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Background:

Android has the feature of pop up menus (sort of like right click) that happen when a long click is done. This is typically done on list view but could be done anywhere. And even on list views it is not consistently done.

Question:

Since a lot of users are not aware of this long click metaphor (yet?) is there an agreed best practice to indicate that there are long click options available that is smaller than a full on button that bring the same menu up?

Update 2011-12: With the latest apps from Google like Music and many more in Honeycomb, ICS and also lower OS versions it seems that the long click option has gone the way of the Dodo and been replaced by an icon on the right in the list row (most often a little triangle).

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Great question Manfred, I'm really interested to see what answers it gets. –  Matt Sep 2 '10 at 21:50
    
This also applies to Windows Mobile touchscreen phones (6 and below, I don't know about 7) –  Ryan Shripat Sep 3 '10 at 18:01
    
As a note, Windows vista/7 will create a slowly filling ring around a touchpoint to indicate that you are about to perform a double click, which is performed by a long click with touch or pen. –  Ben Brocka Dec 21 '11 at 20:56
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2 Answers

up vote 13 down vote accepted

One way to do this is to use a transition or animation, like ListView does with its orange-to-white color ramp. For an idea on how to do this look at TransitionDrawable. You can also look at the relevant sources here:

Quick update: The reason for using the transition is that a user will immediately get the feedback that this item is 'active' — interact with it for just a little longer and something will happen. This fits in nicely with the 'show proper feedback' Android UI design tip.

Another option is to begin using the Quick Actions pattern instead of long-press as described in the resources below:

Note, however, that Quick Actions aren't in the Android framework at this time.

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After last IO i have a feeling that UX team at @androiddev feels that long press was kind of mistake. I've got a comment : well it's hard to discover ( duh ) and covers content. And it sounds that you guys moving towards Quick Actions. So since open sourcing twitter app is .. umm .. delayed a little :) could you guys build a test app with list and quickactions and put it under examples ? –  Alex Volovoy Sep 10 '10 at 13:38
    
Roman, have you evolved your opinion on long-click behavior and its visual indication since this post a couple of years ago? I have an item edit screen that contains several components for an item that can be manipulated--say text, image, sound. I'm trying to figure out whether I should dedicate delete buttons on each element or make them long-clickable and use the context action bar. –  glenviewjeff Oct 4 '12 at 20:39
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Either inline delete buttons or the contextual action bar are fine. Pros of inline buttons: (1) very discoverable. Pros of contextual action bar: (1) great for multiple selection (2) visually very clean (3) no accidental deletes! –  Roman Nurik Oct 5 '12 at 0:46
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There are a few problems indeed with the long-press action a) The long-press action is not really discoverable even with the ListView fading color transitions. I've seen quite a lot of people who have used an Android device for some time (in some cases about a year) and they are really surprised when they are told that "yes, you can remove call-log entries by long-clicking and choosing "remove from call log"".The usual answer is in the style "Really? You can just long-press some parts in the app and you'll get some secret options?!" So even after discovering these actions, some users think that these are some secret hidden features and not really part of the normal usage of the application. But then again once they have figured this one out, they'll try it probably in other applications also :)

b) Quick Actions are currently just a pattern and not a real unified UI component that you can just plug into your app (no API available). You have to either roll your own Widget for that and look out of place and different than the platform Quick Action UI component. Or you can go and rip the code and images out from the source code of Android.. and then look broken on some OEM/Operator customized devices and future platform versions. The sad part is that even in the case when some standard API for QuickActions is introduced, you still probably want to support Android 1.6/2.1/2.2 for some time :/

As for suggestions.. I guess you'd still have to use one of the 2 solutions that Roman pointed out - you would risk looking unfamiliar to the user if you would go and implement a totally different way of handling these context specific actions. Using a long-press menu is much easier implementation wise but is harder to discover - using the Quick Action pattern requires more effort to implementat but is much easier to discover (probably :) ).

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