Android UI Internal : Pipeline of View's Touch Event Handling

This article aims to give you a big picture regarding how the touch event is handled in Android.  Simply speaking , we are trying to answer the question: when I press a button in an app , how the touch event is dispatched to that button and how can I handle it? 

A picture is worth a thousand words. Therefore,  I come up with the one below. The left diagram is what we see as a normal user ; the right one illustrates how the views are organized as a tree ; the bottom one describes the pipeline of event dispatching and handling, from Input module down to the individual focused view.

view hierarchy and touch event handling pipeline
I wish the diagram is self explaining, and I'd stress a few key points:

1. DecroView is created by the framework for each Activity and it contains the status bar , navigation bar and your content view. It is the root view that added to the WindowManager.

2. The touch event is dispatched from top to bottom but handled from bottom to top. The event is dispatched by calling dispatchTouchEvent and handled by onTouchEvent. 

3. Child view take precedence over parent view in handling event. Only if the child view does not consume the event, parent view can have a chance to handle it. In diagram above , if steps 6 return false, contenview will call its owner onTouchEvent, that is step 7.  See ViewGroup::dispatchTouchEvent() below.

4. To handle a touch event, you have two ways : either thru Event Listener (setOnTouchListener) or Event Handler (onTouchEvent). Be aware that Event Listener is called before Event Handler, if Event Listener returns true, Event Handle won't be called, so you risk losing other translated events (onClick, onLongClick) handled in the default Event Handler.  see View::dispatchTouchEvent() below.

5. If none of the views in the content view hierarchy handles the touchEvent, Activity::onTouchEvent will have a chance to handle it. see Activity::dispatchTouchEvent() below.

Below are implementation of dispatchTouchEvent in View, Activity and ViewGroup.  Code are pruned for simplicity.

loading code..

To reiterate what we talked, I captured the stacks when the button was touched. From this call stack we can confirm the touch event dispatched from the window -> activity -> viewGroup.dispatchTouchEvent -> view.dispatchTouchEvent ->view.onTouchEvent as we described previously. Then the call stack will wind back.

event handling call stack
In addition to the pipeline we talked above, Android framework also has some optimization in ViewGroup's dispatchTouchEvent in order to deliver the touch event more efficiently. For example , if a DOWN event is deliver to Button 2 , Button 2 will be set as current deliver target, following events until next DOWN will be delivered to Button 2 directly without doing hit test on all his children. Besides, ViewGroup has a chance to intercept the touch events before dispatching them to his children. 

I hope this introduction will make you more confident when dealing with the touch event in Android.
For more information, check out following links: Android Guide UI EventMaster Android Touch SystemAndroid Training Gestures.

Check out other articles in Android UI Internal series