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This recipe shows how to create a simple file browser using Xamarin.Android. When the application is run, a ListView will display the contents of a directory on the device, starting with the root directory. When the user taps on an item in the list, one of two things will happen: If the item is a file, then a Toast will appear showing the name of the file that was selected. If the item is a directory, then the ListView will be repopulated to show the contents of the selected directory.


Note: This recipe requires a reference to Xamarin.Android.Support.V4, which is available in nuget.

This recipe has two key architectural components:

  1. A ListFragment subclass called FileListFragment .
  2. An ArrayAdapter subclass called FileListAdapter .

    FileListFragment is responsible for building a list of FileSystemInfo objects for each file or subdirectory in the current directory. The FileSystemInfo is the base class for the FileInfo and DirectoryInfo. This list will then serve as the dataset for the the FileListAdapter class that is used for binding data to the ListView that is encapsulated by FileListFragment.

The FileListAdapter will contain logic to differentiate between FileInfo objects and DirectoryInfo objects and display that informationas a row in the ListView. To do this, the FileListAdapter will either inflate a view or recycle an exist view, and then populate it with a FileSystemInfo object.

Each of these components is discussed in more detail in the sections below.


In this recipe, there is a single activity that hosts the list fragment. The code for the main activity of this recipe will not be covered. The core functionality is contained in a fragment.

This recipe uses a subclass named FileListFragment to display the contents of a directory. FileListFragment is a subclass of the standard Android ListFragment class. A fragment is a class that implements a portion of an Activity. A fragment allows for a more modular design and makes it easier to adapt an application to different screen sizes and orientations.

The fragment is created automatically when the Activity is loaded, as shown in the following layout file:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<FrameLayout xmlns:android=""
  <fragment class=""
          android:layout_height="match_parent" />

When the fragment is created the lifecycle method OnCreate will be called. This is a simple method that will instantiate a FileListAdapter with an empty array of FileSystemInfo objects, and set the ListAdapter property on FileListFragment:

public override void OnCreate(Bundle savedInstanceState)
    _adapter = new FileListAdapter(Activity, new FileSystemInfo[0]);
    ListAdapter = _adapter;

The next lifecycle method that is implemented on the fragment is OnResume. This method will create a list of files and subdirectories in the current directory and provide that list to the FileListAdapter:

public override void OnResume()

The logic for updating the adapter is in the method RefreshFileList, shown below:

public void RefreshFilesList(string directory)
    IList<FileSystemInfo> visibleThings = new List<FileSystemInfo>();
    var dir = new DirectoryInfo(directory);
        foreach (var item in dir.GetFileSystemInfos().Where(item => item.IsVisible()))
    catch (Exception ex)
        Log.Error("FileListFragment", "Couldn't access the directory " + _directory.FullName + "; " + ex);
        Toast.MakeText(Activity, "Problem retrieving contents of " + directory, ToastLength.Long).Show();
    _directory = dir;
    // Empty out the adapter and add in the FileSystemInfo objects
    // for the current directory.
    // If we don't do this, then the ListView will not update itself when then data set
    // in the adapter changes. It will appear to the user that nothing has happened.
    Log.Verbose("FileListFragment", "Displaying the contents of directory {0}.", directory);

The next method that needs to be overridden is OnListItemClick. This method will be invoked each time the user taps on a row in the ListView. The code for this method can be seen below:

public override void OnListItemClick(ListView l, View v, int position, long id)
    var fileSystemInfo = _adapter.GetItem(position);
    if (fileSystemInfo.IsFile())
        // Do something with the file.  In this case we just pop some toast.
        Log.Verbose("FileListFragment", "The file {0} was clicked.", fileSystemInfo.FullName);
        Toast.MakeText(Activity, "You selected file " + fileSystemInfo.FullName, ToastLength.Short).Show();
        // Dig into this directory, and display it's contents
    base.OnListItemClick(l, v, position, id);

In this method, a FileSystemInfoobject is retrieved from the adapter for the row that was clicked. If the object is a file, then a Toast is displayed with the full name of the file, otherwise RefreshFilesListis called with the name of the directory that the user just tapped on.


