Building web apps in WebView

If you want to deliver a web application (or just a web page) as a part of a client application, you can do it using WebView. The WebView class is an extension of Android's View class that allows you to display web pages as a part of your activity layout. It does not include any features of a fully developed web browser, such as navigation controls or an address bar. All that WebView does, by default, is show a web page.

A common scenario in which using WebView is helpful is when you want to provide information in your app that you might need to update, such as an end-user agreement or a user guide. Within your Android app, you can create an Activity that contains a WebView, then use that to display your document that's hosted online.

Another scenario in which WebView can help is if your app provides data to the user that always requires an Internet connection to retrieve data, such as email. In this case, you might find that it's easier to build a WebView in your Android app that shows a web page with all the user data, rather than performing a network request, then parsing the data and rendering it in an Android layout. Instead, you can design a web page that's tailored for Android devices and then implement a WebView in your Android app that loads the web page.

This document shows you how to get started with WebView and how to do some additional things, such as handle page navigation and bind JavaScript from your web page to client-side code in your Android app.

Adding a WebView to your app

To add a WebView to your app, you can either include the <WebView> element in your activity layout, or set the entire Activity window as a WebView in onCreate().

Adding a WebView in the activity layout

To add a WebViewto your app in the layout, add the following code to your activity's layout XML file:

<WebView
    android:id="@+id/webview"
    android:layout_width="match_parent"
    android:layout_height="match_parent"
/>

To load a web page in the WebView, use loadUrl(). For example:

Kotlin

val myWebView: WebView = findViewById(R.id.webview)
myWebView.loadUrl("http://www.example.com")

Java

WebView myWebView = (WebView) findViewById(R.id.webview);
myWebView.loadUrl("http://www.example.com");

Adding a WebView in onCreate()

To add a WebView to your app in an activity’s onCreate() method instead, use logic similar to the following:

Kotlin

val myWebView = WebView(activityContext)
setContentView(myWebView)

Java

WebView myWebView = new WebView(activityContext);
setContentView(myWebView);

Then load the page with:

Kotlin

myWebView.loadUrl("http://www.example.com")

Java

myWebView.loadUrl("https://www.example.com");

Or load the URL from an HTML string:

Kotlin

// Create an unencoded HTML string
// then convert the unencoded HTML string into bytes, encode
// it with Base64, and load the data.
val unencodedHtml =
        "&lt;html&gt;&lt;body&gt;'%23' is the percent code for ‘#‘ &lt;/body&gt;&lt;/html&gt;"
val encodedHtml = Base64.encodeToString(unencodedHtml.toByteArray(), Base64.NO_PADDING)
myWebView.loadData(encodedHtml, "text/html", "base64")

Java

// Create an unencoded HTML string
// then convert the unencoded HTML string into bytes, encode
// it with Base64, and load the data.
String unencodedHtml =
     "&lt;html&gt;&lt;body&gt;'%23' is the percent code for ‘#‘ &lt;/body&gt;&lt;/html&gt;";
String encodedHtml = Base64.encodeToString(unencodedHtml.getBytes(),
        Base64.NO_PADDING);
myWebView.loadData(encodedHtml, "text/html", "base64");

Note: There are restrictions on what this HTML can do. See loadData() and loadDataWithBaseURL() for more info about encoding options.

Before this will work, however, your app must have access to the Internet. To get Internet access, request the INTERNET permission in your manifest file. For example:

<manifest ... >
    <uses-permission android:name="android.permission.INTERNET" />
    ...
</manifest>

That's all you need for a basic WebView that displays a web page. Additionally, you can customize your WebViewby modifying the following:

  • Enabling fullscreen support with WebChromeClient. This class is also called when a WebView needs permission to alter the host app’s UI, such as creating or closing windows and sending JavaScript dialogs to the user. To learn more about debugging in this context, read Debugging Web Apps.
  • Handling events that impact content rendering, such as errors on form submissions or navigation with WebViewClient. You can also use this subclass to intercept URL loading.
  • Enabling JavaScript by modifying WebSettings.
  • Using JavaScript to access Android framework objects that you have injected into a WebView.

Using JavaScript in WebView

If the web page you plan to load in your WebView uses JavaScript, you must enable JavaScript for your WebView. Once JavaScript is enabled, you can also create interfaces between your app code and your JavaScript code.

