Settings with PreferenceFragment

Overview

In Android apps, there are often settings pages that contain different options the user can tweak. The PreferenceFragment and PreferenceFragmentCompat contains a hierarchy of preference objects displayed on screen in a list. These preferences will automatically save to SharedPreferences as the user interacts with them.

What's your minimum API level?

Lollipop and below: The suggested way of handling settings is through the PreferenceFragment for API 11 (Honeycomb) and above. You can avoid the original PreferenceActivity, which has many deprecated methods. Note, however, that the PreferenceFragment is NOT compatible with Android support v4. For alternatives:

Marshmallow and above: The support v7 library introduced the PreferenceFragmentCompat. We'll be using this for the rest of the tutorial.

Edit your gradle dependencies

Open your app's gradle file (Your-Project/app/build.gradle) and add the following to the dependencies:

dependencies {
    // your other dependencies...
    compile 'com.takisoft.fix:preference-v7:25.3.0.0'
}

Note that due to a bug with using the Material design theme and the Preference Fragment compat, an open source project is used instead. See more details on this StackOverflow post.

Defining the XML

First, define the preference object hierarchy by creating a new xml file in res/xml:

<PreferenceScreen xmlns:android="http://schemas.android.com/apk/res/android">
   
    <PreferenceCategory
        android:title="@string/title_first_section">
 
        <CheckBoxPreference
            android:key="checkbox_preference"
            android:title="@string/title_checkbox_preference"
            android:defaultValue="@string/default_checkbox_preference"/>
            
        <EditTextPreference
            android:key="edittext_preference"
            android:title="@string/title_edittext_preference"
            android:summary="@string/summary_edittext_preference"
            android:dialogTitle="@string/dialog_title_edittext_preference"
            android:dependency="checkbox_preference" />
 
        </PreferenceCategory>
 
    <PreferenceCategory
        android:title="@string/title_second_section">
 
        <ListPreference
            android:key="list_preference"
            android:title="@string/title_list_preference"
            android:dialogTitle="@string/dialog_title_list_preference"
            android:entries="@array/entries_list_preference"
            android:entryValues="@array/entryvalues_list_preference" />
 
        <Preference
            android:title="@string/title_intent_preference">
            <intent android:action="android.intent.action.VIEW"
                android:data="http://codepath.com/" />
        </Preference>
 
        </PreferenceCategory>
 
</PreferenceScreen>

All preferences are saved as key-value pairs in the default SharedPreferences with the key specified through the xml above. To retrieve an instance of those preferences, call the following with a context in the same package as the fragment:

SharedPreferences preferences = PreferenceManager.getDefaultSharedPreferences(android.content.Context);

The root for the XML file must be a <PreferenceScreen>. Within this screen, you can either list all preferences or group with <PreferenceCategory>. The grouped preferences will appear together under the same section heading. The XML above creates the following setting screen:

Settings Screen

Preference Types

There are several main types of preferences used for settings:

  • ListPreference: opens dialog with a list of options (see below for defining options); persists a string
  • EditTextPreference: opens a dialog with an EditText view for typed input; persists a string
  • CheckBoxPreference: uses a checkbox to persist a boolean (true when checked, false when unchecked)
  • SwitchPreference (min API 14): uses a switch to persist a boolean (true when on, false when off)

Two of these preference types (ListPreference and EditTextPreference) descend from DialogPreference and can therefore define dialog-specific attributes in the XML (e.g. a dialogTitle).

Note that the SwitchPreference type was introduced in API 14 as a subclass of TwoStatePreference. At this time,CheckBoxPreference was also implemented to also be a direct subclass of it rather directly fromPreference. To use SwitchPreference, your app needs to use either min API level 14 or the Android support v4 library.

Defining the ListPreference Options

Two arrays must be specified when defining a list array. The first is under android:entries, which specifies human-readable options to display to the user. Second is an array of the values for each corresponding option, which is defined by android:entryValues.

  <ListPreference
      android:key="list_preference"
      android:title="@string/title_list_preference"
      android:dialogTitle="@string/dialog_title_list_preference"
      android:entries="@array/entries_list_preference"
      android:entryValues="@array/entryvalues_list_preference" />

Intents in Preferences

Preferences can also hold intents which can open a new activity or perform other intent actions. No data is persisted.

  <Preference
      android:title="@string/title_intent_preference">
      <intent android:action="android.intent.action.VIEW"
          android:data="http://codepath.com/" />
  </Preference>

Java Implementation

Use PreferenceFragmentCompat to programatically handle preferences. To load the settings into the fragment, load the preferences in the onCreatePreferences() method. To get an instance of a preference, search for a preference using its key through the PreferenceManager within onCreateView(). You can use this instance to customize the preference, such as add a custom OnPreferenceChangeListener.

public class SettingsFragment extends PreferenceFragmentCompat {
    
    private ListPreference mListPreference;
    
    ...
    
    @Override
    public void onCreatePreferences(Bundle savedInstanceState, String rootKey) {
        // Indicate here the XML resource you created above that holds the preferences
        setPreferencesFromResource(R.xml.settings, rootKey);
    }
    
    @Override
    public View onCreateView(LayoutInflater inflater, ViewGroup container, Bundle savedInstanceState) {
        
        mListPreference = (ListPreference)  getPreferenceManager().findPreference("preference_key");
        mListPreference.setOnPreferenceChangeListener(new Preference.OnPreferenceChangeListener() {
            @Override
            public boolean onPreferenceChange(Preference preference, Object newValue) {
                // your code here
            }
        }
        
        return inflater.inflate(R.layout.fragment_settings, container, false);
    }
}

Custom Preferences

If none of the previous preference types work for your needs, you can create a custom preference extending from DialogPreference, TwoStatePreference, or Preference itself.

For a detailed guide on implementing a custom preference, refer to the Android Developer: Settings API guide.

References

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