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Parcelable where/when is describeContents() used?

Posted by: admin November 30, 2017 Leave a comment


Does anyone know where/when this method of a Parcelable is called?

public int describeContents() {
  return 0;

It has to be overriden. But should I consider doing something useful with it?


There is a constant defined in Parcelable called CONTENTS_FILE_DESCRIPTOR which is meant to be used in describeContents() to create bitmask return value.

Description for CONTENTS_FILE_DESCRIPTOR in the API ref is:

Bit masks for use with describeContents(): each bit represents a kind of object considered to have potential special significance when marshalled.

Which really means: If you need to put FileDescriptor object into Parcelable you should/must specify CONTENTS_FILE_DESCRIPTOR as return value of describeContents(), i.e. by “special object” (in describeContents()‘s description) they really mean: FileDescriptor.

This whole Parcelable functionality looks unfinished (read: has bad design). There is one other strange thing in the docs:

Classes implementing the Parcelable interface must also have a static field called CREATOR, which is an object implementing the Parcelable.Creator interface

Implementing multiple inheritance by rules defined in human readable form? 🙂

It seems like C++ programmer designed Parceable and at some point he realized: Oh, damn, there is no multiple inheritance in Java… 🙂


There is only two possible value, 0 or CONTENTS_FILE_DESCRIPTOR

if you are serializing POLO, this value should always be 0,
the CONTENTS_FILE_DESCRIPTOR is reversed for ParcelFileDescriptor, which could serialize a File Descriptor(FD) in *unix system.