Making the most of TextView auto-sizing on Android

Dynamically adjusting the size of text on Android with a simple API

Nick Rout
Over Engineering
Published in
4 min readJun 19, 2018

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TextView auto-sizing was introduced to the framework with Android 8.0 Oreo (API 26). It offers a simple yet powerful API to solve a particular problem: scaling of text size to fit text bounds.

When is this needed? 🤔

For Android Development, using a fixed textSize, layout_width="match_parent” and layout_height="wrap_content” (perhaps inside a scrollable parent) is fairly common practice and suitable for most TextView use cases.

However, consider the case where the width and/or height of the text bounds are fixed and the text needs to adapt to the available space. Examples include a newspaper-style layout, a font selector that needs to show each different font typeface/name on a single-line, etc. The text can’t scroll and we can’t just add a "read more" button. In these scenarios, TextView auto-sizing is precisely what we need.

The basics 🔤

The TextView auto-sizing API is fairly concise. It can be implemented in XML layouts or programmatically. There are three distinct ways of enabling auto-sizing on a TextView, with increasing levels of specificity: Default, Granular and Preset.

At the time of this writing, the chances of anyone having a minSdk of 26 are quite slim. Thankfully, all of the auto-sizing functionality is available in the AndroidX core package (formerly Support Library). The differences to the framework API are minimal:

  • Use the app namespace for XML attributes
  • Use the functions in TextViewCompat instead those on TextView directly

Note: All of the examples in this post will use the AndroidX implementation.

Before we get going, there are two important points to keep in mind:

  • Auto-sizing (as the name would suggest) only adjusts the text size. Other properties (eg. letterSpacing, lineHeight, etc.) are not changed. They do, of course, affect the text layout bounds and thus impact the automatic size chosen for the text.
  • It is advised to not use a layout_width or layout_height of "wrap_content" when using TextView auto-sizing, as this may lead to unexpected results. Using a fixed dimension or "match_parent" is fine (or a “0dp” match_constraint if you are using ConstraintLayout) .

Default auto-sizing 1️⃣

This is the simplest way of enabling TextView auto-sizing. Given the bounds and attributes of a TextView, the text size is adjusted in an attempt to perfectly fit the horizontal and vertical axes.

Note: The granularity dimensions for default auto-sizing are minTextSize = 12sp, maxTextSize = 112sp, and granularity = 1px (see Granular auto-sizing below).

In XML:

Programmatically:

where autoSizeTextType can be:

  • TextViewCompat.AUTO_SIZE_TEXT_TYPE_UNIFORM (enabled)
  • TextViewCompat.AUTO_SIZE_TEXT_TYPE_NONE (disabled)

Granular auto-sizing 2️⃣

This allows you to define the values used in uniform auto-sizing: the minimum and maximum text sizes as well a dimension for the size of each "step". A "step" is the increase/decrease in size of the text layout bounds. The text size scales uniformly between the minimum and maximum text size after each "step".

In XML:

Programmatically:

where unit is the TypedValue dimension unit of all of the configuration values (eg. TypedValue.COMPLEX_UNIT_SP).

Preset auto-sizing 3️⃣

This allows you to specify all the possible values used for auto-sizing. The most appropriate text size will be picked from these values to fit the text bounds.

In XML:

Add the preset sizes to res/values/arrays.xml:

In your layout:

Programmatically:

where unit is the TypedValue dimension unit of the preset size values in the array.

Pro-tips and gotchas 🤓

Mixing value types:

You may have noticed that the programmatic versions of granular and preset auto-sizing could be limiting: the TypedValue unit in these functions applies to all of the supplied auto-sizing values. If you want to mix types (eg. PX and SP) then you need to do so in XML.

Auto-sizing to a single line:

You may be required to restrict auto-sized text to a single line. You can set the lines or maxLines TextView layout attributes to "1" (or use the programmatic equivalent). You may also need to adjust the granular autoSizeMinTextSize, as single-line text will be clipped if the minimum text size is reached but the width still exceeds that of the layout bounds.

Performance:

For performance optimization, one might assume that using preset auto-sizing is the best option. In reality, granular text sizes are precomputed given the minimum, maximum and step values and the difference is negligible.

I hope this post has provided some insight into TextView auto-sizing and how best to make use of it. If you have any questions, thoughts or suggestions then I’d love to hear from you!

Find me on Twitter @ricknout

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