        # Run your own gradle command to generate build.
        run: ./gradlew bundleRelease
      - name: Uploading build
        uses: actions/upload-artifact@v2
          name: bundle
          path: app/build/outputs/bundle/release/app-release.aab
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As you can see, build job has four tasks. This job, as we have specified, runs on an instance of a Linux machine. Just like how you would checkout branch on your new machine when you setup any project the same way here too you need to checkout branch from where you would like to create a build. The first step does that using a custom action actions/checkout@v2. Next, we need to setup JDK so that we can compile our project. The second step does that using a custom action actions/setup-java@v1.

Now our virtual Linux instance is ready with all setups; it's time to execute Gradle command to create a bundle(You can build apk too if you are not using bundle). The next step does that and creates a bundle file. Finally, the last step uploads our generated bundle so that we access it later in our next job - notice we have given name to our artifact called 'bundle' so that we can refer it later. Also, we have mentioned the file path to our bundle to be uploaded. If you want to share a file across jobs this is how you can achieve it. It uses custom action actions/upload-artifact@v2.

Alright so we are halfway through our workflow and so far we have managed to build and store our bundle on artifact so that we can use it in our next job.

Let's move on to our next job but before that…

KiKat break gif

I promise KitKat hasn't paid me for this 🤞

Ready? Let's move on then! 

Since the last job is quite complex we will break it down stepwise.

Each job runs on a different instance of a Linux machine. Just how we configured our previous job, this job too runs on an instance of Linux.

Notice special 'needs' tag at line number 3 below. That tells GitHub that this job has a dependency on the name specified. In our case, it is build job.

Our final job has 3 steps. First, we download the build that we stored in the last step of the previous job. We are referring to an artifact that we want to download through the name that we have given 'bundle'.

    name: Uploading build to IAS
    needs: build
    runs-on: ubuntu-latest
      - name: Downloading build
        uses: actions/download-artifact@v2
          name: bundle
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Once we have bundle it's time to upload it to Internal App Sharing. Also, it's time for a shameless plug 🙈

My fellow engineers at BookMyShow and me wrote a custom GitHub action which allows you to upload build to Internal App Sharing. Check out more about it 👇

GitHub logo sagar-viradiya / internal-app-sharing-action

GitHub Action to upload aab/apk to Internal App Sharing on Play console

Just like other custom actions that we have seen so far, we will be using this to upload our build to Internal App Sharing.

This action requires 3 things to upload your build to IAS.

  1. Your service account JSON in text format(We recommend to set it in your GitHub secret)
  2. Your application's package name.
  3. And the path to your build.

For the first two of those, you need to replace with your service account JSON as GitHub secret. The last one would be simply a file name since downloaded artifact would be at the root level unless you specify a custom path. In case you specify custom path while downloading please make sure you use the same path here.

Action spits out 3 outputs

  1. downloadUrl - The download URL generated for the uploaded artifact.
  2. certificateFingerprint - The SHA256 fingerprint of the certificate used to sign the generated artifact.
  3. sha256 - The SHA-256 hash of the artifact.

Here is the step for uploading to Internal App Sharing.

      - name: Uplaoding to IAS
        id: ias
        uses: sagar-viradiya/internal-app-sharing-action@v1.1.0
          # Your service account JSON GitHub secret
          serviceAccountJsonPlainText: ${{ secrets.[your-github-service-acc-json-secret] }}
          # Your package name 
          packageName: '[your-package-name]'
          aabFilePath: 'app-release.aab'
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In our next and final step, we notify downloadUrl output from above step on slack. Again it is using custom action rtCamp/action-slack-notify@v2.1.0. You need to mention the following :

  1. Your slack webhook.
  2. Channel where you want to notify.
  3. Message - In our case downloadUrl output from previous step.
  4. Title (Default would be 'Message').
  5. Slack user name (Default would be 'rtBot') - The name of the sender of the message. Does not need to be a "real" username.
      - name: Sharing on slack
        uses: rtCamp/action-slack-notify@v2.1.0
          # Your slack webhook GitHub secret
          SLACK_WEBHOOK: ${{ secrets.[your-slack-webhook] }}
          # Slack channel where you want to notify
          SLACK_CHANNEL: [your-channel]
          SLACK_TITLE: "Internal testing build"
          SLACK_MESSAGE: ${{ steps.ias.outputs.downloadUrl }}
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Wola! Your workflow for automating build and distribution through Internal app sharing is ready!

Here is gist of the full workflow 👇

In the next one, we will be exploring how to automate your production release, so stay tuned!

See you in part 2 👋

Stay safe!

Thanks Adnan A M for proofreading this.

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