Understanding Gradle Version Catalogs: A Comprehensive Guide for Android Developers

Welcome back, fellow Android developers! Today, we’re diving deep into the world of Gradle Version Catalogs, an increasingly standard approach to managing dependencies in your Android projects. Whether you’re new to this concept or looking to refine your understanding, this guide is tailored for you.

The Rise of Gradle Version Catalogs

With the evolution of Android Studio and Gradle, managing project dependencies has seen significant improvements. Gradle Version Catalogs, although not yet the default in the latest stable release of Android Studio (Hedgehog at the time of writing), offer a streamlined method for handling library versions across your projects. For those using the Canary version, like Iguana, you’ll notice that Version Catalogs are indeed the default setup for new projects.

Why Version Catalogs Matter

Managing dependencies, especially in large or multi-module projects, can become cumbersome. The challenge amplifies when multiple libraries share the same version number or when you’re tasked with updating versions across several modules. Version Catalogs simplify this process by centralizing dependency versions in a single, easy-to-manage file.

Getting Started with Version Catalogs

To integrate Version Catalogs into your project, start by creating a new Android Studio project or updating an existing one. If your project’s build.gradle file lists dependencies in the traditional string format, it’s time to transition to a Version Catalog.

  1. Creating a Version Catalog: Navigate to the Gradle folder in your project hierarchy and create a new file named libs.versions.toml. This TOML file will host your Version Catalog, structured into three main sections: versions, libraries, and plugins.

  2. Populating the Catalog:
    • The versions block defines the versions of your dependencies.
    • The libraries block lists the dependencies themselves, linked to their respective versions from the versions block.
    • The plugins block is for Gradle plugins your project utilizes.
  3. Refactoring build.gradle: Replace string-based dependency declarations with references to your newly created Version Catalog entries. This approach not only cleans up your build scripts but also centralizes version management, making updates a breeze.

Deep Dive: Understanding Dependency Notation

Dependencies in Android are identified by three components: the group ID, artifact ID (or name), and version. For example, androidx.core:core-ktx:1.12.0 includes the group (androidx.core), the artifact name (core-ktx), and the version (1.12.0). Utilizing a Version Catalog allows you to abstract these components, making your build.gradle files cleaner and more maintainable.

Leveraging BOMs for Simplified Version Management

Bill of Materials (BOMs) offers an advanced way to manage versions for a group of dependencies. By specifying a BOM in your Version Catalog, you automatically adopt the compatible set of versions for all dependencies included in the BOM, streamlining the update process.

Practical Steps to Implement Version Catalogs

  1. Initialize the Version Catalog: In your libs.versions.toml, define the versions and libraries your project depends on. Use descriptive names for versions to maintain clarity.

  2. Migrate Dependencies: Convert your project’s dependencies to reference the Version Catalog. Android Studio’s helpful quick-fixes can automate much of this process, though manual edits might be necessary for BOMs and certain dependencies.

  3. Sync and Validate: After migrating your dependencies, sync your project to ensure everything is correctly configured. This step verifies that your project can resolve all dependencies through the Version Catalog.


Gradle Version Catalogs represent a powerful tool in the modern Android developer’s arsenal, facilitating efficient and centralized dependency management. By adopting Version Catalogs, you not only streamline your project’s build configuration but also set the stage for easier updates and better consistency across your development team.

As the Android ecosystem continues to evolve, staying abreast of best practices like Gradle Version Catalogs ensures your projects are both maintainable and scalable. Happy coding!