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Bitesize Android KitKat: Week 2: Print Framework

Posted on 25 Feb 2014 Written by Sam Davies

One of the new frameworks present in KitKat is a full-stack printing framework, which allows app developers to hand off the printing of a variety of content. The framework supports all kinds of printers – from wifi and bluetooth, though to internet-enabled printers via Google CloudPrint. Part of the new framework allows providers to integrate their printing services with the framework, allowing users to choose a suitable printer at runtime. The framework provides developers with the ability to create content to send to the print service, with helper methods for imagery, and a full API for creating custom content.

In this article we’ll take a look at how to create content to provide to the print service – at how to add printing capabilities to your KitKat-enabled app.

There is an accompanying demo app with complete source code available on GitHub – at github.com/ShinobiControls/bitesize-kitkat. It was written and tested in AndroidStudio 0.4.4, so you should be able to get it running as a gradle project in either AndroidStudio or Eclipse.

The sample project comprises of a single activity and fragment, which contains an image and some accompanying text. There are 2 buttons, each triggering a print operation, using the two techniques we’re going to explore in this post.

PrintShop screenshot

This post is part of a series of articles – Bitesize Android KitKat, which takes a look at some of the new features available to developers as part of the KitKat release of Android. Each article is backed up with a sample app which demonstrates how to use the feature in a real scenario, with all the source code available on GitHub. Check the index for a list of all the articles published so far.

Printing Images

The print framework provides an easy-to-use helper API for printing images – i.e. photos for a photo printer or the suchlike. The Android support library includes a PrintHelper class which enables the printing of images. The following code snippet (attached to a button’s onClickListener) demonstrates how to use it:

PrintHelper printHelper = new PrintHelper(getActivity());
// Get the image
Bitmap image = getImage();
if (image != null) {
    // Send it to the print helper
    printHelper.printBitmap("PrintShop", image);

Creating a PrintHelper requires a Context object, and since we’re calling it from inside a fragment, we provide the Context via getActivity(). A PrintHelper has 3 important properties – ScaleModeColorMode and Orientation. The former describes how the image should be resized to fit the print page output, ColorMode determines whether the picture should print in full color, or in monochrome, and Orientation specifies whether the image should be printed in portrait or landscape.

The getImage() method is a utility method for obtaining the image from the fragment, which we’ll take a look at below. Provided we have a Bitmap then the printBitmap method is called on the PrintHelper object, passing in a String for the name of the job, and the Bitmap we wish to print.

The getBitmap() method is as follows:

public Bitmap getImage() {
    ImageView imageView = (ImageView) getView().findViewById(R.id.imageView);
    Bitmap image = null;
    // Get the image
    if ((imageView.getDrawable()) != null) {
        // Send it to the print helper
        image = ((BitmapDrawable) imageView.getDrawable()).getBitmap();
    return image;

This finds the ImageView with the specified name, and then extracts a bitmap from it. This is returned so that it can be set to the PrintHelper.

Once printBitmap has been called, then the system will present a print dialog to the user, allowing the details of the print job to be specified. These include the number of copies, the page ranges, paper size and orientation:

Setting printer options

The new print framework in KitKat also provides a method of adding support for print devices, but even without this, the system provides support for saving a PDF, printing to Google Drive and Google Cloud Print devices:

Choosing an available printer

Selecting “Save as PDF” will create a PDF containing the photo, with the specified page size:

Printed photo

Custom Print Adapter

Using the PrintHelper is all well and good for printing simple images, but for more complicated content we have to create a custom print adapter, which specifies exactly how the print content should be laid out.

PrintDocumentAdapter is an abstract class which, via subclassing, can be used to layout a page for printing. It has 4 methods which can be overridden, describing the workflow associated with the printing process:

  • onStart() — This is called once at the beginning of a new print job. It can be used to create resources and objects required for the lifetime of the job – for example you might have a layout managed which you would instantiate at this point.
  • onLayout() — Called at least once with the details of the print job – e.g. page size, orientation. As the user changes these settings via the print dialog additional calls will be made to this method to allow updates in the layout. You must provide notification that the layout is complete via the provided callback object.
  • onWrite() — Might be called, following a call to onLayout(). This signals a request to write a PDF of the specified pages to a given output location. In a similar way to onLayout(), you must provide notification that this method is complete via the callback object.
  • onFinish() — Always called once at the end of a job to allow cleanup of resources you may have created during the job.

In the simple example provided in PrintShop, we actually only need to override 2 of these methods – onLayout() and onWrite(), which we’ll take a look at after we’ve taken a look at the constructor.

Creating a custom print adapter

The simple adapter we’ll build today will be able to print any object which contains an image and some text. In order to describe such objects we’ll create a interface: imageAndTextContainer:

public interface ImageAndTextContainer {
    public String getText();
    public Bitmap getImage();

Very simple interface which defines a way of obtaining a Bitmap for an image and a String of text. When we create a print document adapter, we’ll require one of these containers, as well as a Context object:

public class PrintShopPrintDocumentAdapter extends PrintDocumentAdapter {

    private ImageAndTextContainer imageAndTextContainer;
    private Context context;
    private int pageCount;
    private PrintedPdfDocument pdfDocument;

    public PrintShopPrintDocumentAdapter(ImageAndTextContainer container, Context cxt) {
        imageAndTextContainer = container;
        context = cxt;

We save these arguments off into member variables for now. You’ll see how the other two member variables are used later on, as we work through the page layout and writing operations.

