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The problem with the FAB (some would say there are many) is that often you want to be able to invoke actions on an item in a table view. The fact that that has been precluded with this design is surprising, but the fact that they don't even mention it in their ridiculously scant spec doc is laughable.

So if I have a table of items, say I want to do the simplest thing imaginable: just include a button for each item to mark it completed. You are not supposed to do that. I guess a TODO app interface might work, where I add a checkbox and then train people that that's what it means. The MD idea is that tables should be informational and all changes should be done in detail pages.

Interested in any ways people have tried to deal with this. Thanks.

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Google's material design guidelines are just that -- guidelines. Google doesn't even follow them to a t.

One example of Google breaking the guideline that you mention is in Google Play (specifically their music section). Upon hovering a table/list item, there are a couple different actionable buttons that appear, as seen in the image below.

enter image description here

Another example is Google's to do list app, Google Task. You see their combined usage of in-row actionable buttons and a FAB in the image below:

enter image description here

What their guidelines are really saying is to use a FAB whenever it makes sense to. But there are many use cases where what makes the most sense is to have an actionable button in the list/table item row.

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