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Removing Unwanted Manifest Permissions With tools:node

Android, Manifest Permissions, tools:node2 min read

Unwanted manifest permissions can bloat your Android app and potentially compromise user privacy and security. However, removing them directly from the manifest file may not always be feasible, especially when dealing with third-party libraries or dependencies that introduce additional permissions. Luckily, Android's build system provides a powerful tool called tools:node that allows us to selectively remove or override manifest elements during the merge process.

Understanding tools:node

The tools:node attribute is a special marker provided by the Android Gradle Plugin. It enables granular control over the merging behavior of manifest entries. By specifying the tools:node value, you can modify or remove specific manifest elements without altering the original source files.

The tools:node attribute supports various values:

  • merge: The default behavior that merges the element with any existing definitions.
  • replace: Replaces the existing definition with the new one.
  • remove: Removes the element entirely.
  • strict: Raises an error if multiple elements with the same name are encountered during merging.

We'll focus on using tools:node="remove" to remove unwanted manifest permissions.

Removing Unwanted Manifest Permissions

To remove unwanted manifest permissions, follow these steps:

  1. Open your project's AndroidManifest.xml file.
  2. Locate the permission you want to remove, identified by its android:name attribute.
  3. Add the tools:node="remove" attribute to the permission element.

Here's an example of removing the READ_CONTACTS permission:

1<manifest xmlns:android=""
2 package="com.example.myapplication">
4 <uses-permission android:name="android.permission.READ_CONTACTS" tools:node="remove" />
6 <!-- Other manifest elements -->

In this example, the tools:node="remove" attribute instructs the build system to remove the READ_CONTACTS permission from the merged manifest. You can apply the same technique to remove other unwanted permissions.

Handling Permissions from Dependencies

When using third-party libraries or dependencies, they may bring their own manifest entries, including permissions. In such cases, you can still use tools:node to remove unwanted permissions without modifying the library code directly.

Consider the scenario where a library adds the ACCESS_FINE_LOCATION permission, but your app doesn't require it. To remove this permission, create a new manifest file named AndroidManifest.xml under the app/src/main directory (if it doesn't exist already) and specify the tools:node="remove" attribute for the permission:

1<manifest xmlns:android=""
2 package="com.example.myapplication">
4 <uses-permission
5 android:name="android.permission.ACCESS_FINE_LOCATION"
6 tools:node="remove" />

By placing this manifest file in your app module, the build system will prioritize its manifest entries over those provided by the library, effectively removing the unwanted permission.

Wrap Up

Removing unwanted manifest permissions is crucial for maintaining a clean and optimized Android app. With the tools:node="remove" attribute, you can selectively remove permissions without modifying the original source files or impacting third-party libraries. This approach enhances user privacy, reduces app size, and ensures a more secure app environment.

Don't forget to regularly review your manifest file and permissions to keep your app permissions in check. Optimize your app's configuration by utilizing the powerful tools:node attribute and deliver a better user experience.