Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Layout Tricks: Creating Reusable UI Components

The Android platform offers a wide variety of UI widgets, small visual construction blocks that you can glue together to present users with complex and useful interfaces. However applications often need higher-level visual components. To meet that need, and to do so efficiently, you can combine multiple standard widgets into a single, reusable component.

For example, you could create a reusable component that contains a progress bar and a cancel button, a panel containing two buttons (positive and negative actions), a panel with an icon, a title and a description, and so on. You can create UI components easily by writing a custom View, but you can do it even more easily using only XML.

In Android XML layout files, each tag is mapped to an actual class instance (the class is always a subclass of View, The UI toolkit lets you also use three special tags that are not mapped to a View instance: <requestFocus />, <merge /> and <include />. This article shows how to use <include /> to create pure XML visual components.

The <include /> element does exactly what its name suggests; it includes another XML layout. Using this tag is straightforward as shown in the following example:



<include android:id="@+id/cell1" layout="@layout/workspace_screen" />
<include android:id="@+id/cell2" layout="@layout/workspace_screen" />
<include android:id="@+id/cell3" layout="@layout/workspace_screen" />


In the <include /> only the layout attribute is required. This attribute, without the android namespace prefix, is a reference to the layout file you wish to include. In this example, the same layout is included three times in a row. This tag also lets you override a few attributes of the included layout. The above example shows that you can use android:id to specify the id of the root view of the included layout; it will also override the id of the included layout if one is defined. Similarly, you can override all the layout parameters. This means that any android:layout_* attribute can be used with the <include /> tag. Here is an example:

<include android:layout_width="fill_parent" layout="@layout/image_holder" />
<include android:layout_width="256dip" layout="@layout/image_holder" />

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