Defining Views and their Attributes


Defining view components within a layout is a critical part of Android development. Let's take a look at common views as well as common attributes of views.

Common Views

The six most common views are:

  • TextView displays a formatted text label
  • ImageView displays an image resource
  • Button can be clicked to perform an action
  • ImageButton displays a clickable image
  • EditText is an editable text field for user input
  • ListView is a scrollable list of items containing other views

View Identifiers

Any view can have an identifier attached that uniquely names that view for later access. You can assign a view an id within the XML layout:

<Button android:id="@+id/my_button" />

This id can then be accessed within the Java code for the corresponding activity (in onCreate of Activity for example):

Button myButton = (Button) findViewById(;

Another important note is that any view with an id specified will automatically retain its state on a configuration change (i.e phone orientation switch).

View Height and Width

Every view has height and width properties controlling the size of the view. Height and width have to be defined in the XML for every view with:

  android:layout_height="wrap_content" />

This can take the form of wrap_content (adjust height and width to the content size), match_parent (adjust height and width to the full size of the parent container), and a dimensions value such as 120dp. This can be changed at runtime in a number of ways:

// Change the width or height
int newInPixels = 50;
view.setLayoutParams(new LayoutParams(newInPixels, newInPixels));
// Trigger invalidation of the view to force adjustment

Or we can change just the width or height individually:

int newDimensionInPixels = 50;
view.getLayoutParams().width = newDimensionInPixels;
view.getLayoutParams().height = newDimensionInPixels;
// Trigger invalidation of the view to force adjustment

We can also set these dimensions in dp rather than pixels with:

int newDimensionInPixels = 50;
// convert to 50dp
int dimensionInDp = (int) TypedValue.applyDimension(TypedValue.COMPLEX_UNIT_DIP, newDimensionInPixels, 
view.getLayoutParams().width = newDimensionInPixels;
view.getLayoutParams().height = dimensionInDp;
// Trigger invalidation of the view to force adjustment

Views Margin and Padding

Margins and padding values for views allows us to position and space elements in a layout.

  • Layout Margin defines the amount of space around the outside of a view
  • Padding defines the amount of space around the contents or children of a view.

An example of setting margins and padding:

   <TextView android:layout_margin="5dp" android:padding="5dp">
   <Button layout_marginBottom="5dp">

View Gravity

Gravity can be used to define the direction of the contents of a view.

  • gravity determines the direction that the contents of a view will align (like CSS text-align).
  • layout_gravity determines the direction of the view within it's parent (like CSS float).

An example of applying gravity:

  android:layout_width="165dp" android:layout_height="wrap_content"
  android:textSize="12sp" android:text="@string/hello_world" />

View Attributes

Every view has many different attributes which can be applied to manage various properties.

  • Certain properties are shared across many views such as android:layout_width
  • Other properties are based on a view's function such as android:textColor

Common view attributes include:

Attribute Description Example Value
android:background Background for the view #ffffff
android:onClick Method to invoke when clicked onButtonClicked
android:visibility Controls how view appears invisible
android:hint Hint text to display when empty @string/hint
android:text Text to display in view @string/foo
android:textColor Color of the text #000000
android:textSize Size of the text 21sp
android:textStyle Style of the text formatting bold

Review the View docs and TextView docs for a list of additional attributes. An example of setting view attributes:



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