What is 'Context' on Android?

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In Android programming, what exactly is a Context class and what is it used for?

I read about it on the developer site, but I am unable to understand it clearly.

androidandroid-context

Answers

answered 8 years ago Sameer Segal #1

Putting it simply:

As the name suggests, it's the context of current state of the application/object. It lets newly-created objects understand what has been going on. Typically you call it to get information regarding another part of your program (activity and package/application).

You can get the context by invoking getApplicationContext(), getContext(), getBaseContext() or this (when in a class that extends from Context, such as the Application, Activity, Service and IntentService classes).

Typical uses of context:

  • Creating new objects: Creating new views, adapters, listeners:

    TextView tv = new TextView(getContext());
    ListAdapter adapter = new SimpleCursorAdapter(getApplicationContext(), ...);
    
  • Accessing standard common resources: Services like LAYOUT_INFLATER_SERVICE, SharedPreferences:

    context.getSystemService(LAYOUT_INFLATER_SERVICE)
    getApplicationContext().getSharedPreferences(*name*, *mode*);
    
  • Accessing components implicitly: Regarding content providers, broadcasts, intent

    getApplicationContext().getContentResolver().query(uri, ...);
    

answered 8 years ago giulio #2

A Context is a handle to the system; it provides services like resolving resources, obtaining access to databases and preferences, and so on. An Android app has activities. Context is like a handle to the environment your application is currently running in. The activity object inherits the Context object.

For more information, look in Introduction to Android development with Android Studio - Tutorial.

answered 8 years ago naikus #3

An Android Context is an Interface that allows access to application specific resources and class and information about application environment.

If your android app was a web app, your context would be something similar to ServletContext ( I am not making an exact comparison here)

Your activities and services also extend Context to they inherit all those methods to access the environment information in which the app is running.

answered 7 years ago devdas #4

Context is a reference to the current object as this. Also context allows access to information about the application environment.

answered 6 years ago jaffer #5

Context is basically for resource access and getting the environment details of the application(for application context) or activity (for activity context) or any other...

In order to avoid memory leak you should use application context for every components that needs a context object.... for more click here

answered 6 years ago s0ld13r #6

ANDROID AND CONTEXT If you look through the various Android APIs, you’ll notice that many of them take an android.content.Context object as a parameter. You’ll also see that an Activity or a Service is usually used as a Context. This works because both of these classes extend from Context.

What’s Context exactly? Per the Android reference documentation, it’s an entity that represents various environment data. It provides access to local files, databases, class loaders associated to the environment, services including system-level services, and more. Throughout this book, and in your day-to- day coding with Android, you’ll see the Context passed around frequently. From: "Android in Practice" book.

answered 6 years ago Android Girl #7

Interface to global information about an application environment. This is an abstract class whose implementation is provided by the Android system. It allows access to application-specific resources and classes, as well as up-calls for application-level operations such as launching activities, broadcasting and receiving intents, etc.

answered 6 years ago Erol #8

Think of it as the VM that has siloed the process the app or service is running in. The siloed environment has access to a bunch of underlying system information and certain permitted resources. You need that context to get at those services.

answered 5 years ago Yashvir yadav #9

The class android.content.Context provides the connection to the Android system and the resources of the project. It is the interface to global information about the application environment.

The Context also provides access to Android Services, e.g. the Location Service.

Activities and Services extend the Context class.

answered 5 years ago Dmytro Danylyk #10

As long as your going to be thinking anyway, think big.

Interface to global information about an application environment. This is an abstract class whose implementation is provided by the Android system.

It allows access to application-specific resources and classes, as well as up-calls for application-level operations such as launching activities, broadcasting and receiving intents, etc.