Since we want to print the fragment we’ve already seen, we need to ensure that it implements this new ImageAndTextContainerinterface:

public class PrintDemoFragment extends Fragment implements ImageAndTextContainer {


    public String getText() {
        TextView textView = (TextView) getView().findViewById(R.id.textView);
        return textView.getText().toString();

    public Bitmap getImage() {
        ImageView imageView = (ImageView) getView().findViewById(R.id.imageView);
        Bitmap image = null;
        // Get the image
        if ((imageView.getDrawable()) != null) {
            // Send it to the print helper
            image = ((BitmapDrawable) imageView.getDrawable()).getBitmap();
        return image;

We’ve actually already created the getImage() method for the previous photo printing section, so actually all we’ve added is the getText() method, which in this simple example just grabs the content of the TextView.

Now that we’ve created the print adapter, we need to prepare the page layout, and write the completed print document to the print manager.

Laying out the pages

The onLayout() method is likely to be called multiple times, as the user configures their print settings. Therefore it should be a fairly cheap operation. The result of this call should provide a PrintDocumentInfo object, which contains information such as the number of pages in the document.

Let’s take a look at the completed method and then work though the constituent parts:

public void onLayout(PrintAttributes oldAttributes, PrintAttributes newAttributes, CancellationSignal cancellationSignal, final LayoutResultCallback callback, Bundle extras) {

    // Register a cancellation listener
    cancellationSignal.setOnCancelListener(new CancellationSignal.OnCancelListener() {
        public void onCancel() {

    // Prepare the layout.
    int newPageCount;
    if(newAttributes.getMediaSize().getHeightMils() < 1000) {
        newPageCount = 2;
    } else {
        newPageCount = 1;

    // Create the PDF document we'll use later
    pdfDocument = new PrintedPdfDocument(context, newAttributes);

    // Has the layout actually changed?
    boolean layoutChanged = newPageCount != pageCount;
    pageCount = newPageCount;

    // Create the doc info to return
    PrintDocumentInfo info = new PrintDocumentInfo

    // Not actually going to do anything for now
    callback.onLayoutFinished(info, layoutChanged);

The first thing to do as part of onLayout() is to register a cancellation listener, so that if the user chooses to cancel the print, then the layout process will cancel. This is made possible since the onLayout() method is passed a CancellationSignal object, which we can register a OnCancelListener to. Here we’ll just callback that we’ve canceled the layout process. In practice you can use this as an opportunity to tidy up any expensive objects that you have around, or indeed kill any worker threads that you’ve kicked off.

In order to demonstrate how the layout can change, we’re calculating the number of pages based on the size of the page the printer is going to use. Here we’ve got a really simple check based on the magic value of 8000Mils (note that 1 Mil = 1/1000 inch).

pdfDocument is a member variable which will be used with the onWrite() method, and we prepare it here, whilst we’ve been passed the context and the attributes. From the point of view of the PrintAdapter, printing is actually just the equivalent of creating a PDF and sending it to the printer. The print framework deals with interacting with the different print drivers.

When the layout has been completed, the callback requires 2 arguments – a PrintDocumentInfo object which contains information on how the document should be constructed, and a boolean which specifies whether the layout has changed since the last time OnLayout was called. Since our layout is very simple, the only consideration for whether the layout has changed is the number of pages – so we add a simple check for that.

To create the PrintDocumentInfo object, we use a Builder, setting the output file name, the content type to be document (as opposed to photo), and the number of pages to value we calculated.

We then call the onLayoutFinished() method on the callback object supplied as an argument. It’s likely that the onLayout method will be called multiple times per print job – as the user configures the print job (e.g. changing paper size).

Writing the print job

Once the user is happy with the settings for a given job then they will tap the print button, and that’ll call onWrite() on the print adapter.

We’ll take a look at what this method does in small chunks:

public void onWrite(PageRange[] pages, ParcelFileDescriptor destination, CancellationSignal cancellationSignal, final WriteResultCallback callback) {

    // Register a cancellation listener
    cancellationSignal.setOnCancelListener(new CancellationSignal.OnCancelListener() {
        public void onCancel() {
            // If cancelled then ensure that the PDF doc gets thrown away
            pdfDocument = null;
            // And callback


In the same way as we did with the onLayout() method, we register a cancellation listener – which is an OnCancelListener object. This again means that should the user cancel the print job, we can stop what we’re doing and tidy up.

