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The Human Element Blog

Android App Development with Webview (Part 2/3)

Posted Feb 18, 2015 by

Android App Development - Human Element

Silly faces and top hats make for good app development.

This is part 2 of a series on Mobile app development using Webview. Want to read more? Here ya go:

Android App Development: Introduction

In the first part of this article, we discussed the design for a pretty standard app. In this article, we will discuss how you can implement an easy Android App using Webview for Development. Hopefully, this article will help you with your own mobile app.

  • What this article covers: Basic functionality that most all WebView apps may implement around the WebView. This is the boilerplate code written in a device’s native language.
  • Not covered: Anything related to your content, design, or concept. Anything that appears inside the WebView, coded with Javascript, HTML, and CSS. That’s up to you.

This article will focus on Java code for an Android WebView application.

We will create an app that uses a WebView to “frame” in the Human Element website. Remember, this is just a “boiler-plate” template for any app; you could substitute the Human Element url with ANY url to create an entirely different app. For example, if your app needs to present internal page content instead of any old url out there on the internet, then YES, you can do that instead (I discuss where your web files can live in the first part of this article). The example in this article uses centralized hosting, so all the web files live at human-element.com.

Giving away secrets?

In a golden age of owning “Intellectual Property,” why would we give away “secrets?” It took me a long time to put together this code and get it to work properly, but now, you can copy and paste it in just a few minutes. What’s in it for me?

There will always be the next barrier that must be overcome, ALWAYS. But when solutions are shared, we all progress FASTER because we can all benefit from someone else’s progress. Teach a man how to fish and one day he may teach you how to fish better… or discover the next, new, better alternative. So by helping you, essentially I’m helping myself.

This philosophy probably seems moronic when you’re reclining in your personal jet air-liner, miles above reality. But whether you like it or not, eventually, you have to depend on someone else. You can’t help but live in the same world with everyone. I prefer to live with educated, happy people like me. I’ll share these “secrets” so maybe we can progress together. That’s up to you. But here’s one of those opportunities.

On this page

Complete code examples (5 files)

And now, the main attraction. If you are trying to build your own app, then this is what you came here for. Who cares about this paragraph, just give me the code samples. I know how it is. That’s why I included COMPLETE examples, instead of just bits and pieces.

If you copy the following code into your own application, then you should have a working app (so you can focus more on building your content inside the WebView). I tested this code on a real android phone, and it works… for me, at least.

MainActivity.java

This is where most of your code logic will go. This is the only Java file in this example. The other files are all XML configuration files:

Events

Standard Android events: You can write logic into these events to override what happens when they get triggered.

  • onCreate Entry point for the application
  • onBackPressed Fires when the user hits the back button on their device
  • onConfigurationChanged Fires when the screen orientation changes, eg: vertical to horizontal…
  • onSaveInstanceState Fires before the current activity is placed in a background state
  • onCreateOptionsMenu Fires when the options menu is created
  • onOptionsItemSelected Fires when the user presses one of the menu options

Methods

Here are some methods that I defined for this boiler-plate app:

  • isFileUrl(String url, String extension) Returns true if url ends with extension. Otherwise, returns false
  • handleExternalDeviceActivity(String url) Opens the url OUTSIDE of the app, in a separate activity. For example, inside a separate browser app.
  • hasInternetConnection(Context context) Returns true if an internet connection is available
  • noInternetMessage() Displays an alert popup to tell the user there is no internet connection
  • buildView(final Bundle savedInstanceState) Setup the main WebView to display the primary app url
  • buildExternalView(String externalUrl) Setup the external WebView to display some url, outside of the app’s domain
  • closeExternalView() Close the external WebView so the user sees the primary WebView again (return to the main app)

Fields

I defined some “module-level” fields. “module-level” is a an old text book term that means the variable can be accessed anywhere within the current class. That “m” before the field name stands for “module-level” and helps me keep track of these types of variables throughout the project.

