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Definitive Guide to Customising Android

Started by: ant59
On: 22/07/2013 | 11:52
Replies: 45
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by: ant59
on: 22/07/2013 | 11:52 edited: 05/11/2013 | 09:58

 

This thread has a shortlink for use on the help forum - http://bit.ly/ggcustom

 

If you have any questions about the customising Android, reply to this thread and I'll make sure to reply ASAP! I have email notifications on, so I should be quick Smiley Happy

 

Having seen the recent blog post on customising the Android homescreen, I thought I'd go a bit further with it and write a full guide for customising Android. I'll be adding more to this guide as I go and I shall flesh it out as and when I have spare time to do so. I've been tinkering with Android phones for over two years now and I know most of the ins and outs of the system, and the most popular options for customisation. I hope this helps people who want to make the most of their device.

 

I know that the length of the guide and the prospect of being able to change every aspect of your phone might seem like a daunting idea, but trust me, stay with the guide as you go and it will keep you in the right direction. It gets more difficult as the sections progress, but reading the early sections will set you up with all the knowledge needed to get through even the most advanced later sections. Most of all though, have fun with this guide!

 

This guide is designed for Android Jellybean (4.1+) but most parts will work for all Android versions still in use, though there may be some major features missing in Gingerbread (2.3) or lower.

 

I will cover as much as I can possibly think of in this post. If you can think of anything else which I may have missed, please reply and let me know! I will add it to the todo list.

 

Also, be sure to subscribe to this thread if you're interested! Every update I make, I will post a changelog to the thread.

 

Planned to do:

  • Lockscreen
  • Icons
  • Launchers (most specifically Nova)
  • Ringtone and sounds
  • Keyboards
  • Daydream
  • Face unlock
  • DashClock
  • TitaniumBackup
  • ClockworkMod
  • AirDroid
  • Boot animation
  • Greenify
  • Tasker and NFC tags
  • Touch Control
  • UCCW
  • WidgetLocker
  • Paranoid Android
  • HALO
  • Pie controls
  • CyanogenMod
  • Root and SuperUser 

 

The expected difficulty for each section is shown next to the section header according to the following key:

 

 Novice
 Basic
 Intermediate
 Advanced
 Expert

 

 

Homescreen


 

This is where Android is really set apart from other mobile operating systems. It's open. You're free to do whatever you want with it and the homescreen is no exception. This section will explain the changes you can make to the basic stock homescreen without too much hassle.

 

 

Apps Dragging apps to the homescreen

 

Adding apps to the homescreen couldn't be simpler. Open your app draw, and long-press an app. This will "pickup" the app on your finger and bring you back to your homescreen. Simply take your finger off the screen where you want the app to be placed on the screen and it will drop into place.

 

 

Folders Folders

 

Folders on the homescreen are very easily created. Long-press on an icon to begin dragging it, then hover over and existing icon or folder and let go. It will form a folder of mutliple icons which will open when pressed and expand the icons inside to be launched.

 

You can rename folder by opening the folder and clicking the name at the bottom in blue. This will then show as the folder name when you close it.

 

Wallpaper Wallpaper selection

 

Android allows you to choose any wallpaper you want for display on your homescreen. By default, you can choose from a photo or picture from your Gallery, a pre-installed selection of Wallpapers for your device or a Live Wallpaper which can be bought from the huge selection on the Google Play store.

 

Live wallpapers are dynamic wallpapers that can move and respond to input on the phone. They can display information in subtle ways such as showing a landscape scene with changing weather conditions to match current conditions where you are.

 

To change your wallpaper, long-press on a blank area of your homescreen. This will pop-up a menu allowing you to choose a wallpaper.

 

If you have a file manager installed such as ES File Manager, you will be given the choice to select your wallpaper directly from the filesystem. If you have a custom ROM (see later in the guide), you will often find a second set of pre-installed wallpapers from the ROM maker. You can buy wallpaper packs from the Google Play store which will be listed here too. You will also often find that icon packs come with a selection of wallpapers.

 

 

Widgets Widget drawer

 

Widgets are one of the huge strengths of Android over other mobile operating systems. They allow apps to interact with a section of the homescreen. Widgets range from simply displaying the weather to showing a task list to showing a social media feed.

 

Many apps come with a collection of their own widgets. Some apps are specifically only widgets. There are some extremely customisable widgets too, that allow you to essentially create your own design and information to display such as UCCW, but we will get to those later in the guide.

 

Resize widgetTo add a widget to your homescreen, you can long-press on an empty space and select through the normal menu as shown previously. You can also access widgets from the app drawer. Select the widget tab at the top of the app drawer to been shown a selection of available widgets with previews. Long-press these to drop them on your homescreen.


To edit the size of a widget, long-press it and release. This will show draggable resize handles in the middle of all sides of the widget. Drag these to expand/contact the widget size. Some widgets resize well, but some 3rd party apps might not have had resizable widgets in mind, and may end up looking ugly when resized.

 

 

 

Launcher


 

A launcher is the application that provides homescreens, app drawers and a general interface for navigating to apps. Android allows the user to choose a custom launcher. I recommend using Nova launcher. It's fantastic, good customisation and extremely fluid speed. There are plenty of custom launchers available for Android. A lot of them aim at producing a particular fixed design for the user. However, we are not going to be looking at those launchers here. We want to be able to max out our customisability options. As such, this guide will be demonstrating how to make use of the incredibly flexible and very popular Nova Launcher.

