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Specifying the Input Method Type

Every text field expects a certain type of text input, such as an email address, phone number, or just plain text. So it's important that you specify the input type for each text field in your app so the system displays the appropriate soft input method (such as an on-screen keyboard).

Beyond the type of buttons available with an input method, you should specify behaviors such as whether the input method provides spelling suggestions, capitalizes new sentences, and replaces the carriage return button with an action button such as a Done or Next. This lesson shows how to specify these characteristics.

Specify the Keyboard Type

You should always declare the input method for your text fields by adding the android:inputType attribute to the <EditText> element.

Figure 1. The phone input type.

For example, if you'd like an input method for entering a phone number, use the "phone" value:

<EditText
    android:id="@+id/phone"
    android:layout_width="fill_parent"
    android:layout_height="wrap_content"
    android:hint="@string/phone_hint"
    android:inputType="phone" />

Figure 2. The textPassword input type.

Or if the text field is for a password, use the "textPassword" value so the text field conceals the user's input:

<EditText
    android:id="@+id/password"
    android:hint="@string/password_hint"
    android:inputType="textPassword"
    ... />

There are several possible values documented with the android:inputType attribute and some of the values can be combined to specify the input method appearance and additional behaviors.

Enable Spelling Suggestions and Other Behaviors

Figure 3. Adding textAutoCorrect provides auto-correction for misspellings.

The android:inputType attribute allows you to specify various behaviors for the input method. Most importantly, if your text field is intended for basic text input (such as for a text message), you should enable auto spelling correction with the "textAutoCorrect" value.

You can combine different behaviors and input method styles with the android:inputType attribute. For example, here's how to create a text field that capitalizes the first word of a sentence and also auto-corrects misspellings:

<EditText
    android:id="@+id/message"
    android:layout_width="wrap_content"
    android:layout_height="wrap_content"
    android:inputType=
        "textCapSentences|textAutoCorrect"
    ... />

Specify the Input Method Action

Most soft input methods provide a user action button in the bottom corner that's appropriate for the current text field. By default, the system uses this button for either a Next or Done action unless your text field allows multi-line text (such as with android:inputType="textMultiLine"), in which case the action button is a carriage return. However, you can specify additional actions that might be more appropriate for your text field, such as Send or Go.

To specify the keyboard action button, use the android:imeOptions attribute with an action value such as "actionSend" or "actionSearch". For example:

Figure 4. The Send button appears when you declare android:imeOptions="actionSend".

<EditText
    android:id="@+id/search"
    android:layout_width="fill_parent"
    android:layout_height="wrap_content"
    android:hint="@string/search_hint"
    android:inputType="text"
    android:imeOptions="actionSend" />

You can then listen for presses on the action button by defining a TextView.OnEditorActionListener for the EditText element. In your listener, respond to the appropriate IME action ID defined in the EditorInfo class, such as IME_ACTION_SEND. For example:

EditText editText = (EditText) findViewById(R.id.search);
editText.setOnEditorActionListener(new OnEditorActionListener() {
    @Override
    public boolean onEditorAction(TextView v, int actionId, KeyEvent event) {
        boolean handled = false;
        if (actionId == EditorInfo.IME_ACTION_SEND) {
            sendMessage();
            handled = true;
        }
        return handled;
    }
});

Provide Auto-complete Suggestions

If you want to provide suggestions to users as they type, you can use a subclass of EditText called AutoCompleteTextView. To implement auto-complete, you must specify an Adapter that provides the text suggestions. There are several kinds of adapters available, depending on where the data is coming from, such as from a database or an array.

Figure 5. Example of AutoCompleteTextView with text suggestions.

The following procedure describes how to set up an AutoCompleteTextView that provides suggestions from an array, using ArrayAdapter:

  1. Add the AutoCompleteTextView to your layout. Here's a layout with only the text field:
    <?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
    <AutoCompleteTextView xmlns:android="http://schemas.android.com/apk/res/android"
        android:id="@+id/autocomplete_country"
        android:layout_width="fill_parent"
        android:layout_height="wrap_content" />
    
  2. Define the array that contains all text suggestions. For example, here's an array of country names that's defined in an XML resource file (res/values/strings.xml):
    <?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
    <resources>
        <string-array name="countries_array">
            <item>Afghanistan</item>
            <item>Albania</item>
            <item>Algeria</item>
            <item>American Samoa</item>
            <item>Andorra</item>
            <item>Angola</item>
            <item>Anguilla</item>
            <item>Antarctica</item>
            ...
        </string-array>
    </resources>
    
  3. In your Activity or Fragment, use the following code to specify the adapter that supplies the suggestions:
    // Get a reference to the AutoCompleteTextView in the layout
    AutoCompleteTextView textView = (AutoCompleteTextView) findViewById(R.id.autocomplete_country);
    // Get the string array
    String[] countries = getResources().getStringArray(R.array.countries_array);
    // Create the adapter and set it to the AutoCompleteTextView
    ArrayAdapter<String> adapter =
            new ArrayAdapter<String>(this, android.R.layout.simple_list_item_1, countries);
    textView.setAdapter(adapter);
    

    Here, a new ArrayAdapter is initialized to bind each item in the countries_array string array to a TextView that exists in the simple_list_item_1 layout (this is a layout provided by Android that provides a standard appearance for text in a list).

  4. Assign the adapter to the AutoCompleteTextView by calling setAdapter().
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