Search is a core user feature on Android. Users should be able to search any data that is available to them, whether the content is located on the device or the Internet. The search experience should be seamless and consistent across the entire system, which is why Android provides a search framework to help you provide users with a familiar search dialog and a great search experience.

Figure 1. Screenshot of a search dialog with custom search suggestions.

Android's search framework provides a user interface in which users can perform a search and an interaction layer that communicates with your application, so you don't have to build your own search Activity. Instead, a search dialog appears at the top of the screen at the user's command without interrupting the current Activity.

The search framework manages the life of the search dialog. When users execute a search, the search framework passes the query text to your application so your application can perform a search. Figure 1 shows an example of the search dialog with optional search suggestions.

Once your application is set up to use the search dialog, you can:

  • Enable voice search
  • Provide search suggestions based on recent user queries
  • Provide custom search suggestions that match actual results in your application data
  • Offer your application's search suggestions in the system-wide Quick Search Box

Note: The search framework does not provide APIs to search your data. To perform a search, you need to use APIs appropriate for your data. For example, if your data is stored in an SQLite database, you should use the android.database.sqlite APIs to perform searches.

The following documents show you how to use the search dialog in your application:

Using the Android Search Dialog
How to set up your application to use the search dialog.
Adding Recent Query Suggestions
How to show suggestions based on queries previously used in the search dialog.
Adding Custom Suggestions
How to show suggestions based on custom data from your application and offer your suggestions in the system-wide Quick Search Box.
Searchable Configuration
A reference for the searchable configuration file (though the other documents also discuss the configuration file in terms of specific behaviors).

Protecting User Privacy

When you implement search in your application, take steps to protect the user's privacy. Many users consider their activities on the phone—including searches—to be private information. To protect each user's privacy, you should abide by the following principles:

  • Don't send personal information to servers, but if you must, do not log it.

    Personal information is any information that can personally identify your users, such as their names, email addresses, billing information, or other data that can be reasonably linked to such information. If your application implements search with the assistance of a server, avoid sending personal information along with the search queries. For example, if you are searching for businesses near a zip code, you don't need to send the user ID as well; send only the zip code to the server. If you must send the personal information, you should not log it. If you must log it, protect that data very carefully and erase it as soon as possible.

  • Provide the user with a way to clear their search history.

    The search framework helps your application provide context-specific suggestions while the user types. Sometimes these suggestions are based on previous searches or other actions taken by the user in an earlier session. A user might not wish for previous searches to be revealed to other device users, for instance, if they share their phone with a friend. If your application provides suggestions that can reveal previous activities, you should implement the ability for the user to clear the search history. If you are using SearchRecentSuggestions, you can simply call the clearHistory() method. If you are implementing custom suggestions, you'll need to provide a similar "clear history" method in your provider that the user can execute.

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