Thursday, January 5, 2012

Android Application Architecture

Android Application Architecture

1. AndroidManifest.xml

An Android application is described in the file AndroidManifest.xml. This file must declare all Activities,ServicesBroadcastReceivers and ContentProvider of the application. It must also contain the required permissions for the application. For example if the application requires network access it must be specified here. AndroidManifest.xml can be thought as the deployment descriptor for an Android application.

The package attribute defines the base package for the following Java elements. It also must be unique as the Android Marketplace only allows application for a specific package once. Therefore a good habit is to use your reverse domain name as a package to avoid collisions with other developers.
android:versionName and android:versionCode specify the version of your application. versionNameis what the user sees and can be any string. versionCode must be an integer and the Android Market uses this to determine if you provided a newer version to trigger the update on devices which have your application installed. You typically start with "1" and increase this value by one if you roll-out a new version of your application.
The tag <activity> defines an Activity, in this example pointing to the class "com.convertor". An intent filter is registered for this class which defines that this Activity is started once the application starts (action android:name="android.intent.action.MAIN"). The category definition category android:name="android.intent.category.LAUNCHER" defines that this application is added to the application directory on the Android device. The @string/app_name value refer to resource files which contain the actual values. This makes it easy to provide different resources, e.g. strings, colors, icons, for different devices and makes it easy to translate applications.
The "uses-sdk" part of the "AndroidManifest.xml" defines the minimal SDK version for which your application is valid. This will prevent your application being installed on devices with older SDK versions.

2., Resources and Assets

The directory gen in an Android project contains generated values. is a generated class which contains references to resources of the res folder in the project. These resources are defined in the res directory and can be values, menus, layouts, icons or pictures or animations. For example a resource can be an image or an XML file which defines strings.
If you create a new resource, the corresponding reference is automatically created in The references are static int values, the Android system provides methods to access the corresponding resource. For example to access a String with the reference id R.string.yourString use the method getString(R.string.yourString));. is automatically maintained by the Eclipse development environment, manual changes are not necessary.
While the directory res contains structured values which are known to the Android platform the directory assetscan be used to store any kind of data. In Java you can access this data via the AssetsManager and the methodgetAssets().

3. Reference to resources in XML files

In your XML files, e.g. your layout files you can refer to other resources via the sign. For example if you want to refer to a color you defined as resources you can refer to it via @color/your_id or if you have defined a "hello" string as resource you can access it via @string/hello.

4. Activities and Layouts

The user interface for Activities is defined via layouts. At runtime, layouts are instances ofandroid.view.ViewGroups . The layout defines the UI elements, their properties and their arrangement.
UI elements are based on the class android.view.View ViewGroup is a subclass of the class View and a layout can contain UI components ( Views ) or other layouts ( ViewGroups ). You should not nestle ViewGroups too deeply as this has a negative impact on performance.
A layout can be defined via Java code or via XML. You typically uses Java code to generate the layout if you don't know the content until runtime; for example if your layout depends on content which you read from the Internet.
XML based layouts are defined via a resource file in the folder /res/layout . This file specifies theViewGroups Views , their relationship and their attributes for a specific layout. If a UI element needs to be accessed via Java code you have to give the UI element an unique id via the android:id attribute. To assign a new id to an UI element use @+id/yourvalue . By conversion this will create and assign a new id yourvalueto the corresponding UI element. In your Java code you can later access these UI elements via the methodfindViewById( .
Defining layouts via XML is usually the preferred way as this separates the programming logic from the layout definition. It also allows the definition of different layouts for different devices. You can also mix both approaches.

5. Activities and Lifecycle

The operating system controls the life cycle of your application. At any time the Android system may stop or destroy your application, e.g. because of an incoming call. The Android system defines a life cycle for activities via pre-defined methods. The most important methods are:
  • onSaveInstanceState() - called if the activity is stopped. Used to save data so that the activity can restore its states if re-started
  • onPause() - always called if the Activity ends, can be used to release resource or save data
  • onResume() - called if the Activity is re-started, can be used to initialize fields
The activity will also be restarted if a so called "configuration change" happens. A configuration change for example happens if the user changes the orientation of the device (vertical or horizontal). The activity is in this case restarted to enable the Android platform to load different resources for these configuration.
You can avoid a restart of your application for certain configuration changes via the configChanges attribute on your activity definition in your AndroidManifest.xml. The following activity will not be restarted in case of orientation changes or position of the physical keyboard (hidden / visible).

6. Context

The class android.content.Context provides the connections to the Android system. It is the interface to global information about the application environment. Context also provides access to Android Services, e.g. theLocation Service. As Activities and Services extend the class Context you can directly access the context via this.

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