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Android Action Bar (ActionBar) Tab navigation

Action bar (ActionBar) was introduced from API level 11. In this post I will explain how to create actionbar tab navigation using fragments. The final result is shown below where user can move between tabs.

Creating Android Action bar (ActionBar) with tab navigation

The first step is getting the actionbar reference and add the tab to it:

protected void onCreate(Bundle savedInstanceState) {
    ActionBar bar = getActionBar();
    for (int i=1; i <= 3; i++) {
        Tab tab = bar.newTab();
        tab.setText("Tab " + i);

Notice that first of all we don’t use any “main” layout. Second at line 3 we get the reference to the action bar simply using the method getActionBar. At line 4 we set the navigation mode in our case NAVIGATION_MODE_TABS. There three different navigation type supported:

  • Navigation mode list
  • Navigation mode standard
  • Navigation mode tabs

After these steps we have to create our tabs and add it to the action bar. In our example we create three different tabs. What we want is when user touches one of the tab the UI content changes. To achieve it we need two things:

  • Fragment that fills the UI when user changes the tab according to the tab selected
  • A listener that gets notification when user interacts with the tabs


Tab Fragment

In our example, fragment will be very simple, it just shows a text in the middle of the screen. The layout looks like:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<RelativeLayout xmlns:android="http://schemas.android.com/apk/res/android"
    android:orientation="vertical" >
    <TextView android:id="@+id/msg"


While the fragment source code is very simple:

public void onCreate(Bundle savedInstanceState) {        
    Bundle data = getArguments();
    index = data.getInt("idx");

public View onCreateView(LayoutInflater inflater, ViewGroup container,
        Bundle savedInstanceState) {
    View v = inflater.inflate(R.layout.fragment, null);
    TextView tv = (TextView) v.findViewById(R.id.msg);
    tv.setText("Fragment " + (index + 1));
    return v;

Just notice that we pass the fragment index using arguments bundle (line 2,3).Now we have our fragment we have simply to implement the listener.

Tab listener

We can make our Activity implements the listener so that when user selects a tab we show the relative fragment.

public class MainActivity extends Activity implements TabListener {
   List<Fragment> fragList = new ArrayList<Fragment>();
   Fragment f = null;   // Thx to Andre Krause for his support!
   TabFragment tf = null;

    public void onTabSelected(Tab tab, FragmentTransaction ft) {
//        Fragment f = null;
//        TabFragment tf = null;
        if (fragList.size() > tab.getPosition())
        if (f == null) {
            tf = new TabFragment();
            Bundle data = new Bundle();
            data.putInt("idx",  tab.getPosition());
            tf = (TabFragment) f;
        ft.replace(android.R.id.content, tf);

    public void onTabUnselected(Tab tab, FragmentTransaction ft) {
        if (fragList.size() > tab.getPosition()) {

TabListener has several methods we have to override. The most important is onTabSelected that is called when user selects a tab. In this method first we check if we have our fragment in the fragment list (line 9-10), if so we reuse it and show the fragment (see line 20). If not, we create our fragment line (12-18) and add it to our fragment list. At the end (line 22), we simply replace the UI content (android.R.id.content) with the right fragment. The result is shown below:

android action bar android_actionbar_tab3

Source code available @github




  1. survivingwithandroid says:

    I've edited the source code so it is more clear. Anyway fraglist is defined as

    List fragList = new ArrayList();

    Thx for your comment

  2. randomPerson says:

    im getting an error:

    "The method remove(Fragment) in the type FragmentTransaction is not applicable for the arguments (Fragment)"

    this error is at lines:

    ft.replace(android.R.id.content, tf);


    Also what data type is "index"

  3. survivingwithandroid says:

    I've added the full source code at github. Look at the link in the post. You can download all the source code. Thx

  4. FullFrontal says:

    what is "fragList.get(tab.getPosition());" in line 10 use for?

    and "f" in line is always null, so u always create a new TabFragment and not reuse like u say

    i change the code to "f =fragList.get(tab.getPosition());" in line 10

    but it will be an error because fragList position not always same to tab position
    example when u click tab 3 first when the app loaded

  5. Lee Davison says:

    Is there any way to easily implement swiping between these tabs?

    Apologies, I'm an android noob, just trying to work it out.

    Also, how do I define each of these fragments, so that I can have different content in each? I understand right now it is a loop to generate example fragments.


  6. FullFrontal says:

    you can use ViewPager from android support v4 too do that, i really know if Tab can do that or not

    for different content each Fragment, just create some class that extends Fragment, each class can have a different view and content

  7. Oliver says:

    Hello, thank you for this, but I now have a problem:
    I don't know how I can stay on the selected Tab when I come back (by a back button) after I started another activity in this view? You understand what I want? I get on the third tab, click on something, a new activity starts, and I want to come back an the third tab by a button. The best would be that the tabbar still stay there so I also could select from this the other tabs.

  8. sushant kaura says:

    Hello Fransceo,

    Thank you for the tutorial. I wanted to ask how we can go from tab 1 to tab 2 by clicking on a button on tab1 layout.?

  9. Jim says:

    I want to remove the action bar or add tabs on top of action bar. I don’t want to see the application name and icon on it and remove the space . how can I do it?

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