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Notifications are one of the major differentiators between phones and smartphones. The standard old-style phones make and receive calls, as do smartphones. But smartphones are also capable of receiving messages, or if you prefer, notices, from a variety of sources. Now these notifications can be a reminder of an upcoming event or a heads-up for incoming email. As I found out during the recent Hurricane Sandy, they can also deliver alerts on extreme weather. Notifications have received a major overhaul in Jelly Bean, and not just in look and feel, but also functionality. Let's have a look.
You display any notifications by swiping down from the top of the screen that shows the top row of icons, like the Home screen that you see here. Any notifications that you receive are indicated with small icons on the left. Watch what happens to the background when I swipe the notifications into view. See how the background of the home screen darkens and if I go back up, the darkness reverses. Now I have a few example notifications set up. Let me swipe down the Notification screen completely.
If you were to compare this Jelly Bean notification screen to previous versions, you'd see how different it is, both in overall design and specific typography. The text is thinner, but larger, making it more readable. As you'll see in a bit, Jelly Bean offers a number of templated styles, including a series of big styles. One of my notifications is a Screen capture. I'll show you how to do that natively in Jelly Bean in the Updated Media Capabilities lesson later in this chapter.
But what I wanted to show you here is how you can expand individual notices. I'll do a two-finger swipe on the screen grab notice to open it up. In the latest version of Jelly Bean, they've implemented the single-finger swipe as well, but I find the two finger gesture to be much more reliable. Now I can tap the screen if I want to go see the full image and possibly edit it, but I also have other actions I can take, right from the Notification screen. If I click the Share icon, I'm given a number of options to choose from.
The Share icon is considered an action and you can have up to three different actions for each notification. So how do you take advantage of all of these newly added notification possibilities? You use Jelly Bean's new Java class Notification.Builder. The Notification.Builder class is, of course, for notification objects, and makes it easy to create notices using the system's template for a standard look and feel. With this Java class, you can quickly set up your notice title, content, icon, and even sounds, and you can make your notifications much larger, up to 256 pixels tall.
As I said earlier, you can also specify actions. This is done through the addAction method. addAction takes three parameters, an icon, a titl,e and a pendingintent. A pendingintent is basically an operation that normally takes place in another app, like sharing a screen grab. Any notification can have up to three actions, as I mentioned before. Jelly Bean's enhanced notification abilities can help your app break out of its box and keep the user informed with up-to-the-minute interactive messages.
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