Activity diagram

answered 5 years ago Sourab Sharma #11

Source


The topic of Context in Android seems to be confusing to many. People just know that Context is needed quite often to do basic things in Android. People sometimes panic because they try to do perform some operation that requires the Context and they don’t know how to “get” the right Context. I’m going to try to demystify the idea of Context in Android. A full treatment of the issue is beyond the scope of this post, but I’ll try to give a general overview so that you have a sense of what Context is and how to use it. To understand what Context is, let’s take a look at the source code:

https://github.com/android/platform_frameworks_base/blob/master/core/java/android/content/Context.java

What exactly is Context?

Well, the documentation itself provides a rather straightforward explanation: The Context class is an “Interface to global information about an application environment".

The Context class itself is declared as abstract class, whose implementation is provided by the Android OS. The documentation further provides that Context “…allows access to application-specific resources and classes, as well as up-calls for application-level operations such as launching activities, broadcasting and receiving intents, etc".

You can understand very well, now, why the name is Context. It’s because it’s just that. The Context provides the link or hook, if you will, for an Activity, Service, or any other component, thereby linking it to the system, enabling access to the global application environment. In other words: the Context provides the answer to the components question of “where the hell am I in relation to app generally and how do I access/communicate with the rest of the app?” If this all seems a bit confusing, a quick look at the methods exposed by the Context class provides some further clues about its true nature.

Here’s a random sampling of those methods:

  1. getAssets()
  2. getResources()
  3. getPackageManager()
  4. getString()
  5. getSharedPrefsFile()

What do all these methods have in common? They all enable whoever has access to the Context to be able to access application-wide resources.

Context, in other words, hooks the component that has a reference to it to the rest of application environment. The assets (think ’/assets’ folder in your project), for example, are available across the application, provided that an Activity, Service or whatever knows how to access those resources. Same goes for getResources() which allows to do things like getResources().getColor() which will hook you into the colors.xml resource (nevermind that aapt enables access to resources via java code, that’s a separate issue).

The upshot is that Context is what enables access to system resources and its what hooks components into the “greater app". Let’s look at the subclasses of Context, the classes that provide the implementation of the abstract Context class. The most obvious class is the Activity class. Activity inherits from ContextThemeWrapper, which inherits from ContextWrapper, which inherits from Context itself. Those classes are useful to look at to understand things at a deeper level, but for now it’s sufficient to know that ContextThemeWrapper and ContextWrapper are pretty much what they sound like. They implement the abstract elements of the Context class itself by “wrapping” a context (the actual context) and delegating those functions to that context. An example is helpful - in the ContextWrapper class, the abstract method getAssets from the Context class is implemented as follows:

@Override
    public AssetManager getAssets() {
        return mBase.getAssets();
    }

mBase is simply a field set by the constructor to a specific context. So a context is wrapped and the ContextWrapper delegates its implementation of the getAssets method to that context. Let’s get back to examining the Activity class which ultimately inherits from Context to see how this all works.

You probably know what an Activity is, but to review - it’s basically 'a single thing the user can do. It takes care of providing a window in which to place the UI that the user interacts with'. Developers familiar with other APIs and even non-developers might think of it vernacularly as a “screen.” That’s technically inaccurate, but it doesn’t matter for our purposes. So how do Activity and Context interact and what exactly is going in their inheritance relationship?

Again, it’s helpful to look at specific examples. We all know how to launch Activities. Provided you have “the context” from which you are you are starting the Activity, you simply call startActivity(intent), where the Intent describes the context from which you are starting an Activity and the Activity you’d like to start. This is the familiar startActivity(this, SomeOtherActivity.class).

And what is this? this is your Activity because the Activity class inherits from Context. The full scoop is like this: When you call startActivity, ultimately the Activity class executes something like this:

Instrumentation.ActivityResult ar =
                mInstrumentation.execStartActivity(
                    this, mMainThread.getApplicationThread(), mToken, this,
                    intent, requestCode);

So it utilizes the execStartActivity from the Instrumentation class (actually from an inner class in Instrumentation called ActivityResult).

At this point, we are beginning to get a peek at the system internals.

