The following is the first few sections of a chapter from The Busy Coder's Guide to Android Development, plus headings for the remaining major sections, to give you an idea about the content of the chapter.

GUI Building, Continued

If you are using an IDE, and you have been experimenting with the graphical layout editor and drag-and-drop GUI building, this chapter will cover some other general features of this editor that you may find useful.

Even if you are not using an IDE, you may want to at least skim this chapter, as you will find a few tricks that will be relevant for you as well.

Making Your Selection

Clicking on a widget makes it the selected widget, meaning that the toolbar buttons will affect that widget (or, sometimes, its container, depending upon the button). Selected widgets have a thin blue border with blue square “grab handles” for adjusting its size and position.

Android Studio, Selected Widget in Graphical Layout Editor
Figure 173: Android Studio, Selected Widget in Graphical Layout Editor

Clicking on a container also selects it. However, there may or may not be a blue border — in particular, containers that fill the screen (match_parent for width and height) do not seem to get the border.

Sometimes, though, you want to select a container that you cannot reach, because its contents are completely filled with widgets. In these cases, click on the widget or container in the Component Tree pane to select it.

Including Includes

Sometimes, you have a widget or a collection of widgets that you want to reuse across multiple layout XML resources. Android supports the notion of an “include” that allows this. Simply create a dedicated layout XML resource that contains the widget(s) to reuse, then add them to your main layouts via an <include> element:

<include layout="@layout/thing_we_are_reusing" />

You can even assign the <include> element a width or height if needed, as if it were just a widget or container.

The IDE makes it easy for you to take widgets from an existing layout XML resource and extract them into a separate layout XML resource, replacing them with an <include> element.

In Android Studio, select the widget(s) that you want to reuse, then choose Refactor > Extract Layout from the context menu. This will display a dialog where you can fill in the file name of your resulting resource:

Android Studio Extract Layout Dialog
Figure 174: Android Studio Extract Layout Dialog

If you are extracting multiple widgets that are not wrapped in their own container, the IDE will automatically wrap them in a <merge> element:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<merge xmlns:android="">
  <!-- widgets go here -->

This is necessary purely from an XML standpoint — you cannot have multiple root elements in an XML file. When the <merge> is added to another layout via <include>, the <merge> element itself evaporates, leaving behind its children.

Preview of Coming Attractions

The preview of this section is out seeking fame and fortune as the Dread Pirate Roberts.