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Action Bar

Design Guide

Action Bar

The action bar is a window feature that identifies the user location, and provides user actions and navigation modes. Using the action bar offers your users a familiar interface across applications that the system gracefully adapts for different screen configurations.

Figure 1. An action bar that includes the [1] app icon, [2] two action items, and [3] action overflow.

The action bar provides several key functions:

  • Provides a dedicated space for giving your app an identity and indicating the user's location in the app.
  • Makes important actions prominent and accessible in a predictable way (such as Search).
  • Supports consistent navigation and view switching within apps (with tabs or drop-down lists).

For more information about the action bar's interaction patterns and design guidelines, see the Action Bar design guide.

The ActionBar APIs were first added in Android 3.0 (API level 11) but they are also available in the Support Library for compatibility with Android 2.1 (API level 7) and above.

This guide focuses on how to use the support library's action bar, but if your app supports only Android 3.0 or higher, you should use the ActionBar APIs in the framework. Most of the APIs are the same—but reside in a different package namespace—with a few exceptions to method names or signatures that are noted in the sections below.

Caution: Be certain you import the ActionBar class (and related APIs) from the appropriate package:

  • If supporting API levels lower than 11:
  • If supporting only API level 11 and higher:

Note: If you're looking for information about the contextual action bar for displaying contextual action items, see the Menu guide.

Adding the Action Bar

As mentioned above, this guide focuses on how to use the ActionBar APIs in the support library. So before you can add the action bar, you must set up your project with the appcompat v7 support library by following the instructions in the Support Library Setup.

Once your project is set up with the support library, here's how to add the action bar:

  1. Create your activity by extending ActionBarActivity.
  2. Use (or extend) one of the Theme.AppCompat themes for your activity. For example:
    <activity android:theme="@style/Theme.AppCompat.Light" ... >

Now your activity includes the action bar when running on Android 2.1 (API level 7) or higher.

On API level 11 or higher

The action bar is included in all activities that use the Theme.Holo theme (or one of its descendants), which is the default theme when either the targetSdkVersion or minSdkVersion attribute is set to "11" or higher. If you don't want the action bar for an activity, set the activity theme to Theme.Holo.NoActionBar.

Removing the action bar

You can hide the action bar at runtime by calling hide(). For example:

ActionBar actionBar = getSupportActionBar();

On API level 11 or higher

Get the ActionBar with the getActionBar() method.

When the action bar hides, the system adjusts your layout to fill the screen space now available. You can bring the action bar back by calling show().

Beware that hiding and removing the action bar causes your activity to re-layout in order to account for the space consumed by the action bar. If your activity often hides and shows the action bar, you might want to enable overlay mode. Overlay mode draws the action bar in front of your activity layout, obscuring the top portion. This way, your layout remains fixed when the action bar hides and re-appears. To enable overlay mode, create a custom theme for your activity and set windowActionBarOverlay to true. For more information, see the section below about Styling the Action Bar.

By default, the system uses your application icon in the action bar, as specified by the icon attribute in the <application> or <activity> element. However, if you also specify the logo attribute, then the action bar uses the logo image instead of the icon.

A logo should usually be wider than the icon, but should not include unnecessary text. You should generally use a logo only when it represents your brand in a traditional format that users recognize. A good example is the YouTube app's logo—the logo represents the expected user brand, whereas the app's icon is a modified version that conforms to the square requirement for the launcher icon.

Adding Action Items

Figure 2. Action bar with three action buttons and the overflow button.

The action bar provides users access to the most important action items relating to the app's current context. Those that appear directly in the action bar with an icon and/or text are known as action buttons. Actions that can't fit in the action bar or aren't important enough are hidden in the action overflow. The user can reveal a list of the other actions by pressing the overflow button on the right side (or the device Menu button, if available).

When your activity starts, the system populates the action items by calling your activity's onCreateOptionsMenu() method. Use this method to inflate a menu resource that defines all the action items. For example, here's a menu resource defining a couple of menu items:


<menu xmlns:android="" >
    <item android:id="@+id/action_search"
    <item android:id="@+id/action_compose"
          android:title="@string/action_compose" />

Then in your activity's onCreateOptionsMenu() method, inflate the menu resource into the given Menu to add each item to the action bar:

public boolean onCreateOptionsMenu(Menu menu) {
    // Inflate the menu items for use in the action bar
    MenuInflater inflater = getMenuInflater();
    inflater.inflate(, menu);
    return super.onCreateOptionsMenu(menu);

To request that an item appear directly in the action bar as an action button, include showAsAction="ifRoom" in the <item> tag. For example:

<menu xmlns:android=""
      xmlns:yourapp="" >
    <item android:id="@+id/action_search"
          yourapp:showAsAction="ifRoom"  />

If there's not enough room for the item in the action bar, it will appear in the action overflow.

