Various programming stuff

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How to create a custom filtered adapter in Android


Android offers a nice component named AutoCompleteTextView that can be used to auto-fill a text box from a list of values. In its simplest form, you just create an array adapter passing it a list of objects (that have a proper toString() method). Then you type some characters to the textbox and by default it will filter the results searching in the beginning of the backing object’s toString() result.

However there are times that you don’t want to look at the beginning of the string (because you want to look at the middle of the string) or you don’t want to just to search in toString() method of the object or you want to do some more fancy things in object output. For this you must override the ArrayAdapter and add a custom Filter.

Unfurtunately this isn’t as straightforward as I’d like and I couldn’t find a quick and easy tutorial on how it can be done.

So here goes nothing: In the following I’ll show you a very simple android application that will have the minimum viable custom filtered adapter implementation. You can find the whole project in github: https://github.com/spapas/CustomFilteredAdapeter but I am going to discuss everything here also.

The application

Just create a new project with an empty activity from Android Studio. Use kotlin as the language.

The layout

I’ll keep it as simple as possible:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
        android:layout_width="match_parent" android:layout_height="match_parent"
            android:layout_width="match_parent" android:layout_height="wrap_content"
            android:text="Hello World!"
            android:layout_width="match_parent" android:layout_height="wrap_content"

You should just care about the AutoCompleteTextView with an id of autoCompleteTextView.

The backing data object

I’ll use a simple PoiDao Kotlin data class for this:

data class PoiDao(
    val id: Int,
    val name: String,
    val city: String,
    val category_name: String

I’d like to be able to search to both name, city and category_name of each object. To create a list of the pois to be used to the adapter I can do something like:

val poisArray = listOf(
    PoiDao(1, "Taco Bell", "Athens", "Restaurant"),
    PoiDao(2, "McDonalds", "Athens","Restaurant"),
    PoiDao(3, "KFC", "Piraeus", "Restaurant"),
    PoiDao(4, "Shell", "Lamia","Gas Station"),
    PoiDao(5, "BP", "Thessaloniki", "Gas Station")

The custom adapter

This will be an ArrayAdapter<PoiDao> implementing also the Filterable interface:

inner class PoiAdapter(context: Context, @LayoutRes private val layoutResource: Int, private val allPois: List<PoiDao>):
    ArrayAdapter<PoiDao>(context, layoutResource, allPois),
    Filterable {
    private var mPois: List<PoiDao> = allPois

    override fun getCount(): Int {
        return mPois.size

    override fun getItem(p0: Int): PoiDao? {
        return mPois.get(p0)

    override fun getItemId(p0: Int): Long {
        // Or just return p0
        return mPois.get(p0).id.toLong()

    override fun getView(position: Int, convertView: View?, parent: ViewGroup?): View {
        val view: TextView = convertView as TextView? ?: LayoutInflater.from(context).inflate(layoutResource, parent, false) as TextView
        view.text = "${mPois[position].name} ${mPois[position].city} (${mPois[position].category_name})"
        return view

    override fun getFilter(): Filter {
        // See next section

You’ll see that we add an instance variable named mPois that gets initialized in the start with allPois (which is the initial list of all pois that is passed to the adapter). The mPois will contain the filtered results. Then, for getCount and getItem we return the corresponding valeus from mPois; the getItemId is used when you have an sqlite backed adapter but I’m including it here for completeness.

The getView will create the specific line for each item in the dropdown. As you’ll see the layout that is passed must have a text child which is set based on some of the attributes of the corresponding poi for each position. Notice that we can use whatever view layout we want for our dropdown result line (this is the layoutResource parameter) but we need to configure it (i.e bind it with the values of the backing object) here properly.

Finally we create a custom instance of the Filter, explained in the next section.

The custom filter

The getFilter creates an object instance of a Filter and returns it:

override fun getFilter(): Filter {
    return object : Filter() {
        override fun publishResults(charSequence: CharSequence?, filterResults: Filter.FilterResults) {
            mPois = filterResults.values as List<PoiDao>

        override fun performFiltering(charSequence: CharSequence?): Filter.FilterResults {
            val queryString = charSequence?.toString()?.toLowerCase()

            val filterResults = Filter.FilterResults()
            filterResults.values = if (queryString==null || queryString.isEmpty())
                allPois.filter {
                    it.name.toLowerCase().contains(queryString) ||
                    it.city.toLowerCase().contains(queryString) ||
            return filterResults

This object instance overrides two methods of Filter: performFiltering and publishResults. The performFiltering is where the actual filtering is done; it should return a FilterResults object containing a values attribute with the filtered values. In this method we retrieve the charSequence parameter and converit it to lowercase. Then, if this parameter is not empty we filter the corresponding elements of allPois (i.e name, city and category_name in our case) using contains. If the query parameter is empty then we just return all pois. Warning java developers; here the if is used as an expression (i.e its result will be assigned to filterResults.values).

After the performFiltering has finished, the publishResults method is called. This method retrieves the filtered results in its filterResults parameter. Thus it sets mPois of the custom adapter is set to the result of the filter operation and calls notifyDataSetChanged to display the results.

Using the custom adapter

To use the custom adapter you can do something like this in your activity’s onCreate:

override fun onCreate(savedInstanceState: Bundle?) {

    val poisArray = listOf(
        // See previous sections
    val adapter = PoiAdapter(this, android.R.layout.simple_list_item_1, poisArray)
    autoCompleteTextView.threshold = 3

    autoCompleteTextView.setOnItemClickListener() { parent, _, position, id ->
        val selectedPoi = parent.adapter.getItem(position) as PoiDao?

We create the PoiAdapter passing it the poisArray and android.R.layout.simple_list_item_1 as the layout. That layout just contains a textview named text. As we’ve already discussed you can pass something more complex here. The thresold defined the number of characters that the user that needs to enter to do the filtering (default is 2).

Please notice that when the user clicks (selects) on an item of the dropdown we set the contents of the textview (or else it will just use the object’s toString() method to set it).