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Android customization: Keep tabs on your battery status with Zooper Widget

Posted by wicked September - 25 - 2014 - Thursday Comments Off

Android Customization Battery Indicator Zooper Widget

Last week on our Android customization series we took a look at how to manage your keyboard on your Android device. Then, Joe came along and shared the 15 best keyboards for Android. Obviously, we want you to embrace your customization abilities on your device.

This week, I had suggested we might start talking about managing Location settings as a means to reduce battery consumption on your device. I must change gears and save Location settings for another time. I have been asked to take a quick look at how to change colors of elements and manage other notifications through Zooper Widget.

Today, we will try to keep it simple, I will show you how to change the color of a battery indicator based on the power status of your device.

Before we get started

You will be able to follow along today with just the free version of Zooper Widget from the Google Play Store, but do keep in mind that there are limitations and you’ll need to dish out $2.49 for Zooper Widget Pro if you wish to take things to the next level.

Now that you have Zooper Widget installed, create a widget that includes a battery indicator. If you are unsure how to do this, head back to one of our previous Zooper Widget tutorials. You might start with our full guide to all things Zooper Widget, or just take a look at the clock widget that kicked off our entire Android customization series.

Dynamically changing the color of a battery indicator in Zooper Widget

Zooper Widget battery indicator color

Before we do any work, let’s look specifically at what we are doing here today. I have a Zooper Widget setup on my Homescreen that has my battery level as a number. For today, I’ve added an icon too, just for effect. Normally, the battery icon is white. From there, I want two things:

  1. When my battery level drops below 15%, make the battery icon change to the color red
  2. When I plug in the charger, I want the battery icon to turn green

Let’s get started

Head into your battery element of your Zooper Widget.

Scroll all the way to the bottom and tap on Advanced Parameters.

Zooper Widget Icon Advanced Parameters

I am sure you followed along our previous Zooper Widget Advanced Parameters tutorial, so you are somewhat comfortable with what you are looking at here.

Let’s organize our logic, we want the battery indicator to be white normally, red if battery is low and green when charging. There are a few ways to create the string for your Advanced Parameter, we previously looked at using the IF statement layout, so let’s do that again.

As a refresher, the IF statement in Zooper Widget looks like this: $X=Y?Z:W$ In plain English, that is: IF this equals that, then do this, or else, do that.

We have need for two IF statements today, and we will need to nest them to get our desired results. When nesting IF statements, it is sometimes best to start from the end, let’s do that, starting with the green power indicator.

Make the battery indicator turn green when plugged in

$#BSTATN#=2?[c]00FF00[/c]:[c]FFFFFF[/c]$

IF Battery Status = Charging, then make icon color green, else leave it white.

Now we create the red color for when the power is below 15%.

Make the battery indicator turn red when power is low

$#BLEVN#<15?[c]FF0000[/c]:[c]FFFFFF[/c]$

IF battery Level is less than 15, then make the icon color red, else leave it white.

Now comes the tricky part, nesting these IF statements together. I will just give you the string, then we’ll look at what happened.

Nesting IF statements in Zooper Widget

$#BSTATN#=2?[c]00FF00[/c]:$$#BLEVN#<15?[c]FF0000[/c]:[c]FFFFFF[/c]$

Zooper Widget battery Advanced Parameters

You’ll notice in the screenshot that I’ve used 20% as my battery level threshold, and that I used a slightly different shade of red, at FF2222. I hope it illustrates how you can change things up as well.

Basically, what I have done here is tell Zooper that if the phone is plugged in, make it green, else, if it’s not plugged in, check to see the battery level and make it white or red as needed. The double $$ is required to signify that a nested IF statement is to be evaluated. Finally, by having the very last result set as white (FFFFFF), I was able to eliminate the duplicate [c]FFFFFF[/c] entry.

Hit the checkmark in the top right corner to save your Advanced Parameter.

Tap the system Back button to save and exit all the way to the Homescreen. Give your new widget a go.

What’s next

I am certain that was a little much to grasp the first time through, however, I want to throw a few more things at you. First, let’s look at color values, then let’s look at alternative configurations.

Throughout all of the Android customization tutorials you have worked through with us, I have represented colors in full Hex form. That is the strings of six digits with characters ranging from 0 to F. Today we used FFFFFF (white), FF0000 (red), and 00FF00 (green). For each of these, we could have used a shorthand, which would be FFF, F00, 0F0.

The art of nesting IF statements is not the most efficient nor necessarily easiest to explain after the fact. Zooper Widget takes Advanced Parameters to a whole new level with alternative string methods. We don’t have the time to look at that in detail today, so I’ll just throw an example at you:

The following string was taken straight from the Zooper.org archives and will make it so that your battery icon is red when your power is below 10%, yellow when your power is 10%-20% and green when your power is greater than 20%.