 

A launcher is the application that provides homescreens, app drawers and a general interface for navigating to apps. Android allows the user to choose a custom launcher. I recommend using Nova launcher. It's fantastic, good customisation and extremely fluid speed. There are plenty of custom launchers available for Android. A lot of them aim at producing a particular fixed design for the user. However, we are not going to be looking at those launchers here. We want to be able to max out our customisability options. As such, this guide will be demonstrating how to make use of the incredibly flexible and very popular Nova Launcher. Other launchers such as Apex are very similar to Nova, and once you know how to use Nova, you will be adept enough to make use of other launchers too.

 

 

Installing Nova Launcher Play store page for Nova Launcher

 

To install Nova Laucnher, either head over to the Google Play store app on your device and search for "Nova Laucnher", follow the link to the download page, or scan the QR code using a barcode scanner on your phone.


https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.teslacoilsw.launcherQR code to the Nova Launcher download

 

There is a paid version of Nova launcher too, but we will focus on that later and it requires the free version to be installed anyway.

 

If at any time, you want to completely remove the changes you've made in this section, you can return here and completely uninstall Nova Launcher. Make sure you perform a backup first if you plan to reinstall though! It's a real pain in the arse to have to setup your launcher settings again once you have them perfect.

 

Select default action for launcherOnce installed, try to return to the homescreen using the home button on your device. You will be presented with an option to "Complete action using". From here, you should choose Nova Launcher and select Always, since from this point forwards, you want Nova to handle your homescreens and app drawer. Everything from this point on in this section will require Nova to be your launcher.

 

You should now be presented with your new homescreen. It will have a few apps and widgets on it that Nova comes with by default. You can long-press these and drag to the cross at the very top of the screen to remove them, giving you a blank slate to work on.

 

There will be an widget present giving you the option to import from another launcher. If you want to copy your old icons over to Nova, press this and it will bring your old icons and widgets over to Nova to work with.

 

Everything covered in the previous section (homescreen) is relevant here too. Head back to that section of the guide to customise this new launcher. To avoid repeating things, everything from now on in this section is specific to Nova.

 

 

Shortcuts Shortcuts selection

 

Part of Nova launcher is the ability to create shortcuts directly into apps through Android's "intent" system. Long-press an area of the homescreen to open a menu. Select shortcuts to be offered a list of shortcuts available to you.

 

Shortcuts are specific function icons. They can be everything from an individual contact or direct message to a Gmail label or Google Drive folder.

 

 

Icons Icons selection

 

Make sure to grab a nice icon pack too for your customisations. I'd recommend taking a look at "Stark", "Motif" and "Click UI" on the Play Store for some really nice packs to try.

 

If the description of the icon pack mentions it was designed for HDPI or XHDPI device, or a similar acronym, take a look at this post for a better understanding of what these terms mean.

 

 

Inspiration

 

For some ideas, make sure to take a look at the screenshots section on these communities:

All of these communities are very helpful and love to share their homescreen designs with everyone else.

 

Another great place to find homescreen inspiration is at mycolorscreen.com - a website dedicated to a collection people's customised homescreen designs.

 

 

 

(To be expanded...)

 

 

Lockscreen


 

(Lockscreen widgets, face unlocking, WidgetLocker etc...)

 

Message 1 of 46
by: ant59
on: 22/07/2013 | 11:55 edited: 22/07/2013 | 11:57

I will continue to work on this and update it as I have more time to do so Smiley Happy

Message 2 of 46
by: pinkcalculator
on: 22/07/2013 | 11:57
Oh my that all sounds really complicated though I'd quite like to do some of that stuff.
Get a free giffgaff Sim
Message 3 of 46
by: twoleftfeet
on: 22/07/2013 | 12:14

I use Go Launcher Spring Theme to make my phone all nice and girly lol

 

Like the sound of Halo but setting it up looks complicated I am more a download and go sort of go

Order a SIM from Me

http://thereadersroom.org/
Message 4 of 46
by: ant59
on: 22/07/2013 | 12:29 edited: 23/07/2013 | 13:00

CHANGELOG:

  • Added novice sections on extremely basic tweaking of the homescreen.

 

pinkcalculator: Hopefully this guide will make it direct and straightforward to achieve all the customisations that I've listed here Smiley Happy

 

twoleftfeet: Whilst it is very complex for someone not used to the Android system, it can be quite straightforward when done right. Paranoid has an OTA system now too, so it's a do-once thing as the ROM will auto-update after the first install.

Message 5 of 46
by: ant59
on: 22/07/2013 | 13:05 edited: 23/07/2013 | 13:00

CHANGELOG

  • Added section on widgets
  • Added screenshots to complement each section
Message 6 of 46
by: plaver
on: 22/07/2013 | 14:04

really enjoyed browsing this post, as customising is something that I do often. its what sets the android apart from the apple.

 

but is it just me, or does anyone else find the image examples, really big in the post? I found it hard to take them in! maybe its just my screen and my age!

enjoyed reading anyway, thanks

Message 7 of 46
by: magscaf
on: 22/07/2013 | 14:19
yep, the images are a bit in your face large, but overall a great gude ... i do like to make my moby look a bit different from time to time so reading this guide will help a lot ....
many thanks
Get a free giffgaff Sim
Message 8 of 46
by: ant59
on: 22/07/2013 | 14:34

@plaver wrote:

but is it just me, or does anyone else find the image examples, really big in the post? I found it hard to take them in! maybe its just my screen and my age!


Sorry! I will resize them to make them a bit more readable.

Message 9 of 46
by: ant59
on: 22/07/2013 | 15:29 edited: 23/07/2013 | 13:01

CHANGELOG

  • Heavily altered the formatting of the post to improve readability
  • Resized the images and realigned them within the text to hopefully make the easier to understand
Message 10 of 46