Developing for Android is sometimes painful. You have to write lot of code to do simple things like setting up a Fragment. Fortunately java supports a powerful tool: Annotation Processors

This post is part of a series of posts about useful annotation processors like ParcelablePlease or AnnotatedAdapter

The Problem with Fragments is that you have to set arguments (the parameters) for a fragment to make them work correctly. Many new android developers that write the first fragment do something like this:

public class MyFragment extends Fragment {

  private int id;
  private String title;

  public static MyFragment newInstance(int id, String title) {
    MyFragment f = new MyFragment();
    f.id = id;
    f.title = title;
    return f;
  }

  @Override
    public View onCreateView(LayoutInflater inflater,
        ViewGroup container, Bundle savedInstanceState) {

            Toast.makeText(getActivity(), "Hello " + title.substring(0, 3),
                Toast.LENGTH_SHORT).show();
      }
}

What’s wrong with that? I have tested it on my device and it worked like a charm?

It may have worked, but did you try to rotate your device from portrait to landscape? Your app will crash with NullPointerException as soon as you try to access id or title .

It’s ok, my app is locked in portrait. So I will never run into this problem.

You will! Android is a real multitasking operating system. Multiple apps run at the same time and the android os will destroy activities (and the containing fragments) if memory is needed. Probably you will never notice that during daily app development. However, once the app is published in the play store you will get notified that your app is crashing and you may wonder why. Your app users use multiple apps at the same time and it’s very likely that your app is going to be destroyed in the background. Example: a user of your app opens your app and MyFrament is displayed on screen. Next the user will press the home button (your app is going in the background) and opens any other app. Your app will be destroyed in the background to free memory. Later on the user comes back to your app, for example by pressing the multitasking button. So what does Android do right now? Android restores the previous app state and restores MyFragment and that’s the problem. The fragment tries to access title which is null because it had not been stored persistently.

I see, so I have to save them in onSaveInstanceState(Bundle)?

NO. The official docs are a little bit unclear, but onSaveInstanceState(Bundle) should be used exactly the same way you do with Activity.onSaveInstanceState(Bundle): you use this method to save the instance state “temporarly”, for instance to handle screen orientation changes (from portrait to landscape and vice versa). That means the fragments instance state is not stored persistently which is required when the app is killed in the background and restored when it comes back to the foreground again. It’s pretty the same as activities work: Activity.onSaveInstanceState(Bundle) is used for “temporarly” saving the instance state, whereas the long persistent parameters are passed through the intents extra data.

So should I save these Fragment arguments in the Activities Intent?

No, Fragment has it’s own mechanism for this. There are two methods: Fragment.setArguments(Bundle) and Fragment.getArguments() and you have to use these methods to ensure that the arguments will be stored persistently, even if the app is destroyed and restored. But that’s the painful part I have mentioned above. It’s a lot of code you have to write. First, you have to create a Bundle, then you have to set the key / value pairs and finally to call Fragment.setArguments(). Unfortunately you are not done yet but you have to read the values out of the Bundle with Fragment.getArguments(). Something like this:

public class MyFragment extends Fragment {

  private static String KEY_ID ="key.id";
  private static String KEY_TITLE = "key.title";

  private int id;
  private String title;

  public static MyFragment newInstance(int id, String title) {
    MyFragment f = new MyFragment();
    Bundle b = new Bundle();
    b.putInt(KEY_ID, id);
    b.putString(KEY_TITLE, title);
    f.setArguments(b);
    return f;
  }

  @Override
  public void onCreate(Bundle savedInstanceState) {
      // onCreate it's a good point to read the arguments
      Bundle b = getArguments();
      this.id = b.getInt(KEY_ID);
      this.title = b.getString(KEY_TITLE);
  }

  @Override
  public View onCreate(LayoutInflater inflater,
        ViewGroup container, Bundle savedInstanceState) {

            // No NullPointer here, because onCreate() is called before this
            Toast.makeText(getActivity(), "Hello " + title.substring(0, 3),
                Toast.LENGTH_SHORT).show();
      }
}

I hope you understand now what I mean with “painful”. There’s a lot of code you have to write for any single fragment in your application. Wouldn’t it be nice if someone else could write that code for you? Annotation Processing allows you to generate java code at compile time. Note that we are not talking about evaluating annotations at run time by using reflections.

##FragmentArgs

FragmentArgs is a lightweight library that generates exactly this java code for your fragments. Have a look at this code:

import com.hannesdorfmann.fragmentargs.FragmentArgs;
import com.hannesdorfmann.fragmentargs.annotation.Arg;

public class MyFragment extends Fragment {

	@Arg
	int id;

	@Arg
	String title;

	@Override
	public void onCreate(Bundle savedInstanceState){
		super.onCreate(savedInstanceState);
		FragmentArgs.inject(this); // read @Arg fields
	}

	@Override
	public View onCreateView(LayoutInflater inflater,
		ViewGroup container, Bundle savedInstanceState) {

      		Toast.makeText(getActivity(), "Hello " + title,
      			Toast.LENGTH_SHORT).show();
      }
}

FragmentArgs generates the boilerplate code for you just by annotating fields of your Fragment class. In your Activity you will use the generated Builder class (the name of your fragment with “Builder” suffix) instead of new MyFragment() or a static MyFragment.newInstance(int id, String title) method.

For example:

public class MyActivity extends Activity {

	public void onCreate(Bundle savedInstanceState){
		super.onCreate(savedInstanceState);

		int id = 123;
		String title = "test";

		// Using the generated Builder
		Fragment fragment =
			new MyFragmentBuilder(id, title)
			.build();

		// Fragment Transaction
		getFragmentManager()
			.beginTransaction()
			.replace(R.id.container, fragment)
			.commit();
	}

}

You may have noticed the statement FragmentArgs.inject(this); in Fragment.onCreate(Bundle). In this call your fragment gets connected to the generated code. You may ask yourself: “Do I have to override onCreate(Bundle) in every Fragment to add the inject() method call?” . The answer is no. A powerful feature is that FragmentArgs.inject(this); supports inheritance. You simply need to insert this line into your base fragment and extend all your fragments from this base fragment:

public class BaseFragment extends Fragment {

    @Override
    public void onCreate(Bundle savedInstanceState){
        super.onCreate(savedInstanceState);
        FragmentArgs.inject(this); // read @Arg fields
    }
}

public class MyFragment extends BaseFragment {

  @Arg
  String title;

  @Override
  public View onCreateView(LayoutInflater inflater,
    ViewGroup container, Bundle savedInstanceState) {

      Toast.makeText(getActivity(), "Hello " + title,
        Toast.LENGTH_SHORT).show();
  }

}

Credits: Parts of the annotation processing code are based on Hugo Visser’s Bundles project.

In my next blog post I want to compare annotation processors for generating Parcelable’s and tell you why I ended up writing my own Annotation Processor called ParcelablePlease

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