This is where OS actually handles everything. So how does Instrumentation start the Activity exactly? Well, the param this in the execStartActivity method above is your Activity, i.e. the Context, and the execStartActivity makes use of this context.

A 30,000 overview is this: the Instrumentation class keeps tracks of a list of Activities that it’s monitoring in order to do it’s work. This list is used to coordinate all of the activities and make sure everything runs smoothly in managing the flow of activities.

There are some operations which I haven’t fully looked into which coordinate thread and process issues. Ultimately, the ActivityResult uses a native operation - ActivityManagerNative.getDefault().startActivity() which uses the Context that you passed in when you called startActivity. The context you passed in is used to assist in “intent resolution” if needed. Intent resolution is the process by which the system can determine the target of the intent if it is not supplied. (Check out the guide here for more details).

And in order for Android to do this, it needs access to information that is supplied by Context. Specifically, the system needs to access to a ContentResolver so it can “determine the MIME type of the intent’s data". This whole bit about how startActivity makes use of context was a bit complicated and I don’t fully understand the internals myself. My main point was just to illustrate how application-wide resources need to be accessed in order to perform many of the operations that are essential to an app. Context is what provides access to these resources. A simpler example might be Views. We all know what you create a custom View by extending RelativeLayout or some other View class, you must provide a constructor that takes a Context as an argument. When you instantiate your custom View you pass in the context. Why? Because the View needs to be able to have access to themes, resources, and other View configuration details. View configuration is actually a great example. Each Context has various parameters (fields in Context’s implementations) that are set by the OS itself for things like the dimension or density of the display. It’s easy to see why this information is important for setting up Views, etc.

One final word: For some reason people new to Android (and even people not so new) seem to completely forget about object-oriented programming when it comes to Android. For some reason, people try to bend their Android development to pre-conceived paradigms or learned behaviors.

Android has it’s own paradigm and a certain pattern that is actually quite consistent if let go of your pre-conceived notions and simply read the documentation and dev guide. My real point, however, while “getting the right context” can sometimes be tricky, people unjustifiably panic because they run into a situation where they need the context and think they don’t have it. Once again, Java is an object-oriented language with an inheritance design.

You only “have” the context inside of your Activity because your activity itself inherits from Context. There’s no magic to it (except for the all the stuff the OS does by itself to set various parameters and to correctly “configure” your context). So, putting memory/performance issues aside (e.g. holding references to context when you don’t need to or doing it in a way that has negative consequences on memory, etc), Context is an object like any other and it can be passed around just like any POJO (Plain Old Java Object). Sometimes you might need to do clever things to retrieve that context, but any regular Java class that extends from nothing other than Object itself can be written in a way that has access to context; simply expose a public method that takes a context and then use it in that class as needed. This was not intended as an exhaustive treatment on Context or Android internals, but I hope it’s helpful in demystifying Context a little bit.

answered 5 years ago star18bit #12

Just putting it out there for newbies;

So First understand Word Context :

In english-lib. it means:

"The circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood and assessed."

"The parts of something written or spoken that immediately precede and follow a word or passage and clarify its meaning."

Now take the same understanding to programming world:

context of current state of the application/object. It lets newly created objects understand what has been going on. Typically you call it to get information regarding another part of your program (activity, package/application)

You can get the context by invoking getApplicationContext(), getContext(), getBaseContext() or this (when in the activity class).

To Get Context Anywhere in application use following code:

Create new class AppContext inside your android application

public class AppContext extends Application {

    private static Context context;

    public void onCreate(){
        super.onCreate();
        AppContext.context = getApplicationContext();
    }

    public static Context getAppContext() {
        return AppContext.context;
    }
}

Now any time you want application context in non-activity class, call this method and you have application context.

Hope this help ;)

answered 5 years ago Devrath #13

Definition of Context::

  • Context represents environment data
  • It provides access to things such as databases

Simpler terms ::

  • Consider Person-X is the CEO of a start-up software company.

  • There is a lead architect present in the company, this lead architect does all the work in the company which involves such as database, UI etc.