  • mViewUrl The primary url where your main app’s web files are located
  • mViewQs Any query string parameters you want to attach to your mViewUrl. I set “d=android” so that I can send the device type to the web files. For example, “d=android” or “d=ios”.
  • mNochaceQs When the app starts, a “nocache” value is appended to the mViewUrl. This helps prevent the app content from being cached if dynamic content changes. I have the “nocache” value change every hour.
  • mWebView The primary WebView object
  • mExternalView The secondary (external) WebView object
  • mActionBar The action bar object. The action bar only appears when the external WebView is open. Then main WebView doesn’t have a visible action bar
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package com.example.helloworld;
import java.util.Calendar;
import java.util.Date;
import android.support.v7.app.ActionBarActivity;
import android.app.AlertDialog;
import android.app.ProgressDialog;
import android.content.Context;
import android.content.DialogInterface;
import android.content.DialogInterface.OnCancelListener;
import android.content.Intent;
import android.content.res.Configuration;
import android.graphics.drawable.ColorDrawable;
import android.net.ConnectivityManager;
import android.net.Uri;
import android.os.Bundle;
import android.view.Menu;
import android.view.MenuItem;
import android.view.View;
import android.webkit.WebBackForwardList;
import android.webkit.WebSettings;
import android.webkit.WebView;
import android.webkit.WebViewClient;
public class MainActivity extends ActionBarActivity {
    //fields
    private final String mViewUrl = "https://www.human-element.com";
    private final String mViewQs = "?d=android";
    private final String mNochaceQs = "&nocache=";
    
    protected WebView mWebView;
    protected WebView mExternalView;
    protected android.support.v7.app.ActionBar mActionBar;
    //properties
    public String getViewUrl(){return mViewUrl;}
    @Override
    protected void onCreate(Bundle savedInstanceState) {
        super.onCreate(savedInstanceState);
        //hide the action bar at the top of the screen
        mActionBar = getSupportActionBar();
        mActionBar.hide();
        mActionBar.setHomeButtonEnabled(true);
        //define action bar color
        mActionBar.setBackgroundDrawable(new ColorDrawable(0xff2d5b8e)); //2d5b8e
        //define action bar icon
        mActionBar.setIcon(R.drawable.ic_launcher);
        //set the main view
        setContentView(R.layout.activity_main);
        //build the main view
        buildView(savedInstanceState);
    }
    //find out if this URL is a link to a file (eg: PDF) by checking the extension at the end of the url
    private boolean isFileUrl(String url, String extension){
        boolean isFile=false;
        url=url.toLowerCase();extension=extension.toLowerCase();
        //if contains extension
        if(url.contains(extension)){
            //if also contains ? query string
            if(url.contains("?")){
                //strip off query string
                url=url.substring(0,url.indexOf("?"));
            }
            //if ends in file extension
            if(url.lastIndexOf(extension)==url.length()-extension.length()){
                //then yep. This is a file
                isFile=true;
            }
        }
        return isFile;
    }
    //pass any url to this function to auto-handle certain activities (eg: opening PDF documents or making phone calls)
    protected void handleExternalDeviceActivity(String url){
        //pass this special URL to an external activity (outside of the app)
        Intent intent = new Intent(Intent.ACTION_VIEW, Uri.parse(url));
        startActivity(intent);
    }
    //verify that an internet connection is available
    protected boolean hasInternetConnection(Context context) {
        boolean isConnected=false;
        //if connectivity object is available
        ConnectivityManager con_manager=(ConnectivityManager)context.getSystemService(Context.CONNECTIVITY_SERVICE);
        if (con_manager.getActiveNetworkInfo() != null){
            //if network is available
            if(con_manager.getActiveNetworkInfo().isAvailable()){
                //if connected
                if(con_manager.getActiveNetworkInfo().isConnected()){
                    //yep... there is connectivity
                    isConnected=true;
                }
            }
        }
        return isConnected;
    }
    //show something if there is no internet connectivity
    protected void noInternetMessage(){
        //build an alert box
        AlertDialog.Builder alertbox = new AlertDialog.Builder(this);
        // Set the message to display
        alertbox.setMessage(R.string.err_connection_summary);
        // Add a neutral button to the alert box and assign a click listener
        alertbox.setNeutralButton(R.string.btn_ok, new DialogInterface.OnClickListener() {
            @Override
            public void onClick(DialogInterface arg0, int arg1) {
                //quit the app
                finish();
            }
        });
        alertbox.setOnCancelListener(new OnCancelListener() {
            @Override
            public void onCancel(DialogInterface arg0) {
                //quit the app
                finish();
            }
        });
         // show the alert box
        alertbox.show();
    }
    protected void buildView(final Bundle savedInstanceState){
        //if there is still internet connectivity
        if(hasInternetConnection(this)){
            //get the webview object
            mWebView = ((WebView)findViewById(R.id.webview));
            //if web view is NOT already initialized (don't re-init just because orientation changed)
            if(savedInstanceState==null){
                //ALLOW JAVASCRIPT TO RUN INSIDE THE WEBVIEW
                //==========================================
                WebSettings webSettings = mWebView.getSettings();
                webSettings.setJavaScriptEnabled(true);
                //INIT LOADING INDICATOR OBJECT
                //=============================
                final ProgressDialog pd = ProgressDialog.show(this, "", "Loading...",true);
                //KEY WEBVIEW EVENTS (OVERRIDES)
                //==============================
                mWebView.setWebViewClient(new WebViewClient() {
                    /*@Override
                    public void onReceivedError(WebView view, int errorCode, String description, String failingUrl) {
                    }*/
                    @Override
                    public boolean shouldOverrideUrlLoading(WebView view, String url) {
                        //override webview url loading (distinguish between internal and external urls)
                        boolean ret = true;
                        //if there is still internet connectivity
                        if(hasInternetConnection(view.getContext())){
                            //if the new url is on the same webview page
                            if (url.indexOf(mViewUrl)==0) {
                                //load the new page inside the webview NOT another browser activity
                                ret = false;
                            }else{
                                //the new url is NOT on a webview page...
                                
