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Illustration by Virginia Poltrack

Underspanding spans

Florina Muntenescu
Apr 4, 2018 · 9 min read

Under the hood: how spans work

Setting text for maximum performance

1. Text set on a TextView never changes

2. Text style changes by adding/removing spans

textView.setText(spannableObject, BufferType.SPANNABLE)
// if setText was called with BufferType.SPANNABLE
textView.setText(spannable, BufferType.SPANNABLE)
// the text can be cast to Spannable
val spannableText = textView.text as Spannable
// now we can set or remove spans
8, spannableText.length,

3. Text changes (reusing TextView)

val spannableFactory = object : Spannable.Factory() {
override fun newSpannable(source: CharSequence?): Spannable {
return source as Spannable

Bonus performance tip

class MainActivity : AppCompatActivity() {
// keeping the span as a field
val bulletSpan = BulletPointSpan(color = Color.RED)
override fun onCreate(savedInstanceState: Bundle?) {

val spannable = SpannableString(“Text is spantastic”)
// setting the span to the bulletSpan field
0, 4,
button.setOnClickListener( {
// change the color of our mutable span
bulletSpan.color = Color.GRAY
// color won’t be changed until invalidate is called

Under the hood: passing text with spans intra and inter-process

// start Activity with text with spans
val intent = Intent(this,
intent.putExtra(TEXT_EXTRA, mySpannableString)
// read text with Spans
val intentCharSequence = intent.getCharSequenceExtra(TEXT_EXTRA)

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