ActiveAndroid Guide


Using the ActiveAndroid ORM makes managing client-side models extremely easy in simple cases. For more advanced or custom cases, you can use SQLiteOpenHelper to manage the database communication directly. But for simple model mapping from JSON, ActiveAndroid keeps things simple.


ActiveAndroid works like any Object Relational Mapper by mapping java classes to database tables and mapping java class member variables to the table columns. Through this process, each table maps to a Java model and the columns in the table represent the respective data fields. Similarly, each row in the database represents a particular object. This allows us to create, modify, delete and query our SQLite database using model objects instead of raw SQL.

For example, a "Tweet" model would be mapped to a "tweets" table in the database. The Tweet model might have a "body" field that maps to a body column in the table and a "timestamp" field that maps to a timestamp column. Through this process, each row would map to a particular tweet.


In Android Studio, you can setup ActiveAndroid via Gradle in app/build.gradle:

repositories {
    maven { url "" }

dependencies {
    compile fileTree(dir: 'libs', include: ['*.jar'])
    compile ''
    compile 'com.michaelpardo:activeandroid:3.1.0-SNAPSHOT'


Next, we need to configure the application node with the name property of to use the correct application class name within the AndroidManifest.xml:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<manifest xmlns:android=""
    <!- adjust the name property of your application node ->
        android:theme="@style/AppTheme" >
        <!- add the following metadata for version and database name ->
            android:value="RestClient.db" />
            android:value="1" />

            android:label="@string/app_name" >
            <!- ... ->

Note that you must either directly use the as your application class (specified in the manifest) or if you have a custom application class, check out more details for how to approach that in the installation guide. Now you are ready to use ActiveAndroid.


Defining Models

First, we define our models by annotating the class with the table mapping and the member variables with the column mapping:

import com.activeandroid.Model;
import com.activeandroid.annotation.Column;
import com.activeandroid.annotation.Table;

@Table(name = "Items")
public class Item extends Model {
    // This is the unique id given by the server
    @Column(name = "remote_id", unique = true, onUniqueConflict = Column.ConflictAction.REPLACE)
    public long remoteId;
    // This is a regular field
    @Column(name = "Name")
    public String name;
    // This is an association to another activeandroid model
    @Column(name = "Category", onUpdate = ForeignKeyAction.CASCADE, onDelete = ForeignKeyAction.CASCADE)
    public Category category;
    // Make sure to have a default constructor for every ActiveAndroid model
    public Item(){
    public Item(int remoteId, String name, Category category){
        this.remoteId = remoteId; = name;
        this.category = category;

@Table(name = "Categories")
public class Category extends Model {
    // This is the unique id given by the server
    @Column(name = "remote_id", unique = true)
    public long remoteId;
    // This is a regular field
    @Column(name = "Name")
    public String name;

    // Make sure to have a default constructor for every ActiveAndroid model
    public Category(){

    // Used to return items from another table based on the foreign key
    public List<Item> items() {
        return getMany(Item.class, "Category");

The "name" part of the annotations refers to the name the Table or Columns will be given, so make sure to use the SQLite naming conventions for those. Also note that ActiveAndroid creates a local id (Id) in addition to our manually managed remoteId (unique) which is the id on the server (for networked applications). To access that primary key Id, you can call getId() on an instance of your model.

CRUD Operations

Now we can create, modify and delete records for these models backed by SQLite:

// Create a category
Category restaurants = new Category();
restaurants.remoteId = 1; = "Restaurants";;

// Create an item 
Item item = new Item();
item.remoteId = 1;
item.category = restaurants; = "Outback Steakhouse";;

// Deleting items
Item item = Item.load(Item.class, 1);
// or with
new Delete().from(Item.class).where("remote_id = ?", 1).execute();

Querying Records

We can query records with a simple query syntax using the Select object:

@Table(name = "Items")
public class Item extends Model {
    // ...
    public static List<Item> getAll(Category category) {
        // This is how you execute a query
        return new Select()
          .where("Category = ?", category.getId())
          .orderBy("Name ASC")

Refer to querying the database for more examples. That's ActiveAndroid in a nutshell.