                                //if the url ends in .pdf... (PDF files don't open inside webviews)
                                if(isFileUrl(url,".pdf")){
                                    //launch an external Activity that handles URLs, such as a browser application
                                    handleExternalDeviceActivity(url);
                                }else{
                                    //not a PDF url...
                                    
                                    //if this is a telephone number url (starts with "tel:")
                                    if(url.indexOf("tel:")==0){
                                        //launch an external Activity that handles telephone numbers to make a call
                                        handleExternalDeviceActivity(url);
                                    }else{
                                        //if this is a mailto link
                                        if(url.indexOf("mailto:")==0){
                                            //launch an external Activity that handles email mailto links
                                            handleExternalDeviceActivity(url);
                                        }else{
                                            //try to load the external url in the alternate webview
                                            buildExternalView(url);
                                        }
                                    }
                                }
                            }
                        }else{
                            //no internet connectivity...
                            noInternetMessage();
                        }
                        return ret;
                    }
                    @Override
                    public void onPageFinished(WebView view, String url) {
                        //hide the loading indicator when the webview is fully loaded
                        if(pd.isShowing()&&pd!=null){
                            pd.dismiss();
                            //clear the webview cache
                            super.onPageFinished(view, url);
                            view.clearCache(true);
                        }
                    }
                });
                //LOAD THE APP PAGE INTO THE WEB VIEW
                //===================================
                Calendar now = Calendar.getInstance(); 
                Date date = new Date();
                now.setTime(date);
                String nocache = now.get(Calendar.YEAR)  + "_" + now.get(Calendar.MONTH) + "_" + now.get(Calendar.DAY_OF_MONTH) + "_"
                        + now.get(Calendar.HOUR_OF_DAY) + "_" + now.get(Calendar.MINUTE) + "_" + now.get(Calendar.SECOND);
                mWebView.loadUrl(mViewUrl + mViewQs + mNochaceQs + nocache);
            }else{
                //RESTORE THE INSTANCE STATE
                //==========================
                mWebView.restoreState(savedInstanceState);
            }
        }else{
            //no internet connection...
            noInternetMessage();
        }
    }
    protected void buildExternalView(String externalUrl){
        //if web view is NOT already initialized (don't re-init just because orientation changed)
        if(mExternalView==null){
            //get the webview object
            mExternalView = ((WebView)findViewById(R.id.externalView));
            //ALLOW JAVASCRIPT TO RUN INSIDE THE WEBVIEW
            //==========================================
            WebSettings webSettings = mExternalView.getSettings();
            webSettings.setJavaScriptEnabled(true);
            //INIT LOADING INDICATOR OBJECT
            //=============================
            final ProgressDialog pd = ProgressDialog.show(this, "", "Loading More...",true);
            //KEY WEBVIEW EVENTS (OVERRIDES)
            //==============================
            mExternalView.setWebViewClient(new WebViewClient() {
                @Override
                public boolean shouldOverrideUrlLoading(WebView view, String url) {
                    //override webview url loading (distinguish between internal and external urls)
                    boolean ret = true;
                    //if the url ends in .pdf... (PDF files don't open inside webviews)
                    if(isFileUrl(url,".pdf")){
                        //launch an external Activity that handles URLs, such as a browser application
                        handleExternalDeviceActivity(url);
                    }else{
                        
