Android and Linux

Monday, January 31, 2011

My screenshot

I was going to do a post about what Android apps I like, but it's to much work to just sit and describe the features of a bunch of apps. So, I'm going to go for a walk through my homescreen and describe how I use some of my favorite apps:

It looks pretty simple, but there's actually a lot going on thanks to the many cool Android apps available.

The top weather widget is Beautiful Widgets. The text on the right and left is displayed by Minimalistic Text. The actual text is updated every 30 minutes with a shell script controlled by Tasker which passes it to Minimalistic Text.

The text on the left is the date, the time of the last update and the number of visitors to my two blogs (zeroed out so I don't embarrass myself :) ). I mostly keep track of that to watch for spikes if something of mine gets posted somewhere. Not that I mind, but when I had the iphone blog (which still gets a lot of hits) people would post a script of mine with entirely wrong information and I used to have to chase it down and provide the correct information before someone screwed up their phone, so I got into the habit of watching the hits for spikes as a safety measure.

To the right is weather information. Wind direction and speed, visibility and barometer, temp and conditions. This is all gathered and formatted by the same shell script.

The text in these two blocks is aligned to the top of the icon, which is why they appear higher than the button in the middle. I may not keep it that way, but I did that when perfecting the weather information. Some weather conditions are long, like "light precipitation" and screw up the left/right alignment so I started breaking the lines and extending the conditions downward, so this gives me more room when it's "show and ice mix." Once I have examples of more long weather conditions, I'll start shortening them to "snow/ice" and put them back on one line.

Clicking the text on either side opens apps. I currently have the one on the right opening Wordfeud, because I check it often throughout the day, and the one on the left opens the phone.

The middle button starts and stops BeyondPod, the podcast app. It's a Tasker widget that changes from the play symbol to a pause symbol. It's not perfect, if I push play in the app, there's no way for Tasker to detect it, so it still shows the play symbol. But tapping it once straightens it out. I listen to a lot of podcasts that are usually an hour or more long and I usually have to pause them often, so this makes it easy and kinda cool too.

I use Launcher Pro. If you notice, the Tasker/BeyondPod widget is in the center of the screen. This is done by making a regular 1x1 Tasker widget and resizing it to 2x2 with LauncherPro. The icon moves to the center of the 2x2 block when resized.

The empty space below is not empty at all.

It's a 4x2 Minimalistic Text widget that I use to display information from Tasker. I have a profile to detect when the variable %HOMETEXT is set, so I just set it in any tasks I want to flash text and it carries out another task to display whatever is in the variable with Minimalistic Text.

It displays for 10 seconds then changes to a period because you can't set it for blank text and that's the smallest thing available. It actually isn't showing in the pic because I haven't used it to flash anything since the last reboot, but you can hardly see the dot when it's there.

Tapping anywhere on that 4x2 widget locks the phone by executing the app "Screen Off and Lock." Screen Off and Lock is a nice little app that does only one thing. When opened, it turns off the screen. My power button has gone out and I don't want to send it in to be fixed yet, so this is how I lock the phone. There is another app called "Invisible Lock Widget" which gives you an invisible widget that also locks the phone. It's really useful too, but it's a widget and can't be executed by another app. Screen Off and Lock is a standalone app so it can be "opened" by other apps, in this case Minimalistic Text.

Finally, to the dock. I need to find a better looking dock and app drawer icon. I made the text icons myself to fit a thinner dock and I need to remake and recolor those too, so don't knock my dock, it's a work in progress.

You can make the dock twice as useful with LauncherPro. Not only can you tap an icon to open apps or folders, but you can also swipe them to carry out several different actions. In my case, I just use them to open more apps and folders. All folders are created with Folder Organizer. The top word is the name to describe what happens when you tap, the bottom word is for swiping, and here is what mine do:

cam: opens the camera.
comm: opens a "communications" folder which contains the Phone, SMS, gmail, GVoice etc.

all: opens a folder containing 8 more folders that contain all my apps in different categories.
web: opens a folder containing all my web tools; Browser, Market, Tapatalk, Ebay, Amazon, etc.

App Drawer: opens the app drawer like normal.
App Drawer (swipe): opens a folder with all my "hacking" tools. Better Terminal Emulator, Tasker, a folder full of GSCript scripts, etc.

rss: opens BeyondPod, which I use as an RSS reader as well as podcatcher.
recent: pops up a list of recent apps, much more friendlier than long pressing the home button.

opt: opens Quick Settings, the app to quickly toggle GPS, Wifi, Tethering, Volume etc.
tasks: opens a folder of shortcuts to all of my Tasker tasks which I may want to run by tapping.

I made the wallpaper with an app named "Simple Wallpaper." It only makes different gradients for use as wallpapers, but if you want a gradient, it is certainly a nice app to use.

That's it, everything is done from that one home screen. I do have LauncherPro set for three home screens. The one to the right is for controlling my X10 home automation modules and is still very much a work in progress. The screen to the left stays empty unless I am testing something.

I hope this has been helpful or given other people some ideas.