  • Now the CEO Hires a new Developer.

  • It is the Architect who tells the responsibility of the newly hired person based on the skills of the new person that whether he will work on Database or UI etc.

Simpler terms ::

  • It's like access of android activity to the app's resource.

  • It's similar to when you visit a hotel, you want breakfast, lunch & dinner in the suitable timings, right?

  • There are many other things you like during the time of stay. How do you get these things?

  • You ask the room-service person to bring these things for you.

  • Here the room-service person is the context considering you are the single activity and the hotel to be your app, finally the breakfast, lunch & dinner have to be the resources.


Things that involve context are:

  1. Loading a resource.
  2. Launching a new activity.
  3. Creating views.
  4. obtaining system service.

Context is the base class for Activity, Service, Application .... etc

Another way to describe this: Consider context as remote of a TV & channel's in the television are resources, services, using intents etc - - - Here remote acts as an access to get access to all the different resources into foreground.

  • So, Remote has access to channels such as resources, services, using intents etc ....
  • Likewise ..... Whoever has access to remote naturally has access to all the things such as resources, services, using intents etc

Different invoking methods by which you can get context

  • getApplicationContext()
  • getContext()
  • getBaseContext()
  • or this (when in the activity class)

Example:

TextView TV=new TextView(this);

this -> refers to the context of the current activity.

answered 5 years ago Muhammad Rayees #14

Context in Android is an interface to global information about an application environment. This is an abstract class whose implementation is provided by the Android system. It allows access to application-specific resources and classes, as well as up-calls for application-level operations such as launching activities, broadcasting and receiving intents, etc.

answered 5 years ago Nicolas Zozol #15

A Context is what most of us would call Application. It's made by the Android system and is able to do only what an application is able to. In Tomcat, a Context is also what I would call an application.

There is one Context that holds many Activities, each Activity may have many Views.

Obviously, some will say that it doesn't fit because of this or that and they are probably right, but saying that a Context is your current application will help you to understand what you are putting in method parameters.

answered 4 years ago santoshpatmca #16

Context is context of current state of the application/object.Its an entity that represents various environment data . Context helps the current activity to interact with out side android environment like local files, databases, class loaders associated to the environment, services including system-level services, and more.

A Context is a handle to the system . It provides services like resolving resources, obtaining access to databases and preferences, and so on. An android app has activities. It’s like a handle to the environment your application is currently running in. The activity object inherits the Context object.

Different invoking methods by which you can get context 1. getApplicationContext(), 2. getContext(), 3. getBaseContext() 4. or this (when in the activity class).

answered 4 years ago Mubarak #17

Instances of the the class android.content.Context provide the connection to the Android system which executes the application. For example, you can check the size of the current device display via the Context.

It also gives access to the resources of the project. It is the interface to global information about the application environment.

The Context class also provides access to Android services, e.g., the alarm manager to trigger time based events.

Activities and services extend the Context class. Therefore they can be directly used to access the Context.

answered 4 years ago chandan kumar #18

Context is Instances of the the class android.content.Context provide the connection to the Android system which executes the application. For example, you can check the size of the current device display via the Context.

It also gives access to the resources of the project. It is the interface to global information about the application environment.

The Context class also provides access to Android services, e.g., the alarm manager to trigger time based events.

Activities and services extend the Context class. Therefore they can be directly used to access the Context.

answered 3 years ago IntelliJ Amiya #19

Context is an interface to global information about an application environment. It's an abstract class whose implementation is provided by the Android system.

Context allows access to application-specific resources and classes, as well as calls for application-level operations such as launching activities, broadcasting and receiving intents, etc.