The next important component is the FileListAdapter, a subclass of ArrayAdapter. The ArrayAdapter base class is an excellent choice when dealing with dynamic lists that need to be displayed. It takes care of much of the work that needs to be done in manage the list. An example of the rows that have been populated by FileListAdapter can be seen in the following screenshot:

The first row shows the icon of a folder, and the name of the folder. The second row shows an icon for a file, and the name of the file. In order to create a view for these rows, the method GetView will be overridden.

The layout for the row, regardless if it is a file or a directory, is displayed using the same XML layout:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>

The implementation of GetView, is shown next, followed by an explanation:

public override View GetView(int position, View convertView, ViewGroup parent)
    var fileSystemEntry = GetItem(position);
    FileListRowViewHolder viewHolder;
    View row;
    if (convertView == null)
        row = _context.GetLayoutInflater().Inflate(Resource.Layout.file_picker_list_item, parent, false);
        viewHolder = new FileListRowViewHolder(row.FindViewById<TextView>(Resource.Id.file_picker_text), row.FindViewById<ImageView>(Resource.Id.file_picker_image));
        row.Tag = viewHolder;
        row = convertView;
        viewHolder = (FileListRowViewHolder)row.Tag;
    viewHolder.Update(fileSystemEntry.Name, fileSystemEntry.IsDirectory() ? Resource.Drawable.folder : Resource.Drawable.file);
    return row;

In this code, the FileSystemInfo object at the specified index is retrieved from the underlying list that the ArrayAdapter base class maintains. Once the relevant FileSystemInfo object has been obtained, it is necessary to populate and return a view.

In the name of performance, a ListView may recycle existing rows. This recycled row is passed in as the convertView parameter. The code checks to see if convertView is null. If convertView is null then a new view for the row will be inflated using the XML layout that was specified above.


Of interest is the FileListRowViewHolder class that is used by GetView. This class is another performance optimization. To display the icon and the name of the FileSystemObject requires that a reference to the ImageView and TextView that are used by the layout. In the case of a recycled view this is unnecessary – the calls to FindViewById are wasteful.

When a new view is created for a row, a new instance of FileListRowViewHolder is created which holds the reference to the ImageView and the TextView. It is stored with View, in the .Tag property.

For a recycled view, it is not necessary to make a call to FindViewById to obtain a reference to the ImageView and TextView each time. The .Tag property on the view holds an instance of FileListRowViewHolder already has the references to the two widgets.

The code for FileListRowHolder can be seen below:

public class FileListRowViewHolder : Java.Lang.Object
    public FileListRowViewHolder(TextView textView, ImageView imageView)
        TextView = textView;
        ImageView = imageView;
    public ImageView ImageView { get; private set; }
    public TextView TextView { get; private set; }
    public void Update(string fileName, int fileImageResourceId)
        TextView.Text = fileName;

Notice as well that FileListRowHolder subclasses Java.Lang.Object. That is because the datatype of View.Tag is not a System.Object, but is Java.Lang.Object.

When the application is run, the ListView will display the contents of the root directory on the device as show below:

Note the icon distinguishing between a directory and a file. When the user taps on a directory, the contents of the ListViewwill change to reflect what is in the new directory.

When the user selects a file, then a Toast will pop up showing the full path and filename of the file that was selected, as shown in the screen shot below:

Additional Information

The application in this recipe provides a quick example of how one may browse the file system on an Android device. Additional functionality can be added to support tablets, or perform some meaningful action on selected files.

Xamarin Workbook

If it's not already installed, install the Xamarin Workbooks app first. The workbook file should download automatically, but if it doesn't, just click to start the workbook download manually.