Gesture detection in Android, part 1 of 2

Download the source code of this article.

Gesture detection is one of the great features of all touch based mobile devices. Gestures are patterns drawn by the user on the screen. Simple gestures include tap, scroll, swipe, etc. Complex gestures are more complex patterns drawn on the screen. In Android we can detect simple gestures using GestureDetector class and complex gestures using GestureOverlayView class.

In part 1 of this 2 part article series, I will try to explain the simple gesture detection using GestureDetector class and in next part I will try to explain complex gesture detection using GestureOverlayView class.

GestureDetector is a class which is used to detect simple gestures like tap, scroll, swipe or fling, etc. This class detects gestures using the supplied MotionEvent class. We use this class along with the onTouchEvent, inside this method we call the GestureDetector.onTouchEvent. GestureDetector identify the gestures or events that occurred and report back to us using GestureDetector.OnGestureListener callback interface. We create an instance of the GestureDetector class by passing Context and GestureDetector.OnGestureListener listener.

The GestureDetector.OnGestureListener interface has following abstract methods:

abstract boolean onDown(MotionEvent e)
abstract void onLongPress(MotionEvent e)
abstract boolean onScroll(MotionEvent e1, MotionEvent e2, float distanceX, float distanceY)
abstract void onShowPress(MotionEvent e)
abstract boolean onSingleTapUp(MotionEvent e)
abstract boolean onFling(MotionEvent e1, MotionEvent e2, float velocityX, float velocityY)

The onDown method is called when the user first touch the screen, the MotionEvent parameter represents the event that corresponds to the touch event.

The onLongPress method is called when user touches the screen and holds it for a period of time. The MotionEvent parameter represents the event that corresponds to the touch event.

The onScroll method is called when the user touches the screen and moves to another location on the screen. This method has 4 parameters; first MotionEvent corresponds to the first touch event that occurred, second MotionEvent corresponds to the scroll that occurred, the distanceX parameter represents the scrolled distance along the X axis since the last call to onScroll and the forth parameter distanceY is the distance occurred along Y axis since the last call to onScroll. The third and forth parameters are little bit confusing and are not the distance between MotionEvent 1 and MotionEvent 2.

The onShowPress method is called when the user touches the phone and not moved yet. This event is mostly used for giving visual feedback to the user to show their action.

The onSingleTapUp method is called when a tap occurred, i.e. use taps the screen.

The onFling method is called whenever the user swipes the screen in any direction, i.e. the user touches the screen and immediately moves the finger in any direction. The first parameter is the MotionEvent corresponds to the touch event that started the fling, second parameter is the MotionEvent that corresponds to the movement that triggered the fling, the third one corresponds to the velocity along X axis measured and the forth one corresponds to the velocity along Y axis measured. The use of this gesture depends on application to application. Some application starts the movement of some objects in the screens with velocity based on the X and Y velocity measured and gradually slows down the movement and settled the objects somewhere on the screen. Another use of this method is to move from one page to another within the application.

Double-tap

You should be noticed that the double-tap event is not present in the GestureDetector.onGestureListener callback interface. For some reason this event is reported using another callback interface GestureDetector.onDoubleTapListener. To use this callback interface we have to register for these events using GestureDetector.setOnDoubleTapListener passing the above listener. This interface has the following methods:

abstract boolean onDoubleTap(MotionEvent e)
abstract boolean onDoubleTapEvent(MotionEvent e)
abstract boolean onSingleTapConfirmed(MotionEvent e)

The onDoubleTap method is called when there is a double-tap event occurred. The only parameter MotionEvent corresponds to the double-tap event that occurred.

The onDoubleTapEvent is called for all events that occurred within the double-tap, i.e. down, move and up events.

The onSingleTapConfirmed
method is called when there is a single tap occurred and confirmed, but this is not same as the single-tap event in the GestureDetector.onGestureListener. This is called when the GestureDetector detects and confirms that this tap does not lead to a double-tap.

The MotionEvent class

The MotionEvent class contains all the values correspond to a movement and touch event. This class holds values such as X and Y position at which the event occurred, timestamp at which the event occurred, mouse pointer index, etc. This class also contains the multi-touch information. Another interesting member is the pressure variable, which reports the pressure of the touch and movement events. I am experimenting with multi-touch and pressure and will be posting an article soon.

Example application

The example application accompanies this article is a simple one to show the use of these gestures. The application has 4 views and each view has different color. It has and 2 modes, SCROLL mode and FLIP mode. The application starts in FLIP mode. In this mode when you perform the swipe/fling gesture in left right, up and down direction, the view changes back and forth. When a long-press is detected, the application changes to SCROLL mode, in this mode you scroll the displayed view. While in this mode, you can double-tap on the screen to bring back the screen to its original position. Again when a long-press is detected the application changes to FLIP mode.

I hope this will give you an introduction to the simple gesture detection in Android. In the next part of this article I will try to explain complex gesture detection using GestureOverlayView class.

Happy gesture coding! 🙂

1 Comment

Add yours →

  1. sir i am a student of undergraduate level and trying to develop an app which will work only on eye and hand gestures .
    can you please recommend me any helping material like website/book etc so that i could complete my final year project.
    thanks.

Leave a Reply