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Marlon Agüero
Marlon Agüero

How to set the 'android:exported' property for app components with intent filters in Android 12 and higher


What is an activity alias and why you need it in Android




If you are an Android developer, you might have encountered a situation where you need to change the name, icon, label, or intent filters of an existing activity in your app. For example, you might want to update your app launcher icon, support multiple launchers for different user profiles, or customize the appearance and behavior of your activity based on some conditions. However, changing these attributes of an activity can have some undesirable consequences, such as breaking the app launcher shortcut, confusing the users, or affecting the compatibility of your app with other apps. In this article, we will explore what is an activity alias, how to use it in your Android manifest, and what are the benefits and drawbacks of using it.


Introduction




What is an activity alias?




An activity alias is a special element in the Android manifest that represents a symlink or a shortcut to another activity. The target activity must be in the same application as the alias and declared before the alias in the manifest. The alias can have its own set of attributes and intent filters that override those of the target activity. For example, you can use an activity alias to change the icon, label, or intent filters of an existing activity without modifying its code or resources.




you uploaded an apk or android app bundle which has an activity activity alias


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What is an APK or Android App Bundle?




An APK (Android Package) is the executable file format for Android apps that can be installed on Android devices. An APK contains the compiled code, resources, and metadata of your app. An Android App Bundle (AAB) is a publishing format for Android apps that includes all your app's compiled code and resources, but defers the generation and signing of APKs to Google Play or other app stores. This allows for delivering optimized APKs for each device configuration, reducing the download size and improving performance. The file extension used for this format is ".aab".


How to use an activity alias in Android manifest




To use an activity alias in your Android manifest, you need to add an element inside the element. The element must have a name attribute that specifies the name of the alias, and a targetActivity attribute that specifies the name of the target activity. You can also optionally add other attributes such as enabled, exported, icon, label, permission, etc. that define how the alias behaves. You can also add one or more elements that define how the alias responds to intents. Here is an example of how to use an activity alias in your Android manifest:


<application ...> <activity android:name=".MainActivity" android:label="@string/app_name"> <!-- This is the target activity --> </activity> <activity-alias android:name=".AliasActivity" android:targetActivity=".MainActivity"> <!-- This is the alias for MainActivity --> <intent-filter> <action android:name="android.intent.action.MAIN" /> <category android:name="android.intent.category.LAUNCHER" /> </intent-filter> <!-- This intent filter makes the alias appear in the app launcher --> <meta-data android:name="android.app.shortcuts" android:resource="@xml/shortcuts" /> <!-- This meta-data adds app shortcuts to the alias --> </activity-alias> </application Benefits of using an activity alias




Using an activity alias can have several benefits for your Android app, such as:


Prevent the removal of the app launcher shortcut




If you change the name, icon, label, or intent filters of an existing activity that is used as the app launcher, the shortcut to your app on the home screen or the app drawer might be removed. This can be annoying and confusing for the users who have to find and add your app again. By using an activity alias, you can avoid this problem and keep the shortcut intact. You can simply change the attributes or intent filters of the alias without affecting the target activity.


Support multiple launchers for the same activity




Sometimes, you might want to have different launchers for the same activity based on some conditions. For example, you might want to have a different launcher for different user profiles, device configurations, or app modes. By using an activity alias, you can achieve this easily. You can create multiple aliases for the same target activity and assign different intent filters, icons, labels, or meta-data to each alias. Then, you can enable or disable the aliases programmatically using the PackageManager class.


Customize the appearance and behavior of the activity




Another benefit of using an activity alias is that you can customize the appearance and behavior of the activity based on the alias that is used to launch it. For example, you can change the theme, orientation, or screen size of the activity depending on which alias is used. You can also pass some extra data to the activity using the intent that is used to launch the alias. You can then use this data to modify the content or functionality of the activity accordingly.


Drawbacks and limitations of using an activity alias




While using an activity alias can have some advantages, it also has some drawbacks and limitations that you should be aware of, such as:


Cannot be installed on Android devices directly




An activity alias cannot be installed on Android devices directly as a standalone app. It must be part of an APK or an Android App Bundle that contains the target activity. If you try to install an APK or an AAB that only contains an activity alias without a target activity, you will get an error message saying "INSTALL_FAILED_INVALID_APK". Therefore, you should always make sure that your APK or AAB includes both the target activity and the alias.


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Cannot have different permissions or process attributes than the target activity




An activity alias cannot have different permissions or process attributes than the target activity. The permissions and process attributes are determined by the target activity and apply to all its aliases. If you try to specify different permissions or process attributes for an alias in the manifest, they will be ignored. Therefore, you should always make sure that your target activity has the appropriate permissions and process attributes for all its aliases.


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