                        //if this is a telephone number url (starts with "tel:")
                        if(url.indexOf("tel:")==0){
                            //launch an external Activity that handles telephone numbers to make a call
                            handleExternalDeviceActivity(url);
                        }else{
                            //if this is a mailto link
                            if(url.indexOf("mailto:")==0){
                                //launch an external Activity that handles email mailto links
                                handleExternalDeviceActivity(url);
                            }else{
                                //just handle this url inside this same web view
                                ret=false;
                            }
                        }
                    }
                    return ret;
                }
                @Override
                public void onPageFinished(WebView view, String url) {
                    //hide the loading indicator when the webview is fully loaded
                    if(pd.isShowing()&&pd!=null){
                        pd.dismiss();
                        //clear the webview cache
                        super.onPageFinished(view, url);
                        view.clearCache(true);
                        //try to make this webview visible
                        view.setVisibility(View.VISIBLE);
                        view.bringToFront();
                        //show the action bar at the top of the screen
                        mActionBar.show();
                    }
                    //set the new page title
                    setTitle(view.getTitle());
                }
            });
        }else{
            //mExternalView already created...
        }
        //LOAD THE EXTERNAL PAGE INTO THE WEB VIEW
        //========================================
        mExternalView.loadUrl(externalUrl);
    }
    //close the external webview and go back to the main app webview
    private void closeExternalView(){
        //show the main webview
        mWebView.bringToFront();
        //clear browse history from external web view
        mExternalView.loadUrl("about:blank");
        mExternalView.clearHistory();
        mExternalView.clearCache(true);
        //hide the externalView and the action bar
        mExternalView.setVisibility(View.GONE);
        mExternalView = null;
        mActionBar.hide();
    }
    @Override
    public void onBackPressed()
    {
        //if NOT in the external view mode
        if(mExternalView==null){
            if(mWebView.canGoBack()){
                //the back button should go to previous webview page instead of close the app
                mWebView.goBack();
            }
        }else{
            //in the external view mode...
            
            //if there is a previous external page
            if(mExternalView.canGoBack()){
                //get the last url
                WebBackForwardList backForwardList = mExternalView.copyBackForwardList();
                String historyUrl = backForwardList.getItemAtIndex(backForwardList.getCurrentIndex()-1).getUrl();
                //if NOT going back to about:blank (about:blank was inserted into the list at the point at which the external view was last closed)
                if(!historyUrl.equals("about:blank")){
                    //the back button should go to previous page instead of doing nothing
                    mExternalView.goBack();
                }else{
                    //instead of going back to about:blank, go back to the main view
                    closeExternalView();
                }
            }else{
                //there is no previous external page...
                