Using XML attributes from the support library

Notice that the showAsAction attribute above uses a custom namespace defined in the <menu> tag. This is necessary when using any XML attributes defined by the support library, because these attributes do not exist in the Android framework on older devices. So you must use your own namespace as a prefix for all attributes defined by the support library.

If your menu item supplies both a title and an icon—with the title and icon attributes—then the action item shows only the icon by default. If you want to display the text title, add "withText" to the showAsAction attribute. For example:

<item yourapp:showAsAction="ifRoom|withText" ... />

Note: The "withText" value is a hint to the action bar that the text title should appear. The action bar will show the title when possible, but might not if an icon is available and the action bar is constrained for space.

You should always define the title for each item even if you don't declare that the title appear with the action item, for the following reasons:

  • If there's not enough room in the action bar for the action item, the menu item appears in the overflow where only the title appears.
  • Screen readers for sight-impaired users read the menu item's title.
  • If the action item appears with only the icon, a user can long-press the item to reveal a tool-tip that displays the action title.

The icon is optional, but recommended. For icon design recommendations, see the Iconography design guide. You can also download a set of standard action bar icons (such as for Search or Discard) from the Downloads page.

You can also use "always" to declare that an item always appear as an action button. However, you should not force an item to appear in the action bar this way. Doing so can create layout problems on devices with a narrow screen. It's best to instead use "ifRoom" to request that an item appear in the action bar, but allow the system to move it into the overflow when there's not enough room. However, it might be necessary to use this value if the item includes an action view that cannot be collapsed and must always be visible to provide access to a critical feature.

Handling clicks on action items

When the user presses an action, the system calls your activity's onOptionsItemSelected() method. Using the MenuItem passed to this method, you can identify the action by calling getItemId(). This returns the unique ID provided by the <item> tag's id attribute so you can perform the appropriate action. For example:

public boolean onOptionsItemSelected(MenuItem item) {
    // Handle presses on the action bar items
    switch (item.getItemId()) {
            return true;
            return true;
            return super.onOptionsItemSelected(item);

Note: If you inflate menu items from a fragment, via the Fragment class's onCreateOptionsMenu() callback, the system calls onOptionsItemSelected() for that fragment when the user selects one of those items. However, the activity gets a chance to handle the event first, so the system first calls onOptionsItemSelected() on the activity, before calling the same callback for the fragment. To ensure that any fragments in the activity also have a chance to handle the callback, always pass the call to the superclass as the default behavior instead of returning false when you do not handle the item.

Figure 3. Mock-ups showing an action bar with tabs (left), then with split action bar (middle); and with the app icon and title disabled (right).

Using split action bar

Split action bar provides a separate bar at the bottom of the screen to display all action items when the activity is running on a narrow screen (such as a portrait-oriented handset).

Separating the action items this way ensures that a reasonable amount of space is available to display all your action items on a narrow screen, while leaving room for navigation and title elements at the top.

To enable split action bar when using the support library, you must do two things:

  1. Add uiOptions="splitActionBarWhenNarrow" to each <activity> element or to the <application> element. This attribute is understood only by API level 14 and higher (it is ignored by older versions).
  2. To support older versions, add a <meta-data> element as a child of each <activity> element that declares the same value for "".

For example:

<manifest ...>
    <activity uiOptions="splitActionBarWhenNarrow" ... >
        <meta-data android:name=""
                   android:value="splitActionBarWhenNarrow" />

Using split action bar also allows navigation tabs to collapse into the main action bar if you remove the icon and title (as shown on the right in figure 3). To create this effect, disable the action bar icon and title with setDisplayShowHomeEnabled(false) and setDisplayShowTitleEnabled(false).

Navigating Up with the App Icon

Design Guide

Navigation with Back and Up

Figure 4. The Up button in Gmail.

Enabling the app icon as an Up button allows the user to navigate your app based on the hierarchical relationships between screens. For instance, if screen A displays a list of items, and selecting an item leads to screen B, then screen B should include the Up button, which returns to screen A.

Note: Up navigation is distinct from the back navigation provided by the system Back button. The Back button is used to navigate in reverse chronological order through the history of screens the user has recently worked with. It is generally based on the temporal relationships between screens, rather than the app's hierarchy structure (which is the basis for up navigation).

