Android signing configuration tutorial


Android Studio has introduced a lot of new features that make our lifes a lot easier. One of those features is generating signed apks using Gradle. The basic idea is that you provide all the required properties (keystore password, alias and alias password) in the build.gradle file of the application you want to sign. But what happens if you don’t wan’t to add the keystore and/or credentials in the Version Control System (VCS) ? The following tutorial presents a solution to this problem.
Gradle allows us to include configurations from external files using the “apply from:” keyword, so, we could define the block that contains the app signing configuration in a file that can be omitted from VCS. The project will compile and launch normally but the user can generate a signed apk file only if he has a keystore and the appropriate credentials.
Because I’ve seen more than one solution, and not all of them worked for me, I decided to create a little tutorial and try to explain the process.

To add external signing configuration to your project you need to :

  • have the keystore and credentials
  • extract signing configurations to a separate file
  • add a property to gradle that will point to the location of the signing config
  • use the signing configuration

Keystore and credentials

You need to have a keystore and the credentials to access it. You can place the keystore file anywhere you want. The example project contains a sample keystore located in the .signing folder.

Signing configuration

A project can have more than one signing configurations and they need to be defined  in the signingConfigs block . A valid configuration defines the following properties : storeFile, storePassword, keyAlias and keyPassword.

Additionally, for every signing configuration you need to define a build type. Android Studio provides default signing configuration and build type for debug buids and you don’t need to declare them in the build.gradle file.

So, create a file and name it MyApp.gradle and add the following content :

android {
  signingConfigs {
    release {
      storeFile file("MyApp.signing") + ".jks")
      storePassword "android"
      keyAlias "tutorial"
      keyPassword "tutorial"
  buildTypes {
    release {
      signingConfig signingConfigs.release

The credentials from the above snippet apply to the key store provided in the example.  You can see that the path for the key store is specified as a property, we’ll get back to this a little later.

I usually place this signing configuration file in the same directory with the key store, and this has some advantages described in the next step.

Gradle property

Now that we have a key store and a signing configuration, we need to tell our project to use them. We can add any number of properties to a project as long as they are defined in a file located at the root of your project.  If you are using Android Studio 0.5.3 this file will be created automatically for you, otherwise you need to create it. Do not mistake with !

Remember that we used a property for specifying the key store location ?  That is the property we need to define in our file and it could look like this (replace with path to your key store) :

MyApp.signing = D:\\REPOSITORIES\\blog_articles\\SigningConfig\\.signing\\MyApp

Notice that we don’t specify the file extension in the property value, this allows us to use the same property for both the key store and the signing configuration.

Project integration

The last step is to make use of the property defined above. In order to do that you need to add the following code to the build.gradle file of your app :

    if (project.hasProperty("MyApp.signing")
           && new File("MyApp.signing") + ".gradle").exists()) {
        apply from:"MyApp.signing") + ".gradle";

The code above  :

  • checks if the project has a property named “MyApp.signing”  (existence of the property defined in the file);
  • checks if there is a  file at the path indicated by the property (notice the extension is added manually –  same property used for key store and .gradle file);
  • if the .gradle file exists, apply configuration from the file  to this  configuration .

You’re done ! You can generate your apk from the command line or from the Gradle tasks provided by Android Studio (which will generate tasks automatically when you add new signing configurations or product flavors).

You can find a working sample here !


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1 thought on “Android signing configuration tutorial”
  • Stelian Morariu says:

    Thank you for reading, I’m glad you found the article useful.

    April 11, 2014 at 7:38 am

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