Supercharging your app development speed with custom file templates

Rajdeep Singh
Published in
8 min readOct 31, 2018


Credits : Google Inc. , via Wikimedia Commons and Vexels

While working on the android app at Wishfie, we often had to write a lot of boilerplate code for creation of each of our new Activity and Fragment. I’ll give you an example of what i mean:

As we were following MVP architecture, each of our new Activity or Fragment required a Contract class, a Presenter class, a Dagger module and the Activity class itself and that was a lot of boilerplate code to be written every time.

This is what our Activity, Module, Contract and Presenter looked like:

That’s a common pattern in android and many of you might be using the same. So that was the problem statement we had and the solution came from reading about this awesome feature of Android Studio known as Custom template.

By the end of this article, we will create a template to create all of these files in just one click every time with different suffixes. So, let’s begin:

What are templates in Android Studio?

Android Studio activity creation template

According to IntelliJ:

File templates are specifications of the default contents to be generated when creating a new file. Depending on the type of file you are creating, templates provide initial code and formatting that is expected to be in all files of that type (according to industry standards, your corporate policy, or for other reasons).

In short, templates are used to create files that already contains some boilerplate code for you. Most of the time when you create an Activity, Fragment, Service, etc from the set of pre defined options, a lot of boilerplate code is already written for you, which basically is created from a set of prewritten templates created by the Android Studio team. For example, an empty activity created from above shown menu consists of the following boilerplate code by default along with an XML file and an entry into manifest file.

What type of templates can you create?

  1. You can create .java, .xml, .cpp, etc type file templates.
  2. You can create your own live templates. If you’ve ever used Toast template or psfi for public static final int, those are known as live templates.
  3. You can create a group of file templates. For example, see how the Android Studio creates and .xml and .java file for Activity as well as enter the details of that created activity in our manifest file.

What language is used for template creation?

Apache Velocity Template Language is used for creating these templates.

Pitstops in this tutorial:

  1. We’ll begin with creating a basic file template that will create a RecyclerView Adapter along with an inner ViewHolder class, as it is one of the most frequently used class.
  2. We will create our own live template.
  3. We will end this by writing a template for creation of above mentioned 4 files to follow mvp pattern in our app.

Pitstop 1:

  • Right click on any of the package folder, and then New -> Edit File Templates.
  • Click on the + button to create a new template and name it anything you want. I am going to name it RecyclerViewAdapter.
  • Paste the following template code in the area below Name field. I’ll go step by step and explain what is going on in code:
  • If you give a quick read to the Description panel below the code input field in android studio, most of the above code will be easy to understand.
  • ${<VARIABLE_NAME>} is used to create variables which are used throughout the template and you are prompted to enter values for them when you use the template to create code. There are also some predefined variables such as ${PACKAGE_NAME}, ${DATE}, etc.
  • The #if directive is used to check whether the package name is not empty, and if so, add the name to the package statement passed as the ${PACKAGE_NAME} variable.
  • The #parse directive is used to insert the contents of another template named File which you can find under includes tab in the same window. Yours might look like:
  • The rest of the code uses these variables and static text, code and comments to create the file.
  • Now right click any folder, then click New and you will find your template right there. Clicking on that will open up a prompt box to enter the value for placeholders we had defined earlier.
  • This is what our generated template looks like:
File generated using our Android Studio template.

Pitstop 2:

  • This pitstop has nothing much to do with our end goal of creating template for mvp source files, but it’s nice to know about each of the option Android Studio provides us with.
  • Live templates are shortcuts that you can use in your code to quickly get code snippets. You can also add arguments to quickly tab through them.
Toast live templates in Android Studio
  • For mac users, go to Android Studio -> Preferences -> Editor -> Live Templates. Here, you’ll see a box containing all the existing live templates, like fbc for findViewById cast, foreach for loop creation, etc.
  • Now, click on Android -> + ->LiveTemplate. You’ll get an option to add an abbreviation to use the template, a description about what your template does and the template text for your template.
  • Select the type of files your template will be available in by selecting the Define option and select XML for now.
Live template creation wizard in Android Studio
  • Click ok to save it and start using it. Open your layout XML file and start typing tv and press tab to use your newly created template.
Our newly created live template in action

Pitstop 3:

Pheww!! We have covered a lot of things and now it’s time to start with creating our mvp template. We need to create an Activity, DaggerModule, Contract and Presenter. The prefix will be taken as user input and rest will be in format as described during the beginning of this article.

  • Navigate to Android Studio folder in your Windows/Linux/Mac file system and go to plugins -> android -> lib -> templates -> other. Create an empty folder with name that you’d like to see in the menu. I’ll name it MVP Template.
  • In mac, the location for folder should be /Applications/Android/ and for windows or linux, you can find it at {ANDROID_STUDIO_LOCATION}/plugins/android/lib/templates/other/
  • Be sure to checkout the activities folder in templates to see how EmptyActivity, BasicActivity and others are created through templates, it will help a lot in writing your own templates.
  • Now, in the newly created MVP Template folder, create template.xml, recipe.xml.ftl and globals.xml.ftl. Also, create a folder named root which will hold our actual template files. I’ll explain what each of these files do one by one:
  1. template.xml — This handles the UI part of the configuration screen. It defines the user input fields, checkboxes, dropdowns, etc that the user see while using template to create files.
  2. recipe.xml.ftl — This is the file using which, your templates from root folder are converted to actual java files in Android Studio. It contains information about what files are to be created and from what templates and so on.
  3. globals.xml.ftl — This contain all the global variables. Its a good practice to define variables for src and res directory path in here.
  • In template.xml, paste the following code:

template.xml describes the parameters that should be asked from the user :

  1. id is the unique id for that element.
  2. name is nothing but a hint (just like hint in EditText) that is shown to user.
  3. type defines whether user should be shown a text input or spinner in case of enum or a checkbox in case of boolean.
  4. default is the default value in case user leaves the input empty.
  5. globals and execute attributes links our globals and recipe files.
  • In recipe.xml.ftl, paste this:

recipe.xml.ftl defines what files should be created from which template and what files should be opened after the creation. It can also copy code from our templates to existing files like manifest.xml or string.xml and so on. Be sure to checkout the default template examples for creating activities.

className variable is the id of input we took from the user, the code for that is written in template.xml and srcOut is defined in globals.xml.ftl. The rest of file is pretty self explanatory.

  • In globals.xml.ftl :
  • Now, in root folder, create src/app_package/ folder and paste these four files in it :

These files contain the templates which will be converted exactly to java or xml codes and the arguments will be replaced by their actual values.

And we’re finally done with all the steps. Just restart the Android Studio for this template to come into action and become available in the menu.

Our newly created MVP template

If used properly, Android Studio templating is a powerful feature to speed up the app development process. These templates can be spread across your whole android team to ease the boilerplate code creation.

That’s all folks. If you liked the article and found it useful, don’t forget to clap and share this article with other android devs. Happy coding 💗.

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