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The simplest way to include icons in a ListView
2016-09-12 14:59:18 +0200
Did you know you don’t have to fiddle with custom layouts to setup a ListView with icons?

{{< figure class="is-pulled-right" alt="Screenshot of the final result" src="/img/2017-08_android_simplest-way-to-add-icons-in-listview/screenshot-imagemenu-final_thumb.png" link="/img/2017-08_android_simplest-way-to-add-icons-in-listview/screenshot-imagemenu-final_full.png" caption="Did you know you don’t have to fiddle with custom layouts to get such a result?"


At my current job, I have been asked to merge my application with a legacy project, already approved by marketing. During normal use, the application would display a navigation ListView at launch.

This post will explain how I set up such a list, to act as a reminder whenever I need to quickly implement it again.

To achieve this result quickly and painlessly, I used a combination of compound drawables, and Android’s built-in list layouts.

How it works

  1. [Create a structure which represents the menu items]({{< ref "#step-1" >}});
  2. [Create a list of these menu items, and populate it]({{< ref "#step-2" >}});
  3. [Place a ListView in one of your layouts]({{< ref "#step-3" >}});
  4. [Make the link between the item list and the ListView, using an Adapter]({{< ref "#step-4" >}});
  5. [Implement the navigation and UX]({{< ref "#step-5" >}}).

Represent the menu items {#step-1}

A “menu” item is a combination of a picture (drawable) and a text. This information is represented as an ImageMenuItem entity.

In accordance with Android’s best coding practices, text is stored as a string resource, easily translatable and maintainable.

Create a list of menu items {#step-2}

In the Activity, create an ArrayList of these items:

private final ArrayList<ImageMenuItem> menuItems = new ArrayList<>();

In the Activity’s onCreate method, populate this list using ArrayList.add:

static final int ITEM_FIRST = 0;
static final int ITEM_SECOND = 1;

menuItems.add(ITEM_FIRST, new ImageMenuItem(R.drawable.ic_first, R.string.menuitem_first));
menuItems.add(ITEM_SECOND, new ImageMenuItem(R.drawable.ic_second, R.string.menuitem_second));

Place a ListView {#step-3}

(And make sure you know its id.)

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>

Link the data to the ListView using an adapter {#step-4}

final ListView listView = (ListView)findViewById(;
listView.setAdapter(new ImageMenuAdapter(this, menuItems));

All the magic happens in the ImageMenuAdapter:

  1. Tell the Adapter to use Android’s default simple_list_item_1, and
  2. Set the text, and set a compound drawable to the list item.

Implement the navigation {#step-5}

The reason we [previously declared constants]({{< ref "#step-2" >}}) for the menu items, is to properly handle navigation:

listView.setOnItemClickListener(new AdapterView.OnItemClickListener() {
    public void onItemClick(AdapterView<?> adapterView, View view, int position, long l) {
        switch (position) {
            case ITEM_SECOND:
                // Do whatever you want here
                Log.w("ImageMenu", "Menu item at position #" + position + " not yet implemented");

For those who would rather read actual code:

{{< gist Diti 6ad5167f4ebc53a7cf342697c21effea "" >}} {{< gist Diti 6ad5167f4ebc53a7cf342697c21effea "" >}} {{< gist Diti 6ad5167f4ebc53a7cf342697c21effea "" >}}