Next, we’ll actually draw each of the pages of the print job, looping through them one at a time:

// Iterate through the pages
for (int currentPageNumber = 0; currentPageNumber < pageCount; currentPageNumber++) {
    // Has this page been requested?
    if(!pageRangesContainPage(currentPageNumber, pages)) {
        // Skip this page

    // Start the current page
    PdfDocument.Page page = pdfDocument.startPage(currentPageNumber);

    // Get the canvas for this page
    Canvas canvas = page.getCanvas();

    // Draw on the page
    drawPage(currentPageNumber, canvas);

    // Finish the page

The first argument to the onWrite() method is an array of PageRange objects. This allows the user to specify exactly which pages they would like printed. In order to determine whether the current page should be drawn, the following helper method checks to see whether the given page number exists within an array of page ranges:

private boolean pageRangesContainPage(int pageNumber, PageRange[] ranges)
    for(PageRange range : ranges) {
        if(pageNumber >= range.getStart() && pageNumber <= range.getEnd()) {
            return true;
    return false;

The PdfDocument class was also added in KitKat, and provides an easy-to-use way to build PDF documents. The document was created in the onLayout() method, and here we create a new page with startPage(), get hold of its Canvas with getCanvas(), before drawing on it (using the drawPage()) utility method. Once the page has been completed, the page should be completed with finishPage().

The difficult part of creating the PDF is actually hidden behind the drawPage() method, which gives an idea of how it can be achieved:

private void drawPage(int pageNumber, Canvas canvas) {
    if(pageCount == 1) {
        // We're putting everything on one page
        Rect imageRect = new Rect(10, 10, canvas.getWidth() - 10, canvas.getHeight() / 2 - 10);
        drawImage(imageAndTextContainer.getImage(), canvas, imageRect);
        Rect textRect = new Rect(10, canvas.getHeight() / 2 + 10, canvas.getWidth() - 10, canvas.getHeight() - 10);
        drawText(imageAndTextContainer.getText(), canvas, textRect);
    } else {
        // Same rect for image and text
        Rect contentRect = new Rect(10, 10, canvas.getWidth() - 10, canvas.getHeight() - 10);
        // Image on page 0, text on page 1
        if(pageNumber == 0) {
            drawImage(imageAndTextContainer.getImage(), canvas, contentRect);
        } else {
            drawText(imageAndTextContainer.getText(), canvas, contentRect);

Most of the code in this method is determining how the image and text components should actually be laid out. This is fine for this simple example – in reality it’s likely that you’d want to create a separate layout engine, and pass the laying out and drawing of the document to that.

Once the frames of the individual components has been calculated, the following helper methods are used to actually draw the content:

private void drawText(String text, Canvas canvas, Rect rect) {
    TextPaint paint = new TextPaint();

    StaticLayout sl = new StaticLayout(text, paint, (int)rect.width(), Layout.Alignment.ALIGN_CENTER, 1, 1, false);

    canvas.translate(rect.left, rect.top);

private void drawImage(Bitmap image, Canvas canvas, Rect r) {
    canvas.drawBitmap(image, null, r, new Paint());

Text rendering is performed using a StaticLayout, and image rendering using the drawBitmap() method on Canvas.

The final part of the onWrite() method in our print adapter is to take the PDF document we’ve created and attempt to write it to the print service:

// Attempt to send the completed doc out
try {
    pdfDocument.writeTo(new FileOutputStream(destination.getFileDescriptor()));
} catch (IOException e) {
} finally {
    pdfDocument = null;

// The print is complete

The destination argument supplies the location that the PDF document should be written to, and we simply use the writeTo()method to do this. Depending on the outcome of this attempt we either callback onWriteFailed() or onWriteFinished().

Using the custom print adapter

Now that we’ve created the print adapter, it’s really easy to use it. As the onOnClick callback for a button, we provide the following implementation:

final ImageAndTextContainer imageAndTextContainer = this;
rootView.findViewById(R.id.print_page_button).setOnClickListener(new View.OnClickListener() {
    public void onClick(View v) {
        // Create a PrintDocumentAdapter
        PrintShopPrintDocumentAdapter adapter = new PrintShopPrintDocumentAdapter(imageAndTextContainer, getActivity());
        // Get the print manager from the context
        PrintManager printManager = (PrintManager)getActivity().getSystemService(Context.PRINT_SERVICE);
        // And print the document
        printManager.print("PrintShop", adapter, null);

Notice that we create the print document adapter, providing a reference to an imageAndTextContainer (which we defined before), and a context within which to render.

We then get hold of the current PrintManager, which is available through the activity’s getSystemService() method. We then create the print job using the print() method, passing the name of the job and the print document adapter. This will kick off the pint process and present a dialog to the user to allow them to control it.

Due to the way in which we control the layout of this particular print job, changing the paper size will change the number of pages printed:

A4 Portrait - 1 PageA5 Landscape - 2 Pages


The new Android Printing Framework makes it really easy to add printing to your apps – both for simple photo content, to more complex, multi-page custom layouts. This article has taken a look at how you can add printing to apps, but there is another side to the framework – adding support for devices so they can register themselves with the printing framework. For more information, check out the pages about android.printservice on developer.android.com.

The code for the accompanying project is available on GitHub at github.com/ShinobiControls/bitesize-kitkat. Go grab it and give it a try – let me know if you have any comments or feedback – either in the comments section below, on GitHub or on twitter@iwantmyrealname.

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