To enable the app icon as an Up button, call setDisplayHomeAsUpEnabled(). For example:

protected void onCreate(Bundle savedInstanceState) {

    ActionBar actionBar = getSupportActionBar();

Now the icon in the action bar appears with the Up caret (as shown in figure 4). However, it won't do anything by default. To specify the activity to open when the user presses Up button, you have two options:

  • Specify the parent activity in the manifest file.

    This is the best option when the parent activity is always the same. By declaring in the manifest which activity is the parent, the action bar automatically performs the correct action when the user presses the Up button.

    Beginning in Android 4.1 (API level 16), you can declare the parent with the parentActivityName attribute in the <activity> element.

    To support older devices with the support library, also include a <meta-data> element that specifies the parent activity as the value for For example:

    <application ... >
        <!-- The main/home activity (has no parent activity) -->
            android:name="com.example.myfirstapp.MainActivity" ...>
        <!-- A child of the main activity -->
            android:parentActivityName="com.example.myfirstapp.MainActivity" >
            <!-- Parent activity meta-data to support API level 7+ -->
                android:value="com.example.myfirstapp.MainActivity" />

    Once the parent activity is specified in the manifest like this and you enable the Up button with setDisplayHomeAsUpEnabled(), your work is done and the action bar properly navigates up.

  • Or, override getSupportParentActivityIntent() and onCreateSupportNavigateUpTaskStack() in your activity.
  • This is appropriate when the parent activity may be different depending on how the user arrived at the current screen. That is, if there are many paths that the user could have taken to reach the current screen, the Up button should navigate backward along the path the user actually followed to get there.

    The system calls getSupportParentActivityIntent() when the user presses the Up button while navigating your app (within your app's own task). If the activity that should open upon up navigation differs depending on how the user arrived at the current location, then you should override this method to return the Intent that starts the appropriate parent activity.

    The system calls onCreateSupportNavigateUpTaskStack() for your activity when the user presses the Up button while your activity is running in a task that does not belong to your app. Thus, you must use the TaskStackBuilder passed to this method to construct the appropriate back stack that should be synthesized when the user navigates up.

    Even if you override getSupportParentActivityIntent() to specify up navigation as the user navigates your app, you can avoid the need to implement onCreateSupportNavigateUpTaskStack() by declaring "default" parent activities in the manifest file as shown above. Then the default implementation of onCreateSupportNavigateUpTaskStack() will synthesize a back stack based on the parent activities declared in the manifest.

Note: If you've built your app hierarchy using a series of fragments instead of multiple activities, then neither of the above options will work. Instead, to navigate up through your fragments, override onSupportNavigateUp() to perform the appropriate fragment transaction—usually by popping the current fragment from the back stack by calling popBackStack().

For more information about implementing Up navigation, read Providing Up Navigation.

Adding an Action View

Figure 5. An action bar with a collapsible SearchView.

An action view is a widget that appears in the action bar as a substitute for an action button. An action view provides fast access to rich actions without changing activities or fragments, and without replacing the action bar. For example, if you have an action for Search, you can add an action view to embeds a SearchView widget in the action bar, as shown in figure 5.

To declare an action view, use either the actionLayout or actionViewClass attribute to specify either a layout resource or widget class to use, respectively. For example, here's how to add the SearchView widget:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<menu xmlns:android=""
      xmlns:yourapp="" >
    <item android:id="@+id/action_search"
          yourapp:actionViewClass="" />

Notice that the showAsAction attribute also includes the "collapseActionView" value. This is optional and declares that the action view should be collapsed into a button. (This behavior is explained further in the following section about Handling collapsible action views.)

If you need to configure the action view (such as to add event listeners), you can do so during the onCreateOptionsMenu() callback. You can acquire the action view object by calling the static method MenuItemCompat.getActionView() and passing it the corresponding MenuItem. For example, the search widget from the above sample is acquired like this:

public boolean onCreateOptionsMenu(Menu menu) {
    getMenuInflater().inflate(, menu);
    MenuItem searchItem = menu.findItem(;
    SearchView searchView = (SearchView) MenuItemCompat.getActionView(searchItem);
    // Configure the search info and add any event listeners
    return super.onCreateOptionsMenu(menu);

On API level 11 or higher

Get the action view by calling getActionView() on the corresponding MenuItem:


For more information about using the search widget, see Creating a Search Interface.

