Android support Annotations

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In this blog post, we are going to be talking about the Android Support Annotations Library and why we should care about it.

Version 19.1 of the support library included a new annotations package which contains a number of useful annotations that can be added to your code, to help catch bugs. These annotations will help Android studio to check your code for possible errors and report them to you. As of version 22.2 of the support library, this annotations package has been enriched with an additional 13 annotations.

Adding the Library to your project

The annotations library are not included in an Android project by default, as they are shipped as a separate library. If you’re using appcompat library however, you already have access to the annotations, because appcompat itself depends on it.

In any case, to have access to the support library annotations in your android project, add this line to your module level build.gradle file.

compile '<latest-library-version>'

These annotations are grouped together based on similarities in their usage and functionality and based on these grouping, we have the following classes of annotations in the support annotations library:

  • Nullness Annotations
  • Resource Annotations
  • Thread Annotations
  • Value Constraints Annotations
  • Others are: Permissions Annotations, CheckResults Annotations and CallSuper Annotations.

Nullness Annotations

@Nullable and @NonNull annotations can be used to check the nullness of a variable, parameter or method return value. @NonNull annotation means that the value of the variable, parameter or method return value cannot be null. Android studio generates a warning if this is violated. For example:

    //pass a null argument to a method annotated as @NonNull

    public int doubleNumber(@NonNull int num) {
        return num * 2;

@Nullable means a variable is allowed to take a null value and if used with a method, it means the method can return a null value. Null check should be done on variables or return values whenever @Nullable annotation is used.

Resource Annotations

Since resources are passed around in Android as integers, a code expecting a string resource id can be passed an int pointing to a drawable and the compiler will accept it. Resource type annotations allows type checking to be done in situations like this. By annotating an int parameter with @StringRes for examples, ensures that passing anything other than a R.string ref will be flagged by the IDE.

    public void setButtonText(@StringRes int id) {
         //set text on some button

    //this will be flagged by the IDE

Each of the android resource type has a corresponding resource type annotation. Some other examples are @DrawableRes, @ColorRes, @InterpolatorRes and so on. The general rule is, if there is a resource of type “Foo”, the corresponding resource type annotation is “FooRes”.

Lastly, there is a special resource annotation called @AnyRes which is used when the specific type of resource is not known but it must be a resource type.

Thread Annotations

Thread annotations checks if a method is called from a specific type of thread. Supported thread annotations are:

  • @UiThread
  • @MainThread
  • @WorkerThread
  • @BinderThread

@MainThread and @UiThread annotations are interchangeable and method calls from either thread type are allowed for these annotations.

A class can be annotated with a thread annotation if all methods in that class are called from the same thread. A good example of the usage of thread annotations is in AsyncTask

    protected abstract Result doInBackground(Params... params);

    protected void onProgressUpdate(Progress... values) {

An error will be flagged if the onProgressUpdate method is called from a thread other than the main thread.

Value Constraints Annotations

@IntRange, @FloatRange and @Size annotations are used to validate the values of passed parameters. @IntRange annotation validates that the parameter is within the specified range of integer values. The setAlpha method below for example, ensures that the alpha parameter value is between 0 and 255 inclusive.

    public void setAlpha(@IntRange(from=0, to=255) int alpha) {
        //set alpha

@FloatRange likewise checks that a parameter value is within a specified range of floating point values. The @Size annotation on the other hand, is used to check the size of a collection or array, as well as the length of a string. @Size(min=1) annotation can be used to check that a collection is not empty and @Size(2) annotation checks that an array contains exactly two values.

CheckResult Annotations

This is used to ensure that the result of a method or its return value is actually used. It’s main purpose is to help with cases where users of the API may be confused and may think the method has a side effect. As explained in the support annotations documentation, a good example of this is the String.trim method, which may be confusing to new Java developers, thinking that the method call actually changes the string by removing whitespace. If the String.trim method is annotated with @CheckResult, the IDE will flag uses of String.trim where the caller does not do something with the result.

    public String trim(@NonNull String string) {
        //remove whitespace from string

    String s = "hello world ";

    //this will make the IDE flag an error since the result from the @CheckResult
    //annotated method is not used

Other support annotations worth looking at are @CallSuper, @Keep and @RequiresPermission. For a complete list check the android developer reference for support annotations.


Using support annotation makes helps to make obvious how the code works. It makes the code predictable and also makes it easy for other developers integrating your code or when you have to make changes to the code some times in the future.


Improve code Inspection with Annotations - Android developer doc

Support Annotation documentation

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