Populating ListView with ArrayAdapter

We can plug ActiveAndroid stored data into a standard ArrayAdapter the same as any other array of data by simply adding the results of the query to the adapter:

// Construct ArrayList for model type
ArrayList<TodoItem> items = new ArrayList<TodoItem>();
// Construct adapter plugging in the array source
MyCustomArrayAdapter adapterTodoItems = 
    new MyCustomArrayAdapter(this, items);
// Query ActiveAndroid for list of data
List<TodoItem> queryResults = new Select().from(TodoItem.class)
    .orderBy("Name ASC").limit(100).execute();
// Load the result into the adapter using `addAll`

Refer to querying the database for more examples. For more advanced cases, check out the source directly.

Advanced Usage

Executing Custom SQL

To run custom SQL with no need for a result, use the SQLiteUtils.execSql method:

// Note nothing is returned from this
SQLiteUtils.execSql("DELETE FROM table_name");

If you need to execute a custom query and want to get a List of items back use SQLiteUtils.rawQuery:

List<TodoItem> importantItems = 
     "SELECT * from todo_items where priority = ?", 
     new String[] { "high" });

See SQLiteUtils implementation for more details.

Populating ListView with CursorAdapter

Review this Custom CursorAdapter and ListViews guide in order to load content from a Cursor into a ListView. In summary, in order to populate a ListView directly from the content within the ActiveAndroid SQLite database, we can define this method on the model to retrieve a Cursor for the result set:

public class TodoItem extends Model {
    // ...

    // Return cursor for result set for all todo items
    public static Cursor fetchResultCursor() {
        String tableName = Cache.getTableInfo(TodoItem.class).getTableName();
        // Query all items without any conditions
        String resultRecords = new Select(tableName + ".*, " + tableName + ".Id as _id").
        // Execute query on the underlying ActiveAndroid SQLite database
        Cursor resultCursor = Cache.openDatabase().rawQuery(resultRecords, null);
        return resultCursor;

We need to define a custom TodoCursorAdapter as outlined here in order to define which XML template to use for the cursor rows and how to populate the template views with the relevant data.

Next, we can fetch the data cursor containing all todo items with TodoItem.fetchResultCursor() and populate the ListView using our custom CursorAdapter:

// Find ListView to populate
ListView lvItems = (ListView) findViewById(;
// Get data cursor
Cursor todoCursor = TodoItem.fetchResultCursor();
// Setup cursor adapter
TodoCursorAdapter todoAdapter = new TodoCursorAdapter(this, todoCursor);
// Attach cursor adapter to ListView 

That's all we have to do to load data from ActiveAndroid directly through a Cursor into a list.

Loading with Content Providers

Instead of using the underlying SQLite database directly, we can instead expose the ActiveAndroid data as a content provider with a few simple additions. First, override the default identity column for all ActiveAndroid models:

@Table(name = "Items", id = BaseColumns._ID)
public class Item extends Model { ... }

Then you can use the SimpleCursorAdapter to populate adapters using the underlying database directly:

// Define a SimpleCursorAdapter loading the body into the TextView in simple_list_item_1
SimpleCursorAdapter adapterTodo = new SimpleCursorAdapter(getActivity(),
  android.R.layout.simple_list_item_1, null,
  new String[] { "body" },
  new int[] { },
// Attach the simple adapter to the list

You could also use a custom CursorAdapter instead for more flexibility. Next, we can load the data into the list using the content provider system through a CursorLoader:

MyActivity.this.getSupportLoaderManager().initLoader(0, null, new LoaderCallbacks<Cursor>() {
        public Loader<Cursor> onCreateLoader(int id, Bundle cursor) {
            return new CursorLoader(MyActivity.this,
                ContentProvider.createUri(TodoItem.class, null),
                null, null, null, null
        // ...

