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Android App Basics

In this interactive tutorial, you will learn the basics of creating an Android application using Xamarin.Android.

Android User Interface

The graphical user interface for an Android app is constructed from widgets such as text fields, buttons, and checkboxes. Widgets can be thought of as the building blocks that you use to create a user interface. View widgets are used to show text, display graphics, and interact with the user. ViewGroup widgets are invisible containers that arrange other widgets on the screen. This tutorial demonstrates how to build a basic user interface for an Android app by creating these widgets, laying them out on the screen, and wiring them up for user interaction.

Getting Started

Start by importing several namespaces that will be required for the code in the rest of this tutorial:

using Android.App;
using Android.Widget;
using Android.OS;

In Android, each screen is controlled by an Activity. The Activity is responsible for managing user interaction within a screen of information. There is only one Activity in a Xamarin Workbook. The following code creates a reference to this Activity object:

var rootActivity = StartedActivities.First ();

This rootActivity reference is used throughout the remainder of this tutorial.

Defining the User Interface

The first step in creating a UI is to define a ViewGroup that will hold the various widgets that comprise the UI of the Activity. Next, one or more Views are added to this ViewGroup and their parameters are configured to set how and where each View is displayed within the ViewGroup.

Creating a Layout

LinearLayout is a ViewGroup that arranges its child Views from top to bottom (or from left to right) as they are added. Instantiate a LinearLayout object and set its orientation to vertical:

var layout = new LinearLayout (rootActivity);
layout.Orientation = Orientation.Vertical;

Setting the orientation to vertical causes widgets to be arranged from top to bottom of the screen as they are added to the layout.

Adding a Button

The first widget to add to this layout is a Button. Instantiate a Button object, set its display text to Click Me!, and add the button to the layout:

Button button = new Button(rootActivity);
button.Text = "Click Me!";
layout.AddView (button);

Run the following code to display the resulting user interface on the screen:


When you click the button, the app does not respond. That is because there is no code to handle the button's click event. This code will be added later in this tutorial.

Adding a TextView

The next widget to add to this layout is a TextView. Instantiate a TextView object, initialize its text, and add it to the layout:

TextView textView = new TextView(rootActivity);
textView.Text = "This Space is for Rent";
layout.AddView (textView);

When you run this code, a TextView is created and its message is displayed below the button. Run the following code, change the text to something different, and then run it again:

textView.Text = "This Space is Taken";

Modifying View Layout Parameters

You can call methods on a View object to modify how it looks after it is instantiated. Run the following line of code to center the TextView within the LinearLayout:

textView.Gravity = Android.Views.GravityFlags.CenterHorizontal;

The TextView would look better if it had more space around it. Run the following code to add padding (20 pixels top and bottom, 10 pixels on each side):

textView.SetPadding(10, 20, 10, 20);

To make the text easier to read, run the following line of code to change the color of the text to yellow:


At this point, the app has a simple (though passive) user interface that is displayed in a single Activity. The next step is to add code to handle user input.

Responding to User Input

After the app's user interface is designed, the next step is to create event handlers to respond to user input. The following examples demonstrate how to create event handlers to respond to user clicks on the button.

Creating an Event Handler

There are a number of different ways that you can write code to handle user-triggered events. The following code implements an anonymous delegate to handle the button click event. This one-line event handler changes the text on the button face when it is clicked:

button.Click += delegate { button.Text = "This Button was clicked"; };

Click the button after running this code to see the text on the button change.

Displaying a Toast

Another way to repond to user input is to display a Toast message that indicates that the button was clicked. Run this code and click the button again:

button.Click += delegate { Toast.MakeText(rootActivity, "Clicked!", ToastLength.Long).Show(); };

A toast message is briefly displayed near the bottom of the screen to indicate that the button was clicked.

Note that the button text is also updated with each click. This is because each call to button.Click += adds an additional event handler that responds to button clicks (i.e., it doesn't replace the previously defined event handler). Each event handler that is added to the button Click event is called when when the button is clicked.


You have now seen the basics of how to create a Xamarin.Android user interface and handle user input. Here are some things you can try to test your understanding:

  • Add a count variable and increment this count each time the button is clicked.

  • Display the new click count on the button face each time the button is clicked.

  • Try displaying the click count in the TextView as well as on the face of the button.

Further Reading

In a typical Android application, you develop a user interface by defining its layout in an XML file. This XML file describes the hierarchical relationships of Views and ViewGroups in your UI (rather than programmatically, as was demonstrated in this tutorial), and it defines the configuration parameters for each View and ViewGroup . For a more detailed explanation about building your first Android app using Xamarin Studio or Visual Studio, see Hello, Android.

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