Custom Views - I

07 Mar 2017


last modified: 07-mar-2017 (19:59)

This is part 1 of three part series


I am a kind of guy who hates UI designing and layouts but when it becomes my responsibility to draw them, I make sure I understand them well. I have been observing that whenever we need some control which is not part of android default UI components, we need to add another library to handle it - sometime, a poorly written library.

Getting tired from all this, I decided to go a bit deeper and search about the views. This series of articles will explain most of the things that a developer should know before drawing their own views or custom controls.

Views API

View API contains three main classes


A View is the basic building block of user interface in android and every layout component is derived from the View class. e.g. TextView, EditText etc.

View Parent

View Parent is an interface which defines a protocol for a view who wants to be the parent of other views. Both ViewGroup and ViewRootImpl implement ViewParent interface.

View Group

ViewGroup is a special kind of view which acts a container to hold other views e.g. FrameLayout, LinearLayout etc


This is an internal implementation of ViewParent. From docs,

The top of a view hierarchy, implementing the needed protocol between View and the WindowManager. This is for the most part an internal implementation detail of WindowManagerGlobal.

In this series of articles, we are only interested in View class and will explore it as we move forward.

Every view directly/indirectly inherits from View and custom views are no exception. Whenever someone needs to create a Custom View it must be inherited from View class.

View class has many constructors and inheriting from View class enforces us to override at least one constructor.

 View(Context ctx)
 View(Context ctx, AttributeSet attrs)
 View(Context ctx, AttributeSet attrs, int defStyleAttr)
 View(Context ctx, AttributeSet attrs, int defStyleAttr, int defStyleRes)

View(Context ctx)

This constructor is used when you want to create a View from your code. e.g.

    CustomView v = new CustomView(context);

View(Context context, AttributeSet attrs)

Called when a layout is inflated from xml with attributes defined in xml are passed via attrs parameter. This constructor calls

 View(Context ctx, AttributeSet attrs, int defStyleAttr)

with defStyleAttr = 0.

View(Context ctx, AttributeSet attrs, int defStyleAttr)

Called when attributes are applied from class-specific base style from a theme attribute. i.e. a style attribute is present in the xml layout of the view. 0 value for defStyleAttr means; don’t look for defaults.

Example from docs ,

This constructor of View allows subclasses to use their own base style when they are inflating. For example, a Button class’s constructor would call this version of the super class constructor and supply R.attr.buttonStyle for defStyleAttr; this allows the theme’s button style to modify all of the base view attributes (in particular its background) as well as the Button class’s attributes.

View(Context ctx, AttributeSet attrs, int defStyleAttr, int defStyleRes)

This constructor is called when a theme attribute referring to a style resource or a style resource is used for default attribute values. It allows subclasses to use their own style when views are inflated.

From docs ,

When determining the final value of a particular attribute, there are four inputs that come into play:

Each of these inputs is considered in-order, with the first listed taking precedence over the following ones. In other words, if in the AttributeSet you have supplied <Button textColor="#ff000000">, then the button’s text will always be black, regardless of what is specified in any of the styles.

Note: This is available for API level >= 21.


Sometime (especially when you are new), you will see android.view.InflateException while using your custom view via xml. This error occurs when layout inflater does not find an appropriate constructor to call i.e constructor with context & AttributeSet as parameter or any other constructor. To fix this error, you must atleast override this constructor

View(Context context, AttributeSet attrs)

One last thing, I took me a while to understand what each constructor is for, if this is the case with you, don’t worry! I will go through them again while writing an example view. For now, keep this theory in mind and move forward.

Read part 2 here.