[c=$#BLEVN#<=10?F00$$#BLEVN#>10 && #BLEVN#<20?FF0$$#BLEVN# >= 20?0F0$]#BLEV#[/c]

Next week

We will continue to look at battery saving techniques and technologies as our Android customization series continues. We plan to revisit the Location services topic, but must warn you, recent versions of Android offer rather limited automation functionality around Location services. We have a bit of a clunky workaround, but we’ll eventually have to take root actions to get things as smooth as can be.

Any Zooper Widget users out there care to suggest a cleaner solution to changing battery indicator colors?


Source: Zooper Widget;

Android customization – save battery life and data usage with Secure Settings

Posted by wicked September - 11 - 2014 - Thursday Comments Off

Android Customization Secure Settings Tasker

Last week on our Android customization series we walked through a few simple ways to put Tasker to work on saving you some battery life. I’ll admit that turning off WiFi, Bluetooth and Background Sync only does so much for your device, so let’s dive a little deeper.

Secure Settings operates as a plugin for customization apps like Locale, Llama and, my personal favorite, Tasker. Proving that Tasker cannot do it all, Secure Settings dives into controlling some of the system settings that Tasker does not yet touch, such as controlling Mobile Data, some developer options, Airplane mode, Lock screen security settings and more.

Secure Settings breaks actions into several categories. First and foremost, you will get a good selection of options on the free version, and for a small in-app purchase, you can unlock a nice extra lot. From there, the categories are controlled by your device configuration. Rooted phones gain a great number of new tools and there are even controls specific to custom ROMs.

For today, we’ll stick with the free options.

Before we get started

Today you will need to have Tasker installed on your device, which is $2.99 in the Google Play Store. Once that is running, you will also need Secure Settings, also found in the Play Store. Secure Settings is free to install, then has a $1.50 in-app purchase to unlock the premium features that we will not be using today.

Install TaskerInstall Secure Settings

Reduce battery consumption by turning off Mobile Data

Once again, I’ve chosen an action that offers a limited amount of battery savings. However, with the additional benefit of turning off Mobile Data for those that do not have substantial data plans, this is an excellent project to show you how to use Secure Settings with Tasker.

I will leave it to you to hit earlier Android customization Tasker projects to see how to get Tasker started, find your way into the Tasks tab and start a new Task to turn off your Mobile Data.

In your Task, tap the “+” to add a new action.

Tasker Secure Settings Mobile Data Task

Choose Plugin.

Choose Secure Settings.

Tap the pencil icon to the right of Configuration.

Tap Actions to expand the list.

Choose Mobile Data.

You could choose Off, but I will be choosing Toggle for my needs. This way, I do not have to create a new Task to turn Mobile Data back on later.

Tap the Save icon in the top right.

Tap the system Back button to save and exit.

What to do with my Mobile Data killer Task?

Last week, I walked you through the idea of turning off features while you sleep, which is a perfect starting point for turning off Mobile Data. I also discussed setting your power sapping settings to a schedule.

If you decided to follow along last week and set your Background Sync settings to turn on for just a few minutes every couple of hours, this is where you may need to utilize another schedule for your Mobile Data. Follow along last week’s tutorial for the steps, but you’ll want to turn on Mobile Data a minute or two before you turn on Background Sync. Then, turn Mobile Data back off a couple minutes after you turn Background Sync off again.

One of the more common methods of controlling Mobile Data is to have it turn off when your device connects to your home (or work) WiFi networks. Let’s take a quick look at how that Profile is setup: (Note: this will be easiest to do when you are actually in range of your home WiFi network.)

Open up Tasker and head to the Profiles tab.

Tasker Secure Settings Mobile Data Profile

Tap the “+” to create a new Profile and give it a unique and concise name, I’ll call mine “HomeWiFi.”

Choose State.

Choose Net.

Choose WiFi Connected (or WiFi Near.)

Tap the magnifying glass icon to the right of SSID, then choose your home network. Alternatively, you may simply type in the name of your home, or work, WiFi network.

Tap your system Back button to save and exit.

Choose your “Kill/ToggleMobileData” Task, or whatever you had named it.

If you used the “Off” setting in your Secure Settings configuration, be sure to now add an Exit Task to your Profile that turns Mobile Data back on when you disconnect from your chosen WiFi network. If you used the Toggle option, just play with things and add the same Task as an Exit Task only if needed.

What’s next

Secure Settings Tasker Plugin optionsEvery device and network is a little bit different. Please be sure to spend some time with your configuration and see what works best for your battery life. You may find that your WiFi kills your battery at twice the pace as your mobile connection, in which case, today’s tutorial wouldn’t serve you all that well.

Once again, we’ve only covered a single, and simple, aspect of battery usage reduction. Be sure to play with all of these tools in Tasker and explore for more to optimize your device. Also, stay tuned, battery saving techniques are important to us, we’ll have more for you in the future, specifically, we only scratched the surface of the Secure Settings plugin, we plan to dive into the premium and root features down the road.