Enabling JavaScript

JavaScript is disabled in a WebView by default. You can enable it through the WebSettings attached to your WebView.You can retrieve WebSettings with getSettings(), then enable JavaScript with setJavaScriptEnabled().

For example:

Kotlin

val myWebView: WebView = findViewById(R.id.webview)
myWebView.settings.javaScriptEnabled = true

Java

WebView myWebView = (WebView) findViewById(R.id.webview);
WebSettings webSettings = myWebView.getSettings();
webSettings.setJavaScriptEnabled(true);

WebSettings provides access to a variety of other settings that you might find useful. For example, if you're developing a web application that's designed specifically for the WebView in your Android app, then you can define a custom user agent string with setUserAgentString(), then query the custom user agent in your web page to verify that the client requesting your web page is actually your Android app.

Binding JavaScript code to Android code

When developing a web application that's designed specifically for the WebView in your Android app, you can create interfaces between your JavaScript code and client-side Android code. For example, your JavaScript code can call a method in your Android code to display a Dialog, instead of using JavaScript's alert() function.

To bind a new interface between your JavaScript and Android code, call addJavascriptInterface(), passing it a class instance to bind to your JavaScript and an interface name that your JavaScript can call to access the class.

For example, you can include the following class in your Android app:

Kotlin

/** Instantiate the interface and set the context  */
class WebAppInterface(private val mContext: Context) {

    /** Show a toast from the web page  */
    @JavascriptInterface
    fun showToast(toast: String) {
        Toast.makeText(mContext, toast, Toast.LENGTH_SHORT).show()
    }
}

Java

public class WebAppInterface {
    Context mContext;

    /** Instantiate the interface and set the context */
    WebAppInterface(Context c) {
        mContext = c;
    }

    /** Show a toast from the web page */
    @JavascriptInterface
    public void showToast(String toast) {
        Toast.makeText(mContext, toast, Toast.LENGTH_SHORT).show();
    }
}

Caution: If you've set your targetSdkVersion to 17 or higher, you must add the @JavascriptInterface annotation to any method that you want available to your JavaScript (the method must also be public). If you do not provide the annotation, the method is not accessible by your web page when running on Android 4.2 or higher.

In this example, the WebAppInterface class allows the web page to create a Toast message, using the showToast() method.

You can bind this class to the JavaScript that runs in your WebView with addJavascriptInterface() and name the interface Android. For example:

Kotlin

val webView: WebView = findViewById(R.id.webview)
webView.addJavascriptInterface(WebAppInterface(this), "Android")

Java

WebView webView = (WebView) findViewById(R.id.webview);
webView.addJavascriptInterface(new WebAppInterface(this), "Android");

This creates an interface called Android for JavaScript running in the WebView. At this point, your web application has access to the WebAppInterface class. For example, here's some HTML and JavaScript that creates a toast message using the new interface when the user clicks a button:

<input type="button" value="Say hello" onClick="showAndroidToast('Hello Android!')" />

<script type="text/javascript">
    function showAndroidToast(toast) {
        Android.showToast(toast);
    }
</script>

There's no need to initialize the Android interface from JavaScript. The WebView automatically makes it available to your web page. So, at the click of the button, the showAndroidToast() function uses the Android interface to call the WebAppInterface.showToast() method.

Note: The object that is bound to your JavaScript runs in another thread and not in the thread in which it was constructed.

Caution: Using addJavascriptInterface() allows JavaScript to control your Android app. This can be a very useful feature or a dangerous security issue. When the HTML in the WebView is untrustworthy (for example, part or all of the HTML is provided by an unknown person or process), then an attacker can include HTML that executes your client-side code and possibly any code of the attacker's choosing. As such, you should not use addJavascriptInterface() unless you wrote all of the HTML and JavaScript that appears in your WebView. You should also not allow the user to navigate to other web pages that are not your own, within your WebView (instead, allow the user's default browser application to open foreign links—by default, the user's web browser opens all URL links, so be careful only if you handle page navigation as described in the following section).

Handling page navigation

When the user clicks a link from a web page in your WebView, the default behavior is for Android to launch an app that handles URLs. Usually, the default web browser opens and loads the destination URL. However, you can override this behavior for your WebView, so links open within your WebView. You can then allow the user to navigate backward and forward through their web page history that's maintained by your WebView.

Note: For security reasons, the system’s browser app doesn’t share its application data with your app.

