Recyclerview in Open Event Android: A great upgradation to ListView

Recently, I was fixing a trivial bug in the Open Event Android app, an interesting thing caught my attention. Most of the lists in the app where actually not implemented using the traditional ListView, but instead used something called RecyclerView. The beautiful transitions that make this app the beauty it is, is due to the amazing and easy to code Recycler Views used in it.

A screen shot showcasing the simplicity of the FOSSASIA Open event android app.


List View is one among the various views that Android provides. In a nutshell, it is literally a group of generic views in Android. Why then use an entire new and more complex view, if all that it offers is a number of views displayed together? Well, it certainly has certain add-ons to the most generic set of views like Image and TextViews in Android.

I encourage you to think about what different could the ListView be as compared to multiple declarations of TextView. The thing with multiple declarations of a Text or Image View is that they aren’t “scrollable”, that is, if you want numerous Views in a single activity, without List View, you will have to fit them on one screen, else make another activity. So, if you want a scrollable view with same basic view items, List View is the way to go about it in Android.

The next question that may arise is:

How does a Listview work?

Google defines Adapters as “a bridge between an AdapterView and the underlying data for that view”. List Views use Adapters that retrieve data from Arrays, Lists and other data structures and queries, plugs them into our List View and thus, creates a beautiful looking List in no time. In Spite of all this, List View certainly lags in various fields that deal with performance, memory and compactness issues. As a great improvement Recycler View was introduced.

Using Recyclerview you are not restricted to vertical scrollable views. It has the ability to provide horizontal, vertical, grid and staggered layouts among others, with the help of different layout managers:-

recyclerView.setLayoutManager(new StaggeredGridLayoutManager(2,StaggeredGridLayoutManager.VERTICAL));
recyclerView.setLayoutManager(new LinearLayoutManager(RecyclerView_Activity.this,LinearLayoutManager.HORIZONTAL, false));

RecyclerView.ItemDecoration class allows us to add special drawings to our view. Thus, we can add dividers, borders and much more using this class.

public class DividerItemDecoration extends RecyclerView.ItemDecoration {
     private Drawable mDivider;
     public DividerItemDecoration(Drawable divider) {
         mDivider = divider;

Adding animation used to be a devil of a task in Listview days, however with the release of Recyclerview, it has become a lot more easy. RecyclerView.ItemAnimator class helps in animating items while the adapters are being changed.

Next, we have something related to the performance:-

In a List View, you might have come across the term, ‘Viewholder’, but if you haven’t, that’s okay too. However, in Recyclerview, using View Holders have been made mandatory and for a good reason. The class goes by the name RecyclerView.ViewHolder.

What exactly are View Holders?
The clean dividers and minimal design in the Recyclerview makes up for a subtle UI.

In a broader sense, it is used to provide information about the identity of an itemView and it’s position within a Recyclerview. Without View Holders we have an overhead of calling the function findViewById() for every item in our Recyclerview! This upgradation from the typical findViewById() to View Holders awards us with better and more smooth scrolling through the list.

How does Recyclerview work?

List View is an ancestor to Recyclerview. Recyclerview has everything that List View offers to us (except for a few things like setchoicemode(), which I might take up in my upcoming blog posts), and much more.

A great achievement that Android achieved through Recyclerview has been it’s ability to “recycle” views on the way. In laymen terms, if you scroll through a Recyclerview, the views that go away from the screen during scrolling are the same views that come into the screen. The only difference is that the data in the views leaving the screen is changed to the data of the views entering your screen and so they are presented as new views. In this way, a Recyclerview helps saving memory for sure as compared to List Views.

There are still a lot of other things to learn about Recycler and List Views and you find more resources here.