There are many approaches concerning selecting items on Android’s ListView. Unfortunately most of them don’t work. I was struggling with this problem for some time and decided to publish my solution, which is actually quite easy.

The problem

I want to highlight item on a ListView programmatically (in a source code - without touching item on the screen). I also want to click on item of the ListView programmatically.


We have to create our own adapter. Let’s call it ContactsAdapter.

public class ContactsAdapter extends BaseAdapter {

    private final ArrayList list;
    private int selectedItem = -1; // no item selected by default

    // put neccessary code here - it's not important in this description

    public ContactsAdapter(List<Contact> contacts) {
        list = new ArrayList();

    public View getView(int position, View convertView, ViewGroup parent) {
        final View result;

        if (convertView == null) {
            result = LayoutInflater.from(parent.getContext()).inflate(R.layout.item_contact, parent, false);
        } else {
            result = convertView;

        highlightItem(position, result);

        Contact contact = getItem(position);
        ((TextView) result.findViewById(;
        return result;

     * methods from StringUtils calls:
     * getContext().getResources().getColor(int resourceId)
     * getContext().getResources().getDrawable(int resourceId)
     * You can use them in your own context 
     * (e.g. generic application context or you can pass activity context)
    private void highlightItem(int position, View result) {
        if(position == selectedItem) {
            // you can define your own color of selected item here
        } else {
            // you can define your own default selector here
    public void setSelectedItem(int selectedItem) {
        this.selectedItem = selectedItem;

    // put rest of your necessary code here...


Important methods are:

  • View getView(int position, View convertView, ViewGroup parent) - returns View of the single list item on the given position
  • void highlightItem(int position, View result) - highlights item on a given position (sets proper background)
  • public void setSelectedItem(int selectedItem) - sets item to highlight

Now, we have to set our adapter in a ListView in activity.

protected void onResume() {
    List<Contact> contacts = getContactsFromYourSource();
    ContactsAdapter contactsAdapter = new ContactsAdapter(contacts);
    highlightListItem(2); // this simple function call does the trick

private void highlightListItem(int position) {
    ContactsAdapter contactsAdapter = (ContactsAdapter) contactListView.getAdapter();
    // in some cases, it may be necessary to re-set adapter (as in the line below)

In this example, highlightListItem(int) method will highlight chosen item on a ListView available in a variable contactListView.

Clicking programmatically is much more easier, than highlighting item. We can simply use the method below assuming, that we properly created contactListView attribute and assigned it to appropriate view.

private void clickOnListItem(int position) {
    contactList.performItemClick(contactListView, position, contactListView.getItemIdAtPosition(position));