Meet Sidebar: Student programmer creates popular Android app at CodeDay Seattle

StudentRND LogoWe’re pretty geeky up here in the Pacific Northwest. With messenger bags full of the latest Windows gear and too many new startups to count, we’re in no short supply of tech gurus.

So it’s no surprise that in Seattle we have StudentRND preparing high school techies for the real world that awaits them. StudentRND’s multi-annual CodeDay hackathon took place a few months ago as a group of students stuck out 24 hours of coding in the hopes of creating the next great app.

With another event right around the corner in May, GeekWire caught up with Newport High School junior Mohammed Adib, whose Android app called Sidebar took first prize during the last CodeDay. A week after being released in February, the app’s Lite version was at 14,500 downloads. As an organizational app, Sidebar gives users the ability to access and swipe through their other apps through a thin, transparent row displayed at the side of the screen.

sidebarlogoGeekWire: The initial development for Sidebar was done at the last CodeDay in Seattle. Do you think participating in the event was helpful in determining the success of Sidebar?

Mohammed Adib: To some extent, yes. It provided me with an abundance of people who commented on the app and what I could do to make it better. I was able to program, feedback, and implement the next feature. It was very systematic, but also carefree in a way.

CodeDays are the backbone of my resume. I’ve lost count of the number of times I have placed 1st and 2nd at a coding event. But the majority of the success of Sidebar came from marketing it with some of my friends, whom I have also paid a share of profit from Sidebar sales.

GW: What drew you to looking into this sort of app? Was there any specific inspiration for it?

Adib: Yes! Ubuntu has a sidebar of its own which shaped a lot of the idea [for Sidebar] in my head. At the time there was no way of making that type of application on Android.

Mohammad Adib

Mohammad Adib

For Android, it require two things: it would require some way to draw over all other apps, and … some nifty way to determine swipes from the edges of the screen, while also making that swipe area adjustable.

In the end, I found a library called StandOut that let me draw things on top of other apps. [Sidebar has] a floating window that is transparent at the edge of the screen. When a user’s finger swipe is detected, Sidebar launches a separate floating window where pinned apps and toggles are displayed. It was designed to be like Ubuntu, yet looks like an exact copy of the Windows 8 taskbar on Android.

GW: How will this change the way people use their Androids?

Adib: The initial response to Sidebar was amazing, the free version has accumulated over 175,000 downloads in the last two months since being released at CodeDay.

People have said that it revolutionizes the way they use their Android, and multitasking had never been so easy. After CodeDay I added many features, such as showing which apps are running and adding toggles that let the user toggle settings such as WiFi, GPS, Bluetooth and Torch. After that, I added features that let the user kill running apps by swiping them out of the sidebar, and now it functions as a nearly flawless task manager and app-switcher built to make multitasking faster than the blink of an eye.

By swiping through the transparent app manager, Sidebar allows users to get to and quit their apps without having to go back to the home screen. Reviewers say the narrowness and transparency of the app has a clean, uncrowded feel.

By swiping through the transparent app manager, Sidebar allows users to get to and quit their apps without having to go back to the home screen. Reviewers say the narrowness and transparency of the app has a clean, uncrowded feel.

GW: Swapps is another app-organizing and control app for Android. How does Sidebar differ in terms of aesthetics, convenience and design?

Adib: Sidebar seems similar at first glance since it serves the same purpose of having access to your favorite apps in a swipe. However, Sidebar offers running indicators that show which apps are running and lets users kill the apps they’d like to close.

I make sure simplicity is my top priority when developing my apps.

GW: What made you initially interested in computer programming? 

Adib: I’ve been “hacking” things my whole life.

I got an Android phone the summer after my ninth grade year and decided I want to make my own app. It was in Java so I went with the most challenging app — a 3D OpenGL Live Wallpaper of a self-scrambling rubics cube. To this day, that is the hardest thing I have ever made.

After that app, I made a few more, one of which won me second place at CodeDay in April 2012. That app was featured on AddictiveTips and from there I received my first 1000+ downloads. Since then I have gone on to create more apps.

My last three apps have been tremendous successes; Floating Stickies, an app that revolutionizes keeping track of tasks on the phone, is reaching the 100,000+ download mark. Sidebar Lite has accumulated 175,000+ downloads since its release a few months ago.

Most recently, RoundR, an app that rounds the corners of the screen, received 65,000 downloads in six days. The feedback from these apps was staggering and people have been extremely supportive of me as a young developer. 

Without StudentRND, none of this may have happened. I was inspired to make more apps when I placed second for the first time at a CodeDay. My job at Wicresoft is completely owed to StudentRND as I saw the position on the StudentRND Facebook page.

 

Previously on GeekWire: StudentRND members launch Kickstarter for radiation detector, raise $13K in one week

Alisa Reznick is a University of Washington student working as an editorial intern at GeekWire this quarter. Reach her at alisa@geekwire.com or on Twitter @AlisaReznick

  • http://edjiang.com/ Edward Jiang

    Congrats to Mohammad for his recent successes. He’s done a terrific job and I’m excited for what he’s done lately!

    • MohammadAdib

      Thanks Ed!

  • http://ne1up.com/ Thomas O’Hearn

    Wow, amazing what you programmers can do. Amazing work. Shared via @NE1UP

  • http://www.facebook.com/mikang Michelle Kang

    Super cool! That’s a really useful app… and it looks nice, too.

  • http://www.natlus.co.uk/ john hozy

    Excellent and great for this amazing Android app at CodeDay Seattle.I inspired so much.Many congratulations for this app. http://www.appsngizmo.com/google-play-for-education-bring-apps-classroom/