Users on laptops often use different input devices than on phones.
Running on Chromebooks, Android apps find themselves in an environment they were not designed for, displayed inside a window on a laptop with mouse, touchpad and keyboard. While Android does have support for those devices, they are rarely properly implemented in apps. In order to make these apps work, Chromebooks use a compatibility mode that is applied to all apps by default.
In compatibility mode, your app will receive events differently from how they are provided by Android APIs. This mode is useful for developers that do not want to implement Chromebook-specific features, but want their touch-centric app to just work.
The compatibility mode introduces the following behaviors:
- Touchpad scrolling may emulate touch screen scrolling with 2 ‘fingers’.
- Mouse wheel scrolling may do the same.
- All measurements and events behave as if the app window is displayed full
screen. Methods like
getRawYmay not return display-space coordinates but window-space coordinates.
Depending on the API level your app is targeting, compatibility mode provides more or less of these compatibility treatments.
If you want to optimize your app for running on Chromebooks and to make good use of the input devices, declare the following in your app manifest:
<uses-feature android:name="android.hardware.type.pc" android:required="false" />
This tells Android that you are targeting PC devices that are typically used with keyboard, mouse, and touchpad. It disables the compatibility mode and allows you to develop custom behavior for mouse and touchpad.
Beware the DecorCaptionView
In free-form window mode, the apps caption bar is part of your view hierarchy and under your control. You generally do not have to be aware of this, but there are cases where you have to be careful:
- Do not fiddle with
Window.getDecorView(). If you want to add top-level views, add them to the view you have set as
- Do not expect your
Activity.setContentView()to be at (0, 0) of your app. That’s where the caption bar is.
- If possible, avoid using
MotionEvent.getRawY(). If you do use them, use them in conjunction with
View.getLocationOnScreen()to transform coordinates to view-space coordinates.
Input device support
Once you are targeting PC devices via the
you can expect the following events:
Mouse and Touchpad
Mouse and touchpad both generate
MotionEvents just like touch events.
MotionEvent. to distinguish
- Mouse/touchpad movement. Generates
ACTION_HOVER_MOVEevents. Those are handled in
- Mouse/touchpad buttons. Sends
View.onGenericMotionEvent(). You can also check for pressed buttons in all mouse/touchpad events by using
- Touchpad scrolling. Scrolling using two fingers on the touchpad is
reported similar to touchscreen drag events to allow for smooth and kinetic
getSource()if you want touchscreen drag and touchpad scrolling to behave differently.
- Mouse wheel scrolling. Mouse wheel scrolling is reported as
- Mouse/touchpad click and drag. Click and drag events are very similar
to touchscreen drag events. Use
getButtonState()to distinguish click and drag from a touchpad scroll event. Click and drag will always be accompanied by a button, while touchpad scrolling does not.
Keyboard input is important on desktop and laptop devices. It is also highly required for accessibility.
To get proper input focus activation, you should follow the normal resource additions as outlined in the default Android API:
- If you want to handle keyboard input yourself, you can use the default
KeyEvent.callback. There is no need to handle keyboard input inside a
- If you want to edit text yourself, you should use
onKeyPreIMEevents unless you want to implement the full breadth of IME—which is not recommended.
A stylus reports events similar to a touchscreen via
However, stylus events carry more information that should be accounted for:
MotionEvent.getToolType(). The tool type allows you to distinguish
TOOL_TYPE_STYLUSevents. It also allows you to recognize the usage of the eraser side of a pen if the user has one via
MotionEvent.getPressure(). Represents the physical pressure applied to the stylus pen if supported.
MotionEvent.AXIS_TILT/AXIS_ORIENTATION. Can be used with
MotionEvent.getAxisValue()to read the physical tilt and orientation of the stylus if supported.
Android batches input events to be delivered once per frame. A stylus pen, however, can report at much higher frequencies (200Hz being quite common). When creating drawing apps, it is important to use the points acquired from the historical API:
Chrome OS attempts to recognize resting palms so they are never
reported to the app. However this is not always possible: sometimes a touch may
be reported before the OS recognizes it as a palm. In that case, touches will
be cancelled by reporting an
This event tells the app that all touches are invalid and it should undo all interactions caused by the touches. For example, in case of drawing apps, the app will temporarily draw new lines and commit them to the canvas only once the touch series is finished cleanly. If the touch is cancelled, that temporary line can be easily removed.
Chrome OS displays a list of apps that are registered to handle intents
org.chromium.arc.intent.action.CREATE_NOTE action and the
as shown in the following code snippet:
<intent-filter> <action android:name="org.chromium.arc.intent.action.CREATE_NOTE" /> <category android:name="android.intent.category.DEFAULT" /> </intent-filter>
The user will be able to select an app, and that app will later be launched when a note-taking app is requested.
When the user requests creating a new note, the app will be launched using an intent containing just the aforementioned action and category. The app should create an empty note in a mode where the user can write using a stylus.
When the user requests annotating an image (e.g. a screenshot or downloaded
image) context, the app launches using an intent with the
aforementioned action and category, including
ClipData containing one or more items
with content:// URIs. The app should create a note that uses the first attached
image as a background image in a mode where the user can draw on it using a
Testing without a stylus
- Switch to dev mode and make the device writable.
- Press Ctrl+Alt+F2 (forward-arrow) to open the shell.
- Run the command
sudo vi /etc/chrome_dev.conf.
--ash-enable-paletteto a new line at the end of the file.
- Press Ctrl+Alt+F1 (back-arrow) to return to the UI.
- Log out and back in.
You will now see the stylus entry points: - In the shelf, you can tap the stylus button and choose “New note”. This should open a blank drawing note in your application. - If you take a screenshot (from shelf: stylus button > Capture screen) or download an image, you should see the option “Annotate image” in the notification. This should open your app with the image ready to be annotated.
Chromebooks support up to 4 gamepads and follows standard Android APIs for reporting them. Unfortunately it is quite common that gamepads not designed for Android show the right button mapping.