Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Using action bar in android code

Android action bar was introduced to maintain a consistent navigation across the application. It has the powerful capabilities like adapting to screen configurations (landscape & portrait), prioritizing important actions, adding widgets to action bar (search, sharing etc.), providing navigation between screens (drop-down & tabbed navigation) and much more.
In this tutorial we are going to cover most of the action bar functionality. 

Overview of Action Bar

Action bar mainly contains four functional areas. They are app icon, view control, action buttons and action overflow.
App Icon – App branding logo or icon will be displayed here.
View Control – A dedicated space to display app title. Also provides option to switch between views by adding spinner or tabbed navigation.
Action Buttons – Some important actions of the app can be added here.
Action Overflow – All unimportant action will be shown as a menu.
Check out the following diagram for complete overview about action bar.

android action bar

Android version support below 3.0

Action bar is introduced in android 3.0 (API level 11), but if you want your app to support action bar in older versions too, then use Support Library to make it compatible with older versions (Android 2.1 and above)

when applying the ActionBar class:
  • android.support.v7.app.ActionBar when using the Support Library.
  • android.app.ActionBar when developing only for API level 11 or higher.

Starting new Project

1. Create a new project in Eclipse from File ⇒ New ⇒ Android Application Project. While creating the project select Minimum SDK version to API 11 and select a theme with action bar. (I left my main activity name as MainActivity.java)

action bar android project

 2. Android.com provides some useful icons for action bar. Download the Action Bar Icon Set and select the required icons and add them to the project. Copy each icon with all resolutions (xxhdpi, xhdpi, hdpi, mdpi) into respected folders in Eclipse project under res ⇒ drawable- folders.

Adding Action Bar Icons

Once you are done copying required icons, we will start adding the action items first. The action bar uses the same older menu method to show action items.

3. Create a new xml file under res ⇒ menu named activity_main_actions.xml and add the following code. Here each indicates each action item.


xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
    <item android:id="@+id/action_search"
Here the important xml attributes should be known are
android:icon – Defines the icon of the action item.
android:title – Title for the icon.
android:showAsAction – Defines the visibility of the action item. It accepts following values.

ifRoomDisplays the icon if there is space available on the screen
neverNever places this icon on the action bar
alwaysForces to display the icon always irrespective of space available. This way is not suggested.
withTextDisplays a text along with the icon. Normally the text value defined by android:title will be displayed
collapseActionViewDefines the action layout associated with it. This action view defined using android:actionLayout or android:actionViewClass

4. Now open your main activity class and do the following in onCreateOptionsMenu() method.
public class MainActivity extends Activity{
    protected void onCreate(Bundle savedInstanceState) {
    public boolean onCreateOptionsMenu(Menu menu) {
        MenuInflater inflater = getMenuInflater();
        inflater.inflate(R.menu.activity_main_actions, menu);
        return super.onCreateOptionsMenu(menu);
Now if you run the project, you can see the action bar with action icons. You can also notice that an overflow icon shown which opens the unimportant action items as a drop down menu.

Handling Action Bar Icon Click Events

Until now we displayed action bar action items, but we haven’t enabled the interaction with action items. Let’s add click event listener to action items now.
5. Open your main activity and override onOptionsItemSelected() method. This method accepts menu item as a parameter. Selected action item can be identified by using it’s id. Normally a switch case statement is suggested for this purpose. You can perform appropriate action in the matched case block.

public class MainActivity extends Activity{
     * On selecting action bar icons
     * */
    public boolean onOptionsItemSelected(MenuItem item) {
        // Take appropriate action for each action item click
        switch (item.getItemId()) {
        case R.id.action_search:
            // search action
            return true;
            return super.onOptionsItemSelected(item);


Hiding / Showing the Action Bar in Particular Activity

In some cases you might wanted to hide the action bar in particular activity. You can hide and show the action bar by calling hide() and show() methods.

ActionBar actionBar = getActionBar();
// hide the action bar
// show the action bar

Changing the Action Bar Icon

Action bar by default displays the application icon which was set using android:icon in the AndroidManifest.xml file. So if you want to change the action bar icon, you can do it by calling setIcon(drawable) on to action bar.

ActionBar actionBar = getActionBar();
// set the icon

changing  Action Bar icon

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