Are there any thoughts for or against putting text "actions" in the Android ActionBar? I can't find any examples of it being done, but I also can't find anywhere in the Android design docs that say this should/shouldn't be done. It does provide the ability to do it "out of the box."

text actions in actionbar - Android

I know it's a popular thing in iOS; my concern is making an app feel too much like an iOS port. If there was a clear ActionBar icon from the Android Asset Studio, I'd use that. Actions like "filter" and "login" (what I'm needing to do) just aren't clearly communicated with just a symbol IMO. Text on the other hand makes it very clear what the button will do.


4 Answers 4


It's also worth considering whether those items belong on the action bar in the context of the screen; I would expect to see "login" for example, in the action bar overflow (android:showAsAction="never").

Action buttons on the action bar surface your app's most important activities. Think about which buttons will get used most often, and order them accordingly. Depending on available screen real estate, the system shows your most important actions as action buttons and moves the rest to the action overflow.(...)

ActionBar - Action Buttons

In the general case, actionable text in the action bar is not uncommon - custom action bar modes like DISCARD | DONE or SAVE | (CANCEL) often appear.

Pre-defined glyphs should be used for certain common actions(...)

With regards to "filter" the funnel icon serves as the standard icon on Android, and is easily recognisable. While it would be okay to use text, you should be wary not to clutter the action bar to the extent it becomes difficult to identify actions.


I think that your approach is legit, however it all depends. It's helpful to think about why your users would want to login; do they get their own profile, space, etc? In that case where they have a personal profile I would suggest checking out how SoundCloud handles logins.

Is it going to be a better experience to use your app if you have an account? if so why not force the user to create an account in the beginning, this is commonly frowned upon but if your app stacks up most users would be content with quickly signing up (tip - third party authenication is super helful here to make it painless)

Another way of going about this would be limiting the feature set when a user is not logged in. Take the tumblr app for example. They allow users to browse content but when an action such as a follow or a like has been pressed a quick modal window notifies them that they must sign in to do this. Another good example is Circa News and their follow feature.

     In summary...
  • Understand why a user should be logged in.
  • Allow them to browse content.
  • When an action is taken that requires them to be signed in; let them know they need to be signed in to do the action.
  • Your user will decide for themselves that way if having an account is valuable enough to them.
  • Keep in mind that sometimes the experience would just be better if you were signed in from the start (Soundcloud example)

Hope this helps!

[EDIT] Wow I was off topic! I see nothing wrong with using text for that circumstance instead of an icon. It just makes sense and there are no clear "log in" icons that are widely used like you said.

  • Haha, thanks for the input - even if a little off-topic at the beginning ;). It might be worth revisiting that login functionality, though!
    – loeschg
    Feb 14, 2014 at 15:28

I don't know about mixing text and icons like you have there, but are text actions generally discouraged? I would say no. It's common when there's only one such action representing "OK" or "SAVE". Google design guidelines specifically recommend that, (albeit in the context of full-screen dialogs, but visually, I guess it's no different than an activity with the same options).

An example is Google Calendar's Compose view, which has a "SAVE" button up there.


I do not think using a text action in the ActionBar is a problem, I would note that if the app eventually needs to be translated into different languages then spacing may become an issue.

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