Android Basic Training Course: Using XML Layout

    In Android programming, we can create and attach widgets to the activity entirely through Java code as we did in the previous chapter, but there are more common approach is to use XML-based layout. The dynamic nature of the widgets are available for more complex scenarios, the widgets are not known at compile time (for example, put a column of radio buttons based on data taken from the Internet).

What is XML-based layout?

    As it's name, XML-based layout is a specification of the relationship of widgets and thier container - is encoded in XML format. Specifically, Android consider XML as a resource, and as such, layout files are stored in the folder res/layout inside your Android project.
    Each XML file contains a tree elements determine the layout of widgets and container and building up to one view. The attributes of the XML elements are properties, described how a widget should look like or how it work. For example, if a button has an attribute android:textStyle="bold", meaning that the text that appears on the face of the button is displayed with bold font.

Why Using XML-based layout?

    Almost everything you use XML layout files can be obtained through Java code. For XML-based layout is a file for you track, we need to use the appropriate and judicious these files.
    Perhaps the biggest reason is to support the defining views tools, such as building tools in an IDE. Such tools can build user interface, in principle, generate Java code instead of XML but rereading editing code more difficult with the data in a structured XML format. We can say there are many advantages XML to write tools to use and some convenience for programmers who work by hand when necessary.

XML-based layout structure

    The root container must define the Android XML namespace, which is a standard recommended by the W3C. It's usally is a ViewGroup subclass like RelativeLayout, LinearLayout,...For example:
    All item views will be the inheritance of the original, and will declare namespace names. Usally, each item has an id to define it is unique:
    Note: android:layout_width and android:layout_height is 2 requirement properties of item. It define width and height of view in root container.
    And Android Studio will generate this XML file in Preview like this:

Symbol @

    Many widgets and containers just appear in the layout XML file and does not need to be referenced in Java code. For example, a static label (TextView) often locate in the layout file to indicate where it will appear. These types of elements in the XML file should not have the attribute android:id to provide names for them but whenever you want to use in java code, must have android:id.
    The convention is to use the id value, ... represents a unique name for the widget in the layout, @+id/ for the first occurrence of the value id given in the  layout file. In the example XML file layout above @+id/button is the identifier for the button widget. Occurrences next times and in the same file layout we can remove "+" symbol.

Attach them to Java code

    If you've set up the widgets  in a container for the layout XML file named activity_main.xml stored in res/layout folder, all you need is a statement in onCreate() method of your activity callback to use layout by setContentView():
    To access the widget, using findViewById(), pass it the identifier of the widget in the query. Identification number that is generated by Android in class R is (where something as specific widgets that you're searching for). The widget is simply a subclass of View, like Button, we created in previous chapters.
    Now, I provide a full Activity code which generated view from an xml file and handle click event for the Button in it (showing a Toast message):

import android.os.Bundle;
import android.view.View;
import android.widget.Button;
import android.widget.Toast;

public class MainActivity extends AppCompatActivity {

    private Button button;

    protected void onCreate(Bundle savedInstanceState) {

        button = (Button)findViewById(;

    private View.OnClickListener onClick() {
        return new View.OnClickListener() {
            public void onClick(View v) {
                Toast.makeText(MainActivity.this, "Button Clicked!", Toast.LENGTH_SHORT).show();
    Running program, we will have output like this:


    In this article, we’ve covered the XML essentials of creating a root element for your layout and coded a basic UI element (Button), before moving onto some more advanced XML that gives you greater control over your UI. In next post, we will learn about using more basic widgets in Android and the interaction between them.


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