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Last updated on 6/21/19

Store the Player's Preferences

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In this chapter, we will study how to backup information locally, such as the user's score and their first name. So when the player restarts the application, we can greet them and help them improve their high score.

Managing Preferences

SharedPreferences is the API that Android provides to backup small pieces of local information. It is an abstraction layer that makes life easier: it retrieves and stores your data in an XML file.

The API also lets us spread the data across multiple files. That feature is useful in applications with varied data. We will use the standard version for now: a single storage file that Android creates and manages automatically.

To access an instance of SharedPreferences, call the getPreferences() method in the current Activity, like so:

SharedPreferences preferences = getPreferences(MODE_PRIVATE);

MODE_PRIVATE specifies that the data within the file may only be accessed by our application. In earlier versions of Android, other modes allowed third-party applications to read and write your preference files. For security reasons, Google decided to make those modes obsolete, so remember to stick to MODE_PRIVATE.

Writing Preferences

To modify the information stored in SharedPreferences, we must use the SharedPreferences.Editor API.

Stored information is always associated with a key, this enables precise retrieval of desired values without having to read all the data.

We must specify the type of data stored by using the appropriate method. For example, to store a string, you will need to invoke Editor.putString(). To store an integer, we useEditor.putInt() .

To commit a change to storage, we have to call Editor.apply().

For example, here's how we can store the user's first name:

SharedPreferences preferences = getPreferences(MODE_PRIVATE);
SharedPreferences.Editor editor = preferences.edit();
editor.putString("firstname", mUser.getFirstName());

You may have noted the following two things:

  1. The key used to store the user's first name is, "firstname"

  2. The user's first name is retrieved from the model

Creating a constant for "firstname" is best practice. The code will be easier to maintain and less subject to typing errors.

Reading Preferences

As with writing, reading a value requires calling a specific method depending on the data type. For example, to retrieve a string, use Editor.getString() , and retrieve an integer with Editor.getInt(). For example, to retrieve the user's first name, use the following code:

String firstname = getPreferences(MODE_PRIVATE).getString("firstname", null);

Note the second parameter, null: it allows us to specify a default value in case the requested value does not exist. This makes sense in some applications.

In ours, if the first name has never been stored, then there is no need to return a default one. We therefore return null, which lets us know that this is the first time the user has launched TopQuiz.


In the previous section, you stored and retrieved the user's first name, all in MainActivity.


Well, time to give you some work to do. Update MainActivity as follows:

  • When the Activity starts, check if the user has already played the game

    • How would you go about doing this?

  • Retrieve the preference values ​​and update the welcome text

    • The text should greet the person and remind them of their most-recent score

  • Add the player's first name into the input field

  • And update the text after a game ends

    • Print their most recent score

The result should look like this:

Look at all those stored values!
Oooh, personalization!

Let's recap!

Now you can backup simple data with SharedPreferences! Since you've done the practice activity above, you should be able to answer the following questions:

  • What method do you call to access an instance of SharedPreferences? 

  • How do you modify information stored in SharedPreferences? 

  • How do you store strings?  Integers? 

  • How do you store a user's first name? 

  • How do you retrieve a user's first name? 

If you would like to know more about the SharedPreferences API, consult this page and this page.

Example of certificate of achievement
Example of certificate of achievement