Android – Managing Global Configuration

The Problem

Accessing preferences / configuration / settings from Android is actually pretty straightforward as long as you are in an Activity. To read:

// PREFS_FILENAME = "nameOfPrefsFile";
 
SharedPreferences pref = getSharedPreferences(PREFS_FILENAME,
                              Context.MODE_PRIVATE);
 
String string = pref.getString("key", "default");
// 1 is the default if key isn't set
int intValue = pref.getInt("intKey", 1); 
 
// and so on

SharedPreferences is the key class. To write, you also need the SharedPreferences.Editor class, as follows:

// PREFS_FILENAME = "nameOfPrefsFile";
SharedPreferences pref = getSharedPreferences(PREFS_FILENAME,
                              Context.MODE_PRIVATE);
Editor editor = pref.edit();
editor.putString("key", "value");
editor.putInt("intKey", 5);  
 
// Until you call commit, the changes will not
// be written, so don't forget this step
editor.commit();

In general however, you will need access to settings in more than one activity and it seems a bit wasteful to get these bits littered through the application. Since I am lazy and like to write things just once, I  separated all the prefs stuff into one class called Settings.

It has a constructor which takes a Context (We need this to access the SharedPreferences Object). It also has setters and getters for each property being saved. This example, just saves/retrieves a username and password.

import uk.co.kraya.HelloWS;
import android.content.Context;
import android.content.SharedPreferences;
import android.content.SharedPreferences.Editor;
 
/**
 * @author Shriram Shri Shrikumar
 *
 * This class stores and manages all the preferences
 * for the application.
 *
 */
public class Settings {
 
	private static final String USERNAME_KEY = "username";
	private static final String PASSWORD_KEY = "password";
 
	private static final String USERNAME_DEFAULT = "username";
	private static final String PASSWORD_DEFAULT = "password";
 
	private final SharedPreferences settings;
 
	/**
	 * @param act The context from which to pick SharedPreferences
	 */
	public Settings (Context act) {
		 settings = act.getSharedPreferences(HelloWS.PREFS_NAME, Context.MODE_PRIVATE);
	}
 
	/**
	 * Set the username in the preferences.
	 *
	 * @param username the username to save into prefs
	 */
	public void setUsername(String username) {
		Editor editor = settings.edit();
		editor.putString(USERNAME_KEY, username);
		editor.commit();
	}
 
	/**
	 * @return the username from the prefs
	 */
	public String getUsername() {
		return settings.getString(USERNAME_KEY, USERNAME_DEFAULT);
	}
 
	/**
	 *
	 * Set the password in the preferences.
	 *
	 * @param password password to save into prefs
	 */
	public void setPassword(String password) {
		Editor editor = settings.edit();
		editor.putString(PASSWORD_KEY, password);
		editor.commit();
	}
 
	/**
	 * @return the password stored in prefs
	 */
	public String getPassword() {
		return settings.getString(PASSWORD_KEY, PASSWORD_DEFAULT);
	}
 
        // Check if there are any stored settings.
        // can be used to automatically load the settings page
        // where necessary
	public boolean hasSettings() {
		// We just check if a username has been set
		return (!settings.getString(USERNAME_KEY, "").equals(""));
	}
 
}

Nothing particularly exciting. Now, how do we access this. The Android framework has a neat little feature that is not very well documented and it involved the use of the Application class. If you inherit from this class, and point to it in the manifest file, it will get initialised first before any other objects. This is an ideal place for bits that need global access. You could use Singletons or static fields but this works with the framework.

There are two parts to making this work

The application class:

public class MyApp extends Application {
 
	private Settings settings;
 
	@Override
	public void onCreate() {
		settings = new Settings(this);
 
	}
 
	public Settings getSettings() {
		return settings;
	}
 
}

The onCreate method on MyApp will be called before onCreate on any of the Activities. The Settings class described above, needs a Context to be passed in. Lucky for us 😉 Application is also a Context.

You also need to wire it into the AndroidManifest.xml. You need to add the android:name element into the application tag.

Now that is all wired in, accessing the settings object from any activity is simple:

MyApp app = (MyApp) getApplicationContext();
 
Settings settings = app.getSettings();

Easy – right? While you won’t be able to access the application subclass outside of a context, the Setting class, with its local context variable can be passed around with impunity 😀

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