Handling collapsible action views

To preserve the action bar space, you can collapse your action view into an action button. When collapsed, the system might place the action into the action overflow, but the action view still appears in the action bar when the user selects it. You can make your action view collapsible by adding "collapseActionView" to the showAsAction attribute, as shown in the XML above.

Because the system expands the action view when the user selects the action, you do not need to respond to the item in the onOptionsItemSelected() callback. The system still calls onOptionsItemSelected(), but if you return true (indicating you've handled the event instead), then the action view will not expand.

The system also collapses your action view when the user presses the Up button or Back button.

If you need to update your activity based on the visibility of your action view, you can receive callbacks when the action is expanded and collapsed by defining an OnActionExpandListener and passing it to setOnActionExpandListener(). For example:

public boolean onCreateOptionsMenu(Menu menu) {
    getMenuInflater().inflate(, menu);
    MenuItem menuItem = menu.findItem(;

    // When using the support library, the setOnActionExpandListener() method is
    // static and accepts the MenuItem object as an argument
    MenuItemCompat.setOnActionExpandListener(menuItem, new OnActionExpandListener() {
        public boolean onMenuItemActionCollapse(MenuItem item) {
            // Do something when collapsed
            return true;  // Return true to collapse action view

        public boolean onMenuItemActionExpand(MenuItem item) {
            // Do something when expanded
            return true;  // Return true to expand action view

Adding an Action Provider

Figure 6. An action bar with ShareActionProvider expanded to show share targets.

Similar to an action view, an action provider replaces an action button with a customized layout. However, unlike an action view, an action provider takes control of all the action's behaviors and an action provider can display a submenu when pressed.

To declare an action provider, supply the actionViewClass attribute in the menu <item> tag with a fully-qualified class name for an ActionProvider.

You can build your own action provider by extending the ActionProvider class, but Android provides some pre-built action providers such as ShareActionProvider, which facilitates a "share" action by showing a list of possible apps for sharing directly in the action bar (as shown in figure 6).

Because each ActionProvider class defines its own action behaviors, you don't need to listen for the action in the onOptionsItemSelected() method. If necessary though, you can still listen for the click event in the onOptionsItemSelected() method in case you need to simultaneously perform another action. But be sure to return false so that the the action provider still receives the onPerformDefaultAction() callback to perform its intended action.

However, if the action provider provides a submenu of actions, then your activity does not receive a call to onOptionsItemSelected() when the user opens the list or selects one of the submenu items.

Using the ShareActionProvider

To add a "share" action with ShareActionProvider, define the actionProviderClass for an <item> tag with the ShareActionProvider class. For example:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<menu xmlns:android=""
      xmlns:yourapp="" >
    <item android:id="@+id/action_share"

Now the action provider takes control of the action item and handles both its appearance and behavior. But you must still provide a title for the item to be used when it appears in the action overflow.

The only thing left to do is define the Intent you want to use for sharing. To do so, edit your onCreateOptionsMenu() method to call MenuItemCompat.getActionProvider() and pass it the MenuItem holding the action provider. Then call setShareIntent() on the returned ShareActionProvider and pass it an ACTION_SEND intent with the appropriate content attached.

You should call setShareIntent() once during onCreateOptionsMenu() to initialize the share action, but because the user context might change, you must update the intent any time the shareable content changes by again calling setShareIntent().

For example:

private ShareActionProvider mShareActionProvider;

public boolean onCreateOptionsMenu(Menu menu) {
    getMenuInflater().inflate(, menu);

    // Set up ShareActionProvider's default share intent
    MenuItem shareItem = menu.findItem(;
    mShareActionProvider = (ShareActionProvider)

    return super.onCreateOptionsMenu(menu);

/** Defines a default (dummy) share intent to initialize the action provider.
  * However, as soon as the actual content to be used in the intent
  * is known or changes, you must update the share intent by again calling
  * mShareActionProvider.setShareIntent()
private Intent getDefaultIntent() {
    Intent intent = new Intent(Intent.ACTION_SEND);
    return intent;

The ShareActionProvider now handles all user interaction with the item and you do not need to handle click events from the onOptionsItemSelected() callback method.