You must also register the content provider in your AndroidManifest.xml:

<application ...>
    <provider android:authorities="com.example" android:exported="false"    
              android:name="com.activeandroid.content.ContentProvider" />

See the full source code on the official ActiveAndroid ContentProviders guide.


If you need to add a field to your an existing model, you'll need to write a migration to add the column to the table that represents your model. Here's how:

  1. Add a new field to your existing model:

    import com.activeandroid.Model;
    import com.activeandroid.annotation.Column;
    import com.activeandroid.annotation.Table;
    @Table(name = "Items")
    public class Item extends Model {
        @Column(name = "remote_id", unique = true, onUniqueConflict = Column.ConflictAction.REPLACE)
        public long remoteId;
        @Column(name = "Name")
        public String name;
        @Column(name = "Priority") //new column
        public String priority;
        public Item(){
        public Item(int remoteId, String name, String priority){
            this.remoteId = remoteId;
   = name;
            this.priority = priority;
  2. Change the database version the the AndroidManifest.xml's metadata. Increment by 1 from the last version:

        android:value="Application.db" />
        android:value="2" />
  1. Write your migration script. Name your script [newDatabaseVersion].sql, and place it in the directory [YourApp’sName]/app/src/main/assets/migrations. In my specific example, I’ll create the file [MyAppName]/app/src/main/assets/migrations/2.sql. (You might have to create the migrations directory yourself). You should write the SQLite script to add a column here:

Note that in order trigger the migration script, you’ll have to save an instance of your model somewhere in your code.

Official Reference Guides

Check these official reference guides for more detailed information:

Be sure to review the common questions below.

Common Questions

Question: How do I inspect the SQLite data stored on the device?

In order to inspect the persisted data, we need to use adb to query or download the data. You can also take a look at using the Stetho library, which provides a way to use Chrome to inspect the local data.

Question: How does ActiveAndroid handle duplicate IDs? For example, I want to make sure no duplicate twitter IDs are inserted. Is there a way to specify a column is the primary key in the model?

The first step is to mark the column recording the unique id of an object as a unique column acting as your pseudo primary key. As explained here, the annotation is:

@Table(name = "items")
public class SampleModel extends Model {
    // Ensure the remoteId must be unique. If a duplicate tries to save, replace the 
    @Column(name = "remote_id", unique = true, onUniqueConflict = Column.ConflictAction.REPLACE)
    private int remoteId;

    // ... set the remote id based on the json response

Make sure to uninstall the app afterward on the emulator to ensure the schema changes take effect. Note that you may need to manually ensure that you don't attempt to re-create existing objects by verifying they are not already in the database as shown below.

Question: I read somewhere that ActiveAndroid automatically creates another auto-increment ID column, is this true? What field names should I avoid using?

This is true, see creating your database model for more details. The column is called "mId"

Question: How do you specify the data type (int, text)? Does AA automatically know what the column type should be?

The type is inferred automatically from the type of the field.

Question: How do I store dates into ActiveAndroid?

AA supports serializing Date fields automatically. It is stored internally as a timestamp (INTEGER) in milliseconds.

@Column(name = "timestamp", index = true)
private Date timestamp; 

and the date will be serialized to SQLite. You can parse strings into a Date object using SimpleDateFormat:

public void setDateFromString(String date) {
    SimpleDateFormat sf = new SimpleDateFormat("EEE MMM dd HH:mm:ss ZZZZZ yyyy");
    this.timestamp = sf.parse(date);
public static List<Model> findRecent(Date newerThan) {
    return new Select().from(Model.class).where("timestamp > ?", newerThan.getTimeInMillis()).execute();

Question: How do you represent a 1-1 relationship?

Check out the relationships section if you haven't yet. There are many ways to manage this. You can declare a type "User" and then that field will be associated with a foreign key representing the user.

public class User extends Model {
  public String email;
  public Address address;

You can manage this process by simply constructing and assigning the user object to a field of the parent object and then calling save on the parent.