                //close the external view and return to the main app view
                closeExternalView();
            }
        }
    }
    @Override
    public void onConfigurationChanged(Configuration newConfig){
        super.onConfigurationChanged(newConfig);
    }
    @Override
    protected void onSaveInstanceState(Bundle outState){
      //save the state of the WebView
      mWebView.saveState(outState);
    }
    @Override
    public boolean onCreateOptionsMenu(Menu menu) {
        // Inflate the menu; this adds items to the action bar if it is present.
        getMenuInflater().inflate(R.menu.main, menu);
        return true;
    }
    @Override
    public boolean onOptionsItemSelected(MenuItem item) {
        //handle action bar event options
        switch (item.getItemId())
        {       
            //if the main app icon was clicked in the action bar (while viewing an external webview page)
            case android.R.id.home:           
                //switch back to the main view and exit the external view...
                closeExternalView();
                return true
            //if the drop down "Return" item was clicked
            case R.id.action_returnapp:           
                //switch back to the main view and exit the external view...
                closeExternalView();
                return true;
            //if the user clicked "Open in Browser"
            case R.id.action_openinbrowser: 
                //open the external view in a real browser outside of the app
                handleExternalDeviceActivity(mExternalView.getUrl());
                //close the external view and return to the main app view
                closeExternalView();
                return true;
            default:           
                return super.onOptionsItemSelected(item);   
        }
    }
}

AndroidManifest.xml

This is where you define your app’s key package identifier. I have the com.example.helloworld package name. But obviously, you will have something different.

Your app may be on its first release. If so, then your versionCode will probably be “1” and your versionName could be something like “alpha“, “lolly pop“, “1“, or some other name that you choose.

Also, you must tell the applications what permissions get used. At minimum, you will need two:

  • INTERNET If you are accessing ANY external urls, then you need to enable this permission.
  • ACCESS_NETWORK_STATE If you need to detect if the device HAS access to internet, then you also need this permission. My hasInternetConnection method depends on being able to detect connectivity.
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<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
    package="com.example.helloworld"
    android:versionCode="8"
    android:versionName="1.7" >
    <uses-sdk
        android:minSdkVersion="8"
        android:targetSdkVersion="21" />
    
    <uses-permission android:name="android.permission.INTERNET" />
    <uses-permission android:name="android.permission.ACCESS_NETWORK_STATE" />
    <application
        android:allowBackup="true"
        android:icon="@drawable/ic_launcher"
        android:label="@string/app_name"
        android:theme="@style/AppTheme" >
        <activity
            android:name=".MainActivity"
            android:label="@string/app_name"
            android:configChanges="orientation|screenSize" >
            <intent-filter>
                <action android:name="android.intent.action.MAIN" />
                <category android:name="android.intent.category.LAUNCHER" />
            </intent-filter>
        </activity>
    </application>
</manifest>

res/menu/main.xml

Two menu items are defined in this file. These menu items appear in the mActionBar.

Remember, this action bar is only visible IF the external web view is open.

The purpose of these two menu items is:

  • Return Go back to the main app and hide the external web view.
  • Open in Browser Open the current external view into a browser (outside of the Hello World app).

You can see how the app detects when these menu items get pressed AND carries out their actions: Check out the onOptionsItemSelected event, that handles option item presses in MainActivity.java

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    xmlns:tools="http://schemas.android.com/tools"
    tools:context="com.example.helloworld.MainActivity" >
     
    <item
        android:id="@+id/action_openinbrowser"
        android:orderInCategory="100"
        android:title="@string/action_openinbrowser"
        app:showAsAction="never" /> 
 
    <item
        android:id="@+id/action_returnapp"
        android:orderInCategory="200"
        android:title="@string/action_returnapp"
        app:showAsAction="never" />
</menu>

res/values/strings.xml

Are you familiar with the concept of localization? This is a strategy for defining all of your text values in one file so that this file can be substituted with alternate language files. Android localizes some of its string values inside a file aptly named, strings.xml. You can see string definitions for some of my app’s strings here.