By default, the ShareActionProvider retains a ranking for each share target based on how often the user selects each one. The share targets used more frequently appear at the top of the drop-down list and the target used most often appears directly in the action bar as the default share target. By default, the ranking information is saved in a private file with a name specified by DEFAULT_SHARE_HISTORY_FILE_NAME. If you use the ShareActionProvider or an extension of it for only one type of action, then you should continue to use this default history file and there's nothing you need to do. However, if you use ShareActionProvider or an extension of it for multiple actions with semantically different meanings, then each ShareActionProvider should specify its own history file in order to maintain its own history. To specify a different history file for the ShareActionProvider, call setShareHistoryFileName() and provide an XML file name (for example, "custom_share_history.xml").

Note: Although the ShareActionProvider ranks share targets based on frequency of use, the behavior is extensible and extensions of ShareActionProvider can perform different behaviors and ranking based on the history file (if appropriate).

Creating a custom action provider

Creating your own action provider allows you to re-use and manage dynamic action item behaviors in a self-contained module, rather than handle action item transformations and behaviors in your fragment or activity code. As shown in the previous section, Android already provides an implementation of ActionProvider for share actions: the ShareActionProvider.

To create your own action provider for a different action, simply extend the ActionProvider class and implement its callback methods as appropriate. Most importantly, you should implement the following:

This constructor passes you the application Context, which you should save in a member field to use in the other callback methods.
This is where you define the action view for the item. Use the Context acquired from the constructor to instantiate a LayoutInflater and inflate your action view layout from an XML resource, then hook up event listeners. For example:
public View onCreateActionView(MenuItem forItem) {
    // Inflate the action view to be shown on the action bar.
    LayoutInflater layoutInflater = LayoutInflater.from(mContext);
    View view = layoutInflater.inflate(R.layout.action_provider, null);
    ImageButton button = (ImageButton) view.findViewById(;
    button.setOnClickListener(new View.OnClickListener() {
        public void onClick(View v) {
            // Do something...
    return view;
The system calls this when the menu item is selected from the action overflow and the action provider should perform a default action for the menu item.

However, if your action provider provides a submenu, through the onPrepareSubMenu() callback, then the submenu appears even when the action provider is placed in the action overflow. Thus, onPerformDefaultAction() is never called when there is a submenu.

Note: An activity or a fragment that implements onOptionsItemSelected() can override the action provider's default behavior (unless it uses a submenu) by handling the item-selected event (and returning true), in which case, the system does not call onPerformDefaultAction().

For an example extension of ActionProvider, see ActionBarSettingsActionProviderActivity.

Adding Navigation Tabs

Figure 7. Action bar tabs on a wide screen.

Design Guide


Also read

Creating Swipe Views with Tabs

Figure 8. Tabs on a narrow screen.

Tabs in the action bar make it easy for users to explore and switch between different views in your app. The tabs provided by the ActionBar are ideal because they adapt to different screen sizes. For example, when the screen is wide enough the tabs appear in the action bar alongside the action buttons (such as when on a tablet, shown in figure 7), while when on a narrow screen they appear in a separate bar (known as the "stacked action bar", shown in figure 8). In some cases, the Android system will instead show your tab items as a drop-down list to ensure the best fit in the action bar.

To get started, your layout must include a ViewGroup in which you place each Fragment associated with a tab. Be sure the ViewGroup has a resource ID so you can reference it from your code and swap the tabs within it. Alternatively, if the tab content will fill the activity layout, then your activity doesn't need a layout at all (you don't even need to call setContentView()). Instead, you can place each fragment in the default root view, which you can refer to with the ID.

Once you determine where the fragments appear in the layout, the basic procedure to add tabs is:

  1. Implement the ActionBar.TabListener interface. This interface provides callbacks for tab events, such as when the user presses one so you can swap the tabs.
  2. For each tab you want to add, instantiate an ActionBar.Tab and set the ActionBar.TabListener by calling setTabListener(). Also set the tab's title and with setText() (and optionally, an icon with setIcon()).
  3. Then add each tab to the action bar by calling addTab().

Notice that the ActionBar.TabListener callback methods don't specify which fragment is associated with the tab, but merely which ActionBar.Tab was selected. You must define your own association between each ActionBar.Tab and the appropriate Fragment that it represents. There are several ways you can define the association, depending on your design.