Here is Example

 public class MyActivity extends Activity {

      public void Testing() {

      Context actContext = this; /*returns the Activity Context since   Activity extends Context.*/

      Context appContext = getApplicationContext();    /*returns the context of the single, global Application object of the current process. */

      Button BtnShowAct1 = (Button) findViewById(R.id.btnGoToAct1);
      Context BtnContext = BtnShowAct1.getContext();   /*returns the context of the View. */

For more details you can visit http://developer.android.com/reference/android/content/Context.html

answered 2 years ago Parsania Hardik #20

Simple Example to understand context in android :

Every boss has an assistant to look after, to do all less important and time consuming tasks. If a file or a cup of coffee is needed, assistant is on the run. Some bosses barely know what’s going on in the office, so they ask their assistants regarding this too. They do some work themselves but for most other things they need help of their assistants.

In this scenario,

Boss – is the Android application

Assistant – is context

Files/Cup of coffee – are resources

We generally call context when we need to get information about different parts of our application like Activities, Applications etc.

Some operations(things where assistant is needed) where context is involved:

Loading common resources Creating dynamic views Displaying Toast messages Launching Activities etc. Different ways of getting context:

getContext()

getBaseContext()

getApplicationContext()

this

answered 2 years ago Gavine Joyce #21

In Java, we say this keyword refers to the state of the current object of the application.
Similarly, in an alternate we have Context in Android Development.

This can be defined either explicitly or implicitly,

Context con = this;

getApplicationContext();

getBaseContext();

getContext();

answered 1 year ago Shubham Soni #22

Context is context of current state of the application/object. Its an entity that represents various environment data. Context helps the current activity to interact with out side Android Environment like local files, databases, class loaders associated to the environment, services including system-level services, and more.

A Context is a handle to the system. It provides services like resolving resources, obtaining access to databases and preferences, and so on. An android app has activities. It’s like a handle to the environment your application is currently running in. The activity object inherits the Context object. Examples for uses of context:

  1. Creating New objects: Creating new views, adapters, listeners

    TextView tv = new TextView(getContext());
    ListAdapter adapter = new SimpleCursorAdapter(getApplicationContext(), ...);
    
  2. Accessing Standard Common Resources: Services like LAYOUT_INFLATER_SERVICE, SharedPreferences:

    context.getSystemService(LAYOUT_INFLATER_SERVICE) 
    getApplicationContext().getSharedPreferences(*name*, *mode*);
    
  3. Accessing Components Implicitly: Regarding content providers, broadcasts, intent

    getApplicationContext().getContentResolver().query(uri, ...);
    

Difference between Activity Context and Application Context:

They are both instances of Context, but the application instance is tied to the lifecycle of the application, while the Activity instance is tied to the lifecycle of an Activity. Thus, they have access to different information about the application environment.

If you read the docs at getApplicationContext it notes that you should only use this if you need a context whose lifecycle is separate from the current context.

But in general, use the activity context unless you have a good reason not to.

Need of Context :

The documentation says that every view needs the context to access the right resources (e.g. the theme, strings etc.).

But why in the constructor and not through setContentView(View)?

1.Because the resources must be accessible while the view is being constructed (the constructor will need some resources to fully initialise the view).

2.This allows the flexibility of using a context that is different from the one of the current activity (imagine a view that uses some other string resources and not the ones from the current activity).

3.The designers of the Android SDK seem to have chosen that the context must be set only once and then stay the same throughout the lifetime of the view. Why context is not determined automatically at construction point?

1.Because there exists no static variable that would tell you the current global context of your application. The method getApplicationContext() is the closest to this, but it’s not static, so you need an instance of the Activity object to call it.

2.The Java language provides an option to look through the call stack and find whether the View has been constructed in a Context class. But what if there are many? Or what if there are none? This method is very expensive and error prone. So the designers of the API decided that a context must be manually provided.

answered 1 year ago lomza #23

If you want to connect Context with other familiar classes in Android, keep in mind this structure:

Context < ContextWrapper < Application

Context < ContextWrapper < ContextThemeWrapper < Activity

Context < ContextWrapper < ContextThemeWrapper < Activity < ListActivity

Context < ContextWrapper < Service

Context < ContextWrapper < Service < IntentService

So, all of those classes are contexts in their own way. You can cast Service and ListActivity to Context if you wish. But if you look closely, some of the classes inherit theme as well. In activity or fragment, you would like theming to be applied to your views, but don't care about it Service class, for instance.