To open links clicked by the user, provide a WebViewClient for your WebView, using setWebViewClient(). For example:

Kotlin

val myWebView: WebView = findViewById(R.id.webview)
webView.webViewClient = WebViewClient()
(WebViewClient())

Java

WebView myWebView = (WebView) findViewById(R.id.webview);
myWebView.setWebViewClient(MyWebViewClient);

That's it. Now all links the user clicks load in your WebView.

If you want more control over where a clicked link loads, create your own WebViewClient that overrides the shouldOverrideUrlLoading() method. For example:

Kotlin

private class MyWebViewClient : WebViewClient() {

    override fun shouldOverrideUrlLoading(view: WebView?, url: String?): Boolean {
        if (Uri.parse(url).host == "www.example.com") {
            // This is my web site, so do not override; let my WebView load the page
            return false
        }
        // Otherwise, the link is not for a page on my site, so launch another Activity that handles URLs
        Intent(Intent.ACTION_VIEW, Uri.parse(url)).apply {
            startActivity(this)
        }
        return true
    }
}

Java

private class MyWebViewClient extends WebViewClient {
    @Override
    public boolean shouldOverrideUrlLoading(WebView view, String url) {
        if (Uri.parse(url).getHost().equals("https://www.example.com")) {
            // This is my website, so do not override; let my WebView load the page
            return false;
        }
        // Otherwise, the link is not for a page on my site, so launch another Activity that handles URLs
        Intent intent = new Intent(Intent.ACTION_VIEW, Uri.parse(url));
        startActivity(intent);
        return true;
    }
}

Then create an instance of this new WebViewClient for the WebView:

Kotlin

val myWebView: WebView = findViewById(R.id.webview)
myWebView.webViewClient = MyWebViewClient()

Java

WebView myWebView = (WebView) findViewById(R.id.webview);
myWebView.setWebViewClient(new MyWebViewClient());

Now when the user clicks a link, the system calls shouldOverrideUrlLoading(), which checks whether the URL host matches a specific domain (as defined above). If it does match, then the method returns false in order to not override the URL loading (it allows the WebView to load the URL as usual). If the URL host does not match, then an Intent is created to launch the default Activity for handling URLs (which resolves to the user's default web browser).

When your WebView overrides URL loading, it automatically accumulates a history of visited web pages. You can navigate backward and forward through the history with goBack() and goForward().

For example, here's how your Activity can use the device Back button to navigate backward:

Kotlin

override fun onKeyDown(keyCode: Int, event: KeyEvent?): Boolean {
    // Check if the key event was the Back button and if there's history
    if (keyCode == KeyEvent.KEYCODE_BACK && myWebView.canGoBack()) {
        myWebView.goBack()
        return true
    }
    // If it wasn't the Back key or there's no web page history, bubble up to the default
    // system behavior (probably exit the activity)
    return super.onKeyDown(keyCode, event)
}

Java

@Override
public boolean onKeyDown(int keyCode, KeyEvent event) {
    // Check if the key event was the Back button and if there's history
    if ((keyCode == KeyEvent.KEYCODE_BACK) && myWebView.canGoBack()) {
        myWebView.goBack();
        return true;
    }
    // If it wasn't the Back key or there's no web page history, bubble up to the default
    // system behavior (probably exit the activity)
    return super.onKeyDown(keyCode, event);
}
}

The canGoBack() method returns true if there is actually web page history for the user to visit. Likewise, you can use canGoForward() to check whether there is a forward history. If you don't perform this check, then once the user reaches the end of the history, goBack() or goForward() does nothing.

Handling device configuration changes

During runtime, activity state changes occur when a device’s configuration changes, such as when users rotate the device or dismiss an input method editor (IME). These changes will cause a WebView object's activity to be destroyed and a new activity to be created, which also creates a new WebView object that will load the destroyed object's URL. To modify your activity’s default behavior, you can change how it handles orientation changes in your manifest. To learn more about handling configuration changes during runtime, read Handling configuration changes.

Managing windows

By default, requests to open new windows are ignored. This is true whether they are opened by JavaScript or by the target attribute in a link. You can customize your WebChromeClient to provide your own behavior for opening multiple windows.

Caution: To keep your app more secure, it's best to prevent popups and new windows from opening. The safest way to implement this behavior is to pass "true" into setSupportMultipleWindows() but not override the onCreateWindow() method, which setSupportMultipleWindows() depends on. Keep in mind, however, that this logic also prevents any page that uses target="_blank" in its links from loading.