For example, here's how you might implement the ActionBar.TabListener such that each tab uses its own instance of the listener:

public static class TabListener<T extends Fragment> implements ActionBar.TabListener {
    private Fragment mFragment;
    private final Activity mActivity;
    private final String mTag;
    private final Class<T> mClass;

    /** Constructor used each time a new tab is created.
      * @param activity  The host Activity, used to instantiate the fragment
      * @param tag  The identifier tag for the fragment
      * @param clz  The fragment's Class, used to instantiate the fragment
    public TabListener(Activity activity, String tag, Class<T> clz) {
        mActivity = activity;
        mTag = tag;
        mClass = clz;

    /* The following are each of the ActionBar.TabListener callbacks */

    public void onTabSelected(Tab tab, FragmentTransaction ft) {
        // Check if the fragment is already initialized
        if (mFragment == null) {
            // If not, instantiate and add it to the activity
            mFragment = Fragment.instantiate(mActivity, mClass.getName());
            ft.add(, mFragment, mTag);
        } else {
            // If it exists, simply attach it in order to show it

    public void onTabUnselected(Tab tab, FragmentTransaction ft) {
        if (mFragment != null) {
            // Detach the fragment, because another one is being attached

    public void onTabReselected(Tab tab, FragmentTransaction ft) {
        // User selected the already selected tab. Usually do nothing.

Caution: You must not call commit() for the fragment transaction in each of these callbacks—the system calls it for you and it may throw an exception if you call it yourself. You also cannot add these fragment transactions to the back stack.

In this example, the listener simply attaches (attach()) a fragment to the activity layout—or if not instantiated, creates the fragment and adds (add()) it to the layout (as a child of the view group)—when the respective tab is selected, and detaches (detach()) it when the tab is unselected.

All that remains is to create each ActionBar.Tab and add it to the ActionBar. Additionally, you must call setNavigationMode(NAVIGATION_MODE_TABS) to make the tabs visible.

For example, the following code adds two tabs using the listener defined above:

protected void onCreate(Bundle savedInstanceState) {
    // Notice that setContentView() is not used, because we use the root
    // as the container for each fragment

    // setup action bar for tabs
    ActionBar actionBar = getSupportActionBar();

    Tab tab = actionBar.newTab()
                       .setTabListener(new TabListener<ArtistFragment>(
                               this, "artist", ArtistFragment.class));

    tab = actionBar.newTab()
                   .setTabListener(new TabListener<AlbumFragment>(
                           this, "album", AlbumFragment.class));

If your activity stops, you should retain the currently selected tab with the saved instance state so you can open the appropriate tab when the user returns. When it's time to save the state, you can query the currently selected tab with getSelectedNavigationIndex(). This returns the index position of the selected tab.

Caution: It's important that you save the state of each fragment so when users switch fragments with the tabs and then return to a previous fragment, it looks the way it did when they left. Some of the state is saved by default, but you may need to manually save state for customized views. For information about saving the state of your fragment, see the Fragments API guide.

Note: The above implementation for ActionBar.TabListener is one of several possible techniques. Another popular option is to use ViewPager to manage the fragments so users can also use a swipe gesture to switch tabs. In this case, you simply tell the ViewPager the current tab position in the onTabSelected() callback. For more information, read Creating Swipe Views with Tabs.

Figure 9. A drop-down navigation list in the action bar.

As another mode of navigation (or filtering) for your activity, the action bar offers a built in drop-down list (also known as a "spinner"). For example, the drop-down list can offer different modes by which content in the activity is sorted.

Using the drop-down list is useful when changing the content is important but not necessarily a frequent occurrence. In cases where switching the content is more frequent, you should use navigation tabs instead.

The basic procedure to enable drop-down navigation is:

  1. Create a SpinnerAdapter that provides the list of selectable items for the drop-down and the layout to use when drawing each item in the list.
  2. Implement ActionBar.OnNavigationListener to define the behavior that occurs when the user selects an item from the list.
  3. During your activity's onCreate() method, enable the action bar's drop-down list by calling setNavigationMode(NAVIGATION_MODE_LIST).
  4. Set the callback for the drop-down list with setListNavigationCallbacks(). For example:
    actionBar.setListNavigationCallbacks(mSpinnerAdapter, mNavigationCallback);

    This method takes your SpinnerAdapter and ActionBar.OnNavigationListener.

This procedure is relatively short, but implementing the SpinnerAdapter and ActionBar.OnNavigationListener is where most of the work is done. There are many ways you can implement these to define the functionality for your drop-down navigation and implementing various types of SpinnerAdapter is beyond the scope of this document (you should refer to the SpinnerAdapter class reference for more information). However, below is an example for a SpinnerAdapter and ActionBar.OnNavigationListener to get you started (click the title to reveal the sample).