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<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<resources>
    <string name="app_name">Hello World</string>
    <string name="hello_world">Hello world!</string>
    <string name="action_settings">Settings</string>
    <string name="action_returnapp">Return</string>
    <string name="btn_ok">Ok</string>
    <string name="action_openinbrowser">Open in Browser</string>
    <string name="err_connection_summary">Having trouble reaching Hello World. Please check your internet connection then restart the app.</string>
</resources>

res/layout/activity_main.xml

Here, I define both of my WebViews, primary and external. I also set the dimensions of the WebViews. I want them both to fill the screen ENTIRELY, so I set them both to fill_parent. I also define their ID’s which I use to grab them inside the MainActivity.java file.

Note: If you work inside Eclipse, you may see the xmlns:android attribute cause XML syntax errors. But you can easily remove the error if you you go to Project > Clean in Eclipse.

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<RelativeLayout xmlns:android="http://schemas.android.com/apk/res/android"
    xmlns:tools="http://schemas.android.com/tools"
    android:layout_width="match_parent"
    android:layout_height="match_parent"
    android:paddingBottom="@dimen/activity_vertical_margin"
    android:paddingLeft="@dimen/activity_horizontal_margin"
    android:paddingRight="@dimen/activity_horizontal_margin"
    android:paddingTop="@dimen/activity_vertical_margin"
    tools:context="com.example.helloworld.MainActivity" >
    
    <WebView xmlns:android="http://schemas.android.com/apk/res/android"
        android:id="@+id/externalView"
        android:layout_width="fill_parent"
        android:layout_height="fill_parent"
    />
    <WebView xmlns:android="http://schemas.android.com/apk/res/android"
        android:id="@+id/webview"
        android:layout_width="fill_parent"
        android:layout_height="fill_parent"
    />
</RelativeLayout>

That’s all for now. Hopefully, this article was a good launching point for your Android app. Stay tuned for a similar article for iOS apps.

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Posted By

Senior Software Engineer

Comments (10)

Julie posted

Thanks Gregg. I found this very helpful. When do you think part three will be published?

    Gregg Milligan posted

    Thanks for your interest, Julie. I am currently compiling my notes for iOS and I hope to be finished with a post for iOS this week.

      Gregg Milligan posted

      Update on the status of the 3rd part that focuses on iOS apps: The article is written. Edits should be done and the release date is scheduled for early next week. So keep an eye out for it on or around July 27th, 2015

Bibhuti Patnaik posted

Thanks Gregg for the post it is really helpful. I have used your above code, can you please tell me how to create a splash screen with the above code.

    Gregg Milligan posted

    This is an excellent question, Bibhuti. Sorry at this moment, I don't have time to provide exact code, but I can help with a description of what you would have to do (if you are willing to tinker with modifying Java code). Current code: The example Android (Java) code currently shows simple "Loading" text with Android's built-in spinning animation. This is handled in MainActivity.java: Create loading message when the application runs "final ProgressDialog pd = ProgressDialog.show(this, "", "Loading...",true);" Close the loading message at the onPageFinished event "pd.dismiss();" Replace "Loading" text with splash screen graphic: Instead of creating a ProgressDialog, you would create and show the splash screen: Create the splash screen Close the splash screen at the onPageFinished event I would recommend google searches for creating an image object (full screen width) that will act as a splash screen. Then research how to hide the image object onPageFinished. Once you know the correct Java syntax, replace the "Loading" ProgressDialog code with code for the image object. I hope this is helpful. Don't worry if what you try doesn't work immediately. Keep trying and looking at examples online. This is the same process I followed to write... then right the current example code. Good luck!

hari posted

Hi Gregg, this is an amazing post . But can you please help me to add admob code to this layout .

Rory Brooks posted

Thanks so much this really helped me so much

Rory Brooks posted

One thing i have noticed is that the app does not fill parent, and has a white border around the webview. The links work great, although wont allow certain links to open or use the phone, ie: upload image during registration etc.

Rory Brooks posted

Solved android:paddingBottom="0dp" android:paddingLeft="0dp" android:paddingRight="0dp" android:paddingTop="0dp"

mika posted

Hello You are an angle thank you for sharing this great article. it helped me alot thank yoooooooooooooooou

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