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Creating a Stub Authenticator

The sync adapter framework assumes that your sync adapter transfers data between device storage associated with an account and server storage that requires login access. For this reason, the framework expects you to provide a component called an authenticator as part of your sync adapter. This component plugs into the Android accounts and authentication framework and provides a standard interface for handling user credentials such as login information.

Even if your app doesn't use accounts, you still need to provide an authenticator component. If you don't use accounts or server login, the information handled by the authenticator is ignored, so you can provide an authenticator component that contains stub method implementations. You also need to provide a bound Service that allows the sync adapter framework to call the authenticator's methods.

This lesson shows you how to define all the parts of a stub authenticator that you need to satisfy the requirements of the sync adapter framework. If you need to provide a real authenticator that handles user accounts, read the reference documentation for AbstractAccountAuthenticator.

Add a Stub Authenticator Component

To add a stub authenticator component to your app, create a class that extends AbstractAccountAuthenticator, and then stub out the required methods, either by returning null or by throwing an exception.

The following snippet shows an example of a stub authenticator class:

/*
 * Implement AbstractAccountAuthenticator and stub out all
 * of its methods
 */
public class Authenticator extends AbstractAccountAuthenticator {
    // Simple constructor
    public Authenticator(Context context) {
        super(context);
    }
    // Editing properties is not supported
    @Override
    public Bundle editProperties(
            AccountAuthenticatorResponse r, String s) {
        throw new UnsupportedOperationException();
    }
    // Don't add additional accounts
    @Override
    public Bundle addAccount(
            AccountAuthenticatorResponse r,
            String s,
            String s2,
            String[] strings,
            Bundle bundle) throws NetworkErrorException {
        return null;
    }
    // Ignore attempts to confirm credentials
    @Override
    public Bundle confirmCredentials(
            AccountAuthenticatorResponse r,
            Account account,
            Bundle bundle) throws NetworkErrorException {
        return null;
    }
    // Getting an authentication token is not supported
    @Override
    public Bundle getAuthToken(
            AccountAuthenticatorResponse r,
            Account account,
            String s,
            Bundle bundle) throws NetworkErrorException {
        throw new UnsupportedOperationException();
    }
    // Getting a label for the auth token is not supported
    @Override
    public String getAuthTokenLabel(String s) {
        throw new UnsupportedOperationException();
    }
    // Updating user credentials is not supported
    @Override
    public Bundle updateCredentials(
            AccountAuthenticatorResponse r,
            Account account,
            String s, Bundle bundle) throws NetworkErrorException {
        throw new UnsupportedOperationException();
    }
    // Checking features for the account is not supported
    @Override
    public Bundle hasFeatures(
        AccountAuthenticatorResponse r,
        Account account, String[] strings) throws NetworkErrorException {
        throw new UnsupportedOperationException();
    }
}

Bind the Authenticator to the Framework

In order for the sync adapter framework to access your authenticator, you must create a bound Service for it. This service provides an Android binder object that allows the framework to call your authenticator and pass data between the authenticator and the framework.

Since the framework starts this Service the first time it needs to access the authenticator, you can also use the service to instantiate the authenticator, by calling the authenticator constructor in the Service.onCreate() method of the service.

The following snippet shows you how to define the bound Service:

/**
 * A bound Service that instantiates the authenticator
 * when started.
 */
public class AuthenticatorService extends Service {
    ...
    // Instance field that stores the authenticator object
    private Authenticator mAuthenticator;
    @Override
    public void onCreate() {
        // Create a new authenticator object
        mAuthenticator = new Authenticator(this);
    }
    /*
     * When the system binds to this Service to make the RPC call
     * return the authenticator's IBinder.
     */
    @Override
    public IBinder onBind(Intent intent) {
        return mAuthenticator.getIBinder();
    }
}

Add the Authenticator Metadata File

To plug your authenticator component into the sync adapter and account frameworks, you need to provide these framework with metadata that describes the component. This metadata declares the account type you've created for your sync adapter and declares user interface elements that the system displays if you want to make your account type visible to the user. Declare this metadata in a XML file stored in the /res/xml/ directory in your app project. You can give any name to the file, although it's usually called authenticator.xml.

This XML file contains a single element <account-authenticator> that has the following attributes:

android:accountType
The sync adapter framework requires each sync adapter to have an account type, in the form of a domain name. The framework uses the account type as part of the sync adapter's internal identification. For servers that require login, the account type along with a user account is sent to the server as part of the login credentials.

If your server doesn't require login, you still have to provide an account type. For the value, use a domain name that you control. While the framework uses it to manage your sync adapter, the value is not sent to your server.

android:icon
Pointer to a Drawable resource containing an icon. If you make the sync adapter visible by specifying the attribute android:userVisible="true" in res/xml/syncadapter.xml, then you must provide this icon resource. It appears in the Accounts section of the system's Settings app.
android:smallIcon
Pointer to a Drawable resource containing a small version of the icon. This resource may be used instead of android:icon in the Accounts section of the system's Settings app, depending on the screen size.
android:label
Localizable string that identifies the account type to users. If you make the sync adapter visible by specifying the attribute android:userVisible="true" in res/xml/syncadapter.xml, then you should provide this string. It appears in the Accounts section of the system's Settings app, next to the icon you define for the authenticator.

The following snippet shows the XML file for the authenticator you created previously:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<account-authenticator
        xmlns:android="http://schemas.android.com/apk/res/android"
        android:accountType="example.com"
        android:icon="@drawable/ic_launcher"
        android:smallIcon="@drawable/ic_launcher"
        android:label="@string/app_name"/>

Declare the Authenticator in the Manifest

In a previous step, you created a bound Service that links the authenticator to the sync adapter framework. To identify this service to the system, declare it in your app manifest by adding the following <service> element as a child element of <application>:

    <service
            android:name="com.example.android.syncadapter.AuthenticatorService">
        <intent-filter>
            <action android:name="android.accounts.AccountAuthenticator"/>
        </intent-filter>
        <meta-data
            android:name="android.accounts.AccountAuthenticator"
            android:resource="@xml/authenticator" />
    </service>

The <intent-filter> element sets up a filter that's triggered by the intent action android.accounts.AccountAuthenticator, which sent by the system to run the authenticator. When the filter is triggered, the system starts AuthenticatorService, the bound Service you have provided to wrap the authenticator.

The <meta-data> element declares the metadata for the authenticator. The android:name attribute links the meta-data to the authentication framework. The android:resource element specifies the name of the authenticator metadata file you created previously.

Besides an authenticator, a sync adapter also requires a content provider. If your app doesn't use a content provider already, go to the next lesson to learn how to create a stub content provider; otherwise, go to the lesson Creating a Sync Adapter.

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