Example SpinnerAdapter and OnNavigationListener

SpinnerAdapter is an adapter that provides data for a spinner widget, such as the drop-down list in the action bar. SpinnerAdapter is an interface that you can implement, but Android includes some useful implementations that you can extend, such as ArrayAdapter and SimpleCursorAdapter. For example, here's an easy way to create a SpinnerAdapter by using ArrayAdapter implementation, which uses a string array as the data source:

SpinnerAdapter mSpinnerAdapter = ArrayAdapter.createFromResource(this, R.array.action_list,

The createFromResource() method takes three parameters: the application Context, the resource ID for the string array, and the layout to use for each list item.

A string array defined in a resource looks like this:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
    <string-array name="action_list">

The ArrayAdapter returned by createFromResource() is complete and ready for you to pass it to setListNavigationCallbacks() (in step 4 from above). Before you do, though, you need to create the OnNavigationListener.

Your implementation of ActionBar.OnNavigationListener is where you handle fragment changes or other modifications to your activity when the user selects an item from the drop-down list. There's only one callback method to implement in the listener: onNavigationItemSelected().

The onNavigationItemSelected() method receives the position of the item in the list and a unique item ID provided by the SpinnerAdapter.

Here's an example that instantiates an anonymous implementation of OnNavigationListener, which inserts a Fragment into the layout container identified by

mOnNavigationListener = new OnNavigationListener() {
  // Get the same strings provided for the drop-down's ArrayAdapter
  String[] strings = getResources().getStringArray(R.array.action_list);

  public boolean onNavigationItemSelected(int position, long itemId) {
    // Create new fragment from our own Fragment class
    ListContentFragment newFragment = new ListContentFragment();
    FragmentTransaction ft = openFragmentTransaction();
    // Replace whatever is in the fragment container with this fragment
    //  and give the fragment a tag name equal to the string at the position selected
    ft.replace(, newFragment, strings[position]);
    // Apply changes
    return true;

This instance of OnNavigationListener is complete and you can now call setListNavigationCallbacks() (in step 4), passing the ArrayAdapter and this OnNavigationListener.

In this example, when the user selects an item from the drop-down list, a fragment is added to the layout (replacing the current fragment in the view). The fragment added is given a tag that uniquely identifies it, which is the same string used to identify the fragment in the drop-down list.

Here's a look at the ListContentFragment class that defines each fragment in this example:

public class ListContentFragment extends Fragment {
    private String mText;

    public void onAttach(Activity activity) {
      // This is the first callback received; here we can set the text for
      // the fragment as defined by the tag specified during the fragment transaction
      mText = getTag();

    public View onCreateView(LayoutInflater inflater, ViewGroup container,
            Bundle savedInstanceState) {
        // This is called to define the layout for the fragment;
        // we just create a TextView and set its text to be the fragment tag
        TextView text = new TextView(getActivity());
        return text;

Styling the Action Bar

If you want to implement a visual design that represents your app's brand, the action bar allows you to customize each detail of its appearance, including the action bar color, text colors, button styles, and more. To do so, you need to use Android's style and theme framework to restyle the action bar using special style properties.

Caution: For all background drawables you provide, be sure to use Nine-Patch drawables to allow stretching. The nine-patch image should be smaller than 40dp tall and 30dp wide.

General appearance

Specifies a style resource that defines various style properties for the action bar.

The default for this style for this is Widget.AppCompat.ActionBar, which is what you should use as the parent style.

Supported styles include:

Defines a drawable resource for the action bar background.
Defines a drawable resource for the stacked action bar (the tabs).
Defines a drawable resource for the split action bar.
Defines a style resource for action buttons.

The default for this style for this is Widget.AppCompat.ActionButton, which is what you should use as the parent style.

Defines a style resource for overflow action items.

The default for this style for this is Widget.AppCompat.ActionButton.Overflow, which is what you should use as the parent style.

Defines one or more action bar display options, such as whether to use the app logo, show the activity title, or enable the Up action. See displayOptions for all possible values.
Defines a drawable resource for the divider between action items.
Defines a style resource for the action bar title.

The default for this style for this is TextAppearance.AppCompat.Widget.ActionBar.Title, which is what you should use as the parent style.

Declares whether the action bar should overlay the activity layout rather than offset the activity's layout position (for example, the Gallery app uses overlay mode). This is false by default.

Normally, the action bar requires its own space on the screen and your activity layout fills in what's left over. When the action bar is in overlay mode, your activity layout uses all the available space and the system draws the action bar on top. Overlay mode can be useful if you want your content to keep a fixed size and position when the action bar is hidden and shown. You might also like to use it purely as a visual effect, because you can use a semi-transparent background for the action bar so the user can still see some of your activity layout behind the action bar.

