What is an SDK?
SDK is an acronym for Software Development Kit, sometimes also called a devkit. It contains the tools and instructions for developers to build applications within a certain operating system, environment, or development process. For example, to build Android mobile apps, a developer would get the Android SDK. An SDK contains a standard set of tools for a specific platform, similar to buying Lego building blocks to build the model depicted on the box.
What's in an SDK?
- Code Libraries - This is raw code that software developers usually need to download and use. Including the libraries saves time, and means the included code will play nicely with itself.
- Application programming interfaces (APIs): These are interfaces that allow the application to connect easily to other web applications via the API interface.
- Integrated development environment (IDE): This is the interface through which developers do their programming. It includes a compiler, which translates the high-level programming language of the SDK's source code into a lower-level language that can be used to build applications.
- Documentation and code samples: This tells developers how to use the code, and includes examples.
- A debugger: Language-specific debugging automatically corrects minor errors.
What makes a Good SDK?
According to CleverTap, there are a few requirements for an SDK to be useful in app development:
- Easy to use by other developers.
- Thorough documentation to explain how your code works.
- Enough functionality so it adds value to other apps.
- Does not negatively impact a mobile device's CPU, battery, or data consumption.
- Plays well with other SDKs.
In short, it just has to work. Quality documentation and code samples will guide users to their own answers in an SDK.
An SDK helps companies extend their reach with developers, so it is both a technical product, and a marketing product, part of the developer experience, or DX. The more developers happily building tools in Android, for example, the happier Google will be. Therefore, an SDK must "just work", and guide developers quickly to using the libraries, APIs, and IDE included in the SDK.