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Converting graphic files to WebP format on Android Studio 2.3

For all who don’t know the webP format, Android has supported this image format for many years.

As I said on my previous article: the WebP files are smaller than JPGs or PNGs and like PNGs, they support transparency. But creating them files has always been a bit of a chore.

Now, with Android Studio 2.3, you can convert your existing graphical files into WebP files very easily.

On this article, I’ll show how to convert your created image files to the WebP format on the new version of the Android Studio. So if you haven’t already switched for the new version, I think that it’s definitely time to do so now, since that this new version added several quality improvements across the IDE comparing with older versions.

For this article, I’ll work in a version of my project called CoffeeMenuSample. This is the same project that I used on my previous article and also is available on my GitHub.

It displays a list of data in a recycler view and each data item is associated with an image file. And like my previous article, when I demonstrated the APK Analyzer tool, I found that my largest space usage in the APK was from those image files.

Converting a single image file to WebP

I’ll show you first how to convert a single image file to WebP.

I’ll do that with the JPG file that’s in the drawable resource directory on my project.

So, with the Android Studio running (of course 😅), I’m going to right click on that JPG file and choose Find Usages (CTRL + F7 on Linux/Windows, CMD + F7 on Mac) and I find a reference to the JPG file that is in the activity_detail.xml file.

On the Design tab for this file, I’ll resize that to fit the screen and then shrink down that window so it gets a little bit bigger so we can see how the image looks like:

Now, I’ll go back to the project window and I’ll right click on the file and down at the bottom of the menu I’ll choose Convert to WebP.

A window will be opened with many options available:

Lossy encoding means that you can shrink down the image quite a bit. You can also choose lossless encoding and that will retain the image’s resolution but the file size won’t shrink as much and more importantly, your app will now have a minimum SDK of API 18.

This will work for the sample app, which has a minimum SDK of API 18, but for this article I’ll go back to lossy encoding.

You also have control on this screen of the encoding quality.

A good ideia is leave the Preview/inspect each converted image before saving option selected so I can preview the image before I save the change.

There’s some other options down here, but I’ll leave those at their default selections and click OK.

This will takes me to the preview screen and we see the original file on the left and the new file that’s going to be created on the right:

And to my eye they look pretty much the same. We can move this slider to the left to reduce the image quality and the difference between the images will be shown in the center.

For this example I’ll keep the default of 75% and then I’ll click finish.

Then, there’s the result. My Android Studio Event log logged the message:

showing that the image size has been reduced to a very considerable size. (In this case I saved 507.8 KB 😮)

The WebP file has been created and if we look in the design environment again, it looks pretty much the same:

Now that we learned how to convert the images to a webP format and the result has been approved (at least on my side), we can do now a mass conversion.

Doing a mass conversion of image files to WebP

In my assets directory I’ll click and select all of my files. I will click on the first, held down the shift key and click on the last.

Then, once again, I’ll right click and choose Convert to WebP, accept all the default settings and click OK.

And now because I’m converting multiple files, I can click Next and Previous to move through the files and see what they’ll look like. Once I liked my settings, I’ll click Accept All and all of my files have been converted to WebP.

The Android Studio will show a notification saying that we saved 3.3 MB after the files conversion.

This is really insane, if you think that we’re talking about a mobile app.

Before you test this on a device, I need to make a change in one of the Java files, because we changed the format of all the dummy images.

I’ll go to my Java directory, to my base package, to the sample sub package and I’ll open the SampleDataProvider.java file.

We can notice that where I created the sample data to the project, there are references to those old JPG files scattered throughout this file.

static {
        dataItemList = new ArrayList<>();
        dataItemMap = new HashMap<>();

        addItem(new DataItem(null, "Hamburger", "Entrees",
                "The best burger in the world",
                4, 5, "hamburger.jpg"));
        //...//        
    }

We can press Ctrl + R on Windows or Cmd + R on Mac to replace all the .jpg references it with .webp and then click on the Replace All button.

The result will be:

static {
        dataItemList = new ArrayList<>();
        dataItemMap = new HashMap<>();

        addItem(new DataItem(null, "Hamburger", "Entrees",
                "The best burger in the world",
                4, 5, "hamburger.webp"));
        //...//        
    }

Before I deploy the application, we need to go back to the device and uninstall the application.

In this way we are making sure I’m starting with a fresh data set. In this example application the data that’s provided by that Java class is cached in a database and I want to start over without anything on the device.

And I’ll run the app again and the result is that it looks exactly the same as it did before.

If you are testing the app, you can move around and see all of the data and the associated images.

But what I got with these changes? And about the resulting size of the application? Well, to validate this just like I did in my previous article, I’ll going to build an APK file to compare it with a old apk file which I created before the graphical file conversion.

Analyzing the APK file to compare the assets size

To understand how to build a APK file and how to use the APK Analyzer on the Android Studio, please check my previous article: Inspect APK files with the APK Analyzer on Android Studio.

To do this analysis, I’ll choose Build and then Build APK on the Android Studio menu. This will create a new APK for the app.

Then, once again, I’ll choose Build, Analyze APK, and I’ll choose my old APK which I had created in my previous article, before the jpgs file conversion to webP files.

We can see that this APK file has a RAW File Size of 5.5 MB and a Download Size of 4.9MB.

Then, I’ll click the Compare With button and I’ll navigate back to choose the new APK file that I just build.

Here’s my comparison:

We can see that my assets directory has shrunk down from 2.5 Megabytes all the way to 635.1KB and the res directory has shrunk down from 879.5 Kilobytes to 370.6KB.

This application isn’t a huge application, but you can see that with a simple files conversion we can make a significant difference.

Converting the webP files back to a PNG format

Finally, we need to understand how you can return to a more conventional graphic format if we want to do that.

I’ll go back to Android Studio and I’ll choose the WebP file in my resources directory.

I’ll right click on it and now the menu choice says: Convert to PNG.

I’ll select that and when I’m prompted:

I’ll say No, I want to keep both versions of the file.

Now, we can compare the PNG and a WebP files:

We can look on the on the png file and it shows that it is now 1.19M and if we check the WebP file it shows that it’s less than 60K. That’s a massive difference.

As we can see on this article, using WebP graphic files instead of JPG or PNG files can help you dramatically shrink the size of your Android package application. So, whenever possible it’s a good idea to use this format as the standard graphical format for your app.

Thanks for your reading and please take a look at the other blog posts when you have a time.

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