Note: The Holo theme families draw the action bar with a semi-transparent background by default. However, you can modify it with your own styles and the DeviceDefault theme on different devices might use an opaque background by default.

When overlay mode is enabled, your activity layout has no awareness of the action bar lying on top of it. So, you must be careful not to place any important information or UI components in the area overlaid by the action bar. If appropriate, you can refer to the platform's value for actionBarSize to determine the height of the action bar, by referencing it in your XML layout. For example:

    android:layout_marginTop="?android:attr/actionBarSize" />

You can also retrieve the action bar height at runtime with getHeight(). This reflects the height of the action bar at the time it's called, which might not include the stacked action bar (due to navigation tabs) if called during early activity lifecycle methods. To see how you can determine the total height at runtime, including the stacked action bar, see the TitlesFragment class in the Honeycomb Gallery sample app.

Action items

Defines a style resource for the action item buttons.

The default for this style for this is Widget.AppCompat.ActionButton, which is what you should use as the parent style.

Defines a drawable resource for each action item's background. This should be a state-list drawable to indicate different selected states.
Defines a drawable resource for each action overflow item's background. This should be a state-list drawable to indicate different selected states.
Defines a drawable resource for the divider between action items.
Defines a color for text that appears in an action item.
Defines a style resource for text that appears in an action item.
Defines a theme resource for widgets that are inflated into the action bar as action views.
Defines a style resource for tabs in the action bar.

The default for this style for this is Widget.AppCompat.ActionBar.TabView, which is what you should use as the parent style.

Defines a style resource for the thin bar that appears below the navigation tabs.

The default for this style for this is Widget.AppCompat.ActionBar.TabBar, which is what you should use as the parent style.

Defines a style resource for text in the navigation tabs.

The default for this style for this is Widget.AppCompat.ActionBar.TabText, which is what you should use as the parent style.

Defines a style for the drop-down navigation (such as the background and text styles).

The default for this style for this is Widget.AppCompat.Spinner.DropDown.ActionBar, which is what you should use as the parent style.

Example theme

Here's an example that defines a custom theme for an activity, CustomActivityTheme, that includes several styles to customize the action bar.

Notice that there are two version for each action bar style property. The first one includes the android: prefix on the property name to support API levels 11 and higher that include these properties in the framework. The second version does not include the android: prefix and is for older versions of the platform, on which the system uses the style property from the support library. The effect for each is the same.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
    <!-- the theme applied to the application or activity -->
    <style name="CustomActionBarTheme"
        <item name="android:actionBarStyle">@style/MyActionBar</item>
        <item name="android:actionBarTabTextStyle">@style/TabTextStyle</item>
        <item name="android:actionMenuTextColor">@color/actionbar_text</item>

        <!-- Support library compatibility -->
        <item name="actionBarStyle">@style/MyActionBar</item>
        <item name="actionBarTabTextStyle">@style/TabTextStyle</item>
        <item name="actionMenuTextColor">@color/actionbar_text</item>

    <!-- general styles for the action bar -->
    <style name="MyActionBar"
        <item name="android:titleTextStyle">@style/TitleTextStyle</item>
        <item name="android:background">@drawable/actionbar_background</item>
        <item name="android:backgroundStacked">@drawable/actionbar_background</item>
        <item name="android:backgroundSplit">@drawable/actionbar_background</item>

        <!-- Support library compatibility -->
        <item name="titleTextStyle">@style/TitleTextStyle</item>
        <item name="background">@drawable/actionbar_background</item>
        <item name="backgroundStacked">@drawable/actionbar_background</item>
        <item name="backgroundSplit">@drawable/actionbar_background</item>

    <!-- action bar title text -->
    <style name="TitleTextStyle"
        <item name="android:textColor">@color/actionbar_text</item>

    <!-- action bar tab text -->
    <style name="TabTextStyle"
        <item name="android:textColor">@color/actionbar_text</item>

In your manifest file, you can apply the theme to your entire app:

<application android:theme="@style/CustomActionBarTheme" ... />

Or to individual activities:

<activity android:theme="@style/CustomActionBarTheme" ... />

Caution: Be certain that each theme and style declares a parent theme in the <style> tag, from which it inherits all styles not explicitly declared by your theme. When modifying the action bar, using a parent theme is important so that you can simply override the action bar styles you want to change without re-implementing the styles you want to leave alone (such as text size or padding in action items).

For more information about using style and theme resources in your application, read Styles and Themes.