I explain the difference in contexts here.

answered 1 year ago k3b #24

The Context is the android specific api to each app-s Sandbox that provides access app private data like to resources, database, private filedirectories, preferences, settings ...

Most of the privatedata are the same for all activities/services/broadcastlisteners of one application.

Since Application, Activity, Service implement the Context interface they can be used where an api call needs a Context parameter

answered 1 year ago Pavlus #25

Putting simple, Androids Context is a mess that you won't love until you stop worrying about.

Android Contexts are:

  • God-objects.

  • Thing that you want to pass around all your application when you are starting developing for Android, but will avoid doing it when you get a little bit closer to programming, testing and Android itself.

    • Unclear dependency.

    • Common source of memory leaks.

    • PITA for testing.

  • Actual context used by Android system to dispatch permissions, resources, preferences, services, broadcasts, styles, showing dialogs and inflating layout. And you need different Context instances for some separate things (obviously, you can't show a dialog from an application or service context; layouts inflated from application and activity contexts may differ).

answered 12 months ago Nikita Prajapati #26

 Context means current. Context use to do operation for current screen. ex.
  1. getApplicationContext()
  2. getContext()

Toast.makeText(getApplicationContext(), "hello", Toast.LENGTH_SHORT).show();

answered 12 months ago Jo Jo Roid #27

  • Context represents a handle to get environment data .
  • Context class itself is declared as abstract, whose implementation is provided by the android OS.
  • Context is like remote of a TV & channel's in the television are resources, services, etc. enter image description here

What can you do with it ?

  • Loading resource.
  • Launching a new activity.
  • Creating views.
  • Obtaining system service.

Ways to get context :

  • getApplicationContext()
  • getContext()
  • getBaseContext()enter image description hereenter image description here

answered 10 months ago saleem kalro #28

This attribute declares which activity this layout is associated with by default.

answered 7 months ago Rohit Singh #29

Boss Assistant Analogy

Lets have a small analogy before diving deep in the technicality of Context

Every Boss has an assistant or someone( errand boy) who does less important and more time consuming things for him. For example if they need a file or coffee then an assistant will be on run. Boss will not know what is going on in the background but the file or the task will be delivered

So Here
Boss - Android Application
Assistant - Context
File or cup of coffee - Resource

What official Android Developper site says about Context

Context is your accesss point for application related resources

Lets see some of such resources or tasks

  • Launching an activity.

  • Getting absolute path to the application specific cache directory on the filesystem.

  • Determining whether the given permission is allowed for a particular process and user ID running in the system.

  • Checking whether you have been granted a particular permission.

And so on.
So if Android application wants to start an activity, it goes straight to Context (Access Point), and the Context class gives him back the resources(Intent in this case).

Like any other class Context class too has fields and methods.
You can explore more about Context in official documentation, it covers pretty much everything, available methods, fields and even how to use fields with methods.

answered 6 months ago Uddhav Gautam #30

Context means component (or application) in various time-period. If I do eat so many food between 1 to 2 pm then my context of that time is used to access all methods (or resources) that I use during that time. Content is an component (application) for particular time. Context of components of application keeps changing based on the underlying lifecycle of the components or application. For instance, inside the onCreate() of an Activity,

getBaseContext() -- gives the context of the Activity that is set (created) by the constructor of activity. getApplicationContext() -- gives the Context setup (created) during the creation of application.

Note: <application> holds all Android Components.

<application>
    <activity> .. </activity> 

    <service>  .. </service>

    <receiver> .. </receiver>

    <provider> .. </provider>
</application> 

It means, when you call getApplicationContext() from inside whatever component, you are calling the common context of the whole application.

Context keeps being modified by the system based on the lifecycle of components.

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