In response to a request for help on how to get the Android SDK up and running on a Mac, I thought it might be worthwhile to go back through the process and see how simple and fast I could make it. As it works out, I was able to get the Android emulator running on my Mac in about 5 minutes.

Here’s what this (abbreviated) guide covers: getting the Android emulator running with Gingerbread.

Here’s what it doesn’t cover: everything else, including Eclipse installation, because—quite frankly—Eclipse is a hairy, scary beast.

Step 1: Download the Android SDK

Go to the Android Developers website, and choose the appropriate package for your platform. In my case, it was the zip file entitled Download the file. The package is about 28MB in size.

Step 2: Stick it Somewhere Memorable

I dragged the Android SDK folder into my /Applications folder, but you can put it wherever you want to.

Step 3: Launch the AVD Manager

Navigate into the Android SDK’s tools folder, and double click on the Unix executable called android. A window entitled Android SDK and AVD Manager will appear.

Step 4: Install the Gingerbread SDK

For whatever reason, Google decided to designate the components of each Android OS with three separate names. Gingerbread = 2.3 = API 9 (don’t ask, I have no idea). We’re going to install Gingerbread: choose Available Packages from the table on the left and click the disclosure triangle next to Android Repository.

You’ll see an item right near the top called “SDK Platform Android 2.3, API 9, revision 1”. Check the checkbox next to it and then click the Install Selected button in the lower right corner of the window.

A window entitled Choose Packages to Install will appear. Click the Accept All radio button button and then press the Install button. The Gingerbread SDK will now begin downloading.

Once complete, you can click the Close button (formerly labeled Cancel) on the Installing Archives window. Make sure you watch carefully as the dialog doesn’t provide any other meaningful feedback.

Step 5: Create an AVD

I think AVD stands for Android Virtual Device, but I could be horribly mistaken. Long story short, it’s the virtual hardware/software combination that the emulator will run to let you play with Android. Select Virtual devices from the left-hand table and click the New button.

Give your AVD a name; I called mine “Gingerbread.” Next, choose a target: the only option available will be Android 2.3 - API Level 9. Finally, click Create AVD.

Step 6: Fire it Up!

Select your new AVD in the Virtual devices list, and click the Start… button on the right hand side. A Launch Options dialog will appear. Ignore it, and click the Launch button. The Android emulator will appear and launch. Note that it takes a couple minutes for the emulator to boot. Congratulations! You’re all set!