User u = new User("");
u.address = new Address("135 Hesby St, Los Angeles, CA");;;

You should make sure to call save separately on the associated object in most cases.

Question: How do I delete all the records from a table?

You can delete individual records using the .delete method and you can delete all records matching a particular condition with:

new Delete().from(Item.class).execute(); // all records
// or based on a conditional clause
new Delete().from(Item.class).where("Id = ?", 1).execute();

This allows for bulk deletes.

Question: Is it possible to do joins with ActiveAndroid?

Joins are done using the query language AA provides in the From class. You can read more here on the Querying the Database docs

Question: What are the best practices when interacting with the sqlite in Android, is ORM/DAO the way to go?

Developers use both SQLiteOpenHelper and several different ORMs. It's common to use the SQLiteOpenHelper in cases where an ORM breaks down or isn't necessary. Since Models are typically formed anyways though and persistence on Android in many cases can map very closely to objects, ORMs like ActiveAndroid can be helpful especially for simple database mappings.


Problem: I am getting a "java.lang.NullPointerException at com.activeandroid.Cache.getTableInfo"

Android API 23+ Users: Be sure to also check this exception workaround and applying one of those three options to avoid this exception.

This usually means that you have not properly configured ActiveAndroid. You need to initialize ActiveAndroid within your application. This can be done either by leveraging the ActiveAndroid Application class directly in your manifest:


OR by extending a custom application class class MyApplication extends and then:


or by calling ActiveAndroid.initialize(this); in your own custom Application class as outlined here.

Problem: I am getting an "SQLiteException: no such table" error when I try to run the app

This is because ActiveAndroid only generates the schema if there is no existing database file. In order to "regenerate" the schema after creating a new model, the easiest way is to uninstall the app from the emulator and allow it to be fully re-installed. This is because this clears the database file and triggers ActiveAndroid to recreate the tables based on the annotated models in the project.

Problem: I am getting a NullPointerException when trying to save a model

This is because ActiveAndroid needs you to save all objects separately. Before saving a tweet for example, be sure to save the associated user object first. So when you have a tweet that references a user be sure to before you call since storing the user requires the local id to be set and assigned as the foreign key for the tweet.

Problem: SQLiteConstraintException: foreign key constraint failed (code 19) when saving an object

This error means that you are attempting to save a object which would create a duplicate row in the database. This means that the object you are trying to save has the same remoteId (or other unique column) as an object already in the database.

With ActiveAndroid, be sure to avoid attempting to save duplicate data. Instead, you can check to ensure the data has not already been saved before saving a new object:

public class User extends Model {
    @Column(name = "remote_id", unique = true)
    public long remoteId;

    // Finds existing user based on remoteId or creates new user and returns
    public static User findOrCreateFromJson(JSONObject json) {
        long rId = json.getLong("id"); // get just the remote id
    	User existingUser = 
          new Select().from(User.class).where("remote_id = ?", rId).executeSingle(); 
    	if (existingUser != null) { 
    	    // found and return existing
    	    return existingUser;
    	} else {
    	    // create and return new user
    	    User user = User.fromJSON(json);;
    	    return user;

Then when you want to create this record and avoid duplicates, you can just call:

User user = User.findOrCreateFromJson(objectJson);
// Returns either the existing user or the created user

This will help avoid any foreign key constraint exceptions due to duplicate rows.

Error:Parceler: Unable to find read/write generator for type com.activeandroid.TableInfo

Make sure to annotate the class with the @Parcel(analyze={} decorator. Otherwise, the Parceler library will try to serialize the fields that are associated with the Model class and trigger Error:Parceler: Unable to find read/write generator for type errors. To avoid this issue, specify to Parceler exactly which class in the inheritance chain should be examined (see this disucssion for more details):

@Parcel(analyze={User.class})   // add Parceler annotation here
public class User extends Model { }


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