Next week

We have been doing so much typing on our Android devices lately, let’s take a look at keyboards. If you are using the Google Keyboard, check in next week on our Android customization series as we dive into the keyboard settings. Maybe you dislike haptic feedback, don’t want the keyboard to beep on every key press, or maybe you just don’t like the newer white color and want some blue back in your life, we’ll hook you up.

How do you manage your Mobile Data needs on your device?


Via: Android customization;

Android customization – Three battery saving tips using Tasker

Posted by wicked September - 4 - 2014 - Thursday Comments Off

Android Customization Tasker Battery Tips

So far in our Android customization series we have used tools to build designs and control your device with a reckless disregard for your battery life, we better do something about that. While battery life is an important topic for most Android users, it is very involved and will require that we look at it from a few different angles.

Over the years, we’ve shown off our best tips and tricks to manage your power consumption, today we will walk through putting some of those ideas to work using Tasker.

We will look at three aspects of your device today: WiFi, Bluetooth and Background Sync.

Before we get started

Get it on Google Play ButtonTo follow along today you will need to install Tasker, it is $2.99 in the Google Play Store.

Reduce battery consumption by turning off WiFi

Most of us step outside the house during our normal day, even if only to run to work or school, it is times like these that WiFi is probably not required. Unfortunately, Android is designed such that if WiFi is enabled, the device will scan for available WiFi networks, this can be brutal on battery life, so we best just turn off WiFi when we head out our front door.

If you followed along a while back, we actually already built a Tasker project to toggle on and off WiFi on your device. At that time, we used an element within a Zooper Widget to trigger the action.

If you are unfamiliar or uncomfortable with Tasker, follow along the Zooper Widget tutorial to build your Task. For those that know what they are doing, the Task is simple:

Net -> WiFi -> Off.

Reduce battery consumption by turning off Bluetooth

With the explosion of Bluetooth connected smartwatches out there these days, you may never want to turn off your Bluetooth, but if you do not have Android Wear on your wrist, chances are you only use Bluetooth for specific tasks. If you are like me, you don’t mind manually turning on Bluetooth as needed, but you always forget to turn it back off. Tasker to the rescue.

Head into the Tasks tab of Tasker and start a new Task.

Tasker Bluetooth

Name it uniquely and concisely, I’ll call mine “KillBlue“.

Tap the “+” button to add a new action.

Choose Net.

Choose Bluetooth.

You can leave the settings as they are, Set as Off, and hit the system Back button to save and exit.

Reduce battery consumption by turning off Background Sync

It is extremely convenient that our Android devices are always connected, always checking for new emails and social media notifications and so much more, but this takes its toll on your battery. If you know you will not be checking messages for a time and want to save some juice, we can just turn off background sync.

You can always handle this manually through your system settings, but we like to automate with Tasker.

Tasker Background Sync

Create a new Task and name it uniquely and concisely, I’ll call mine “NoSyncing“.

Tap the “+” button to add a new action.

Choose Net.

Choose Auto-Sync.

Leave it Set to Off and hit the system Back button to save and exit.

When do we use these Tasks?

The true power of this project is deciding when to trigger these Tasks. For each of us, the answer will differ, some of us can kill WiFi and fire up Bluetooth when we connect to the dock in our car, some of us will use Location services to decide, and for many, today’s actions can be controlled based on the time of day. Let’s look at what a time based Profile might look like.

Turn off WiFi while you are sleeping

Don’t forget that we’ve already created a Sleep and Silent mode using Tasker, feel free to reference that for better instruction.

Navigate to the Profiles tab in Tasker and start a new Profile.

Choose Time and set your typical sleep hours. Perhaps you would like to set it for an hour or two after you normally go to sleep and an hour or two before you wake up, this way you do not miss anything, but your device still gets a few hours of down time.

Hit the system Back button to confirm and exit.

Choose your “WiFiOff” Task.

If you find that WiFi does not turn back on when the Profile finishes, create a new Task that turns WiFi back on and set it in the Profile’s Exit Task. We covered Exit Tasks here.

Using this same concept, you can create more Profiles to cover other times of your day. You could set WiFi to turn off during working hours, if you don’t have WiFi at the office, or whatever suits your needs.

Set Background Sync to a schedule

One of the best ways to control Background Sync is to put it on a schedule.

Tasker Background Sync Schedule profile

Create a new Profile in Tasker and again choose the Time option.

When choosing your time, turn off From and Until, instead activate Repeat and set it to, say, 2 Hours.

Tap the system Back button to confirm and exit.

Choose your “NoSyncing” Task.

To make this work properly, we will need to modify our “NoSyncing” Task to have four actions. And we get to learn about IF conditional statements.

Action 1: Tap the “+” button to create a new action, choose Task, then choose Stop.

Tap the “+” beside If.

Tap the little label icon and scroll down the list to find and tap on WiFi Status.

Tap the ~ and choose Doesn’t Equal.

In the last field, type “on“, without the quotes.

Tap the system Back button to save and exit.

Tasker Stop action IF statement

Action 2: Create an action that turns Background Sync on.

Net -> Auto-Sync -> Set On

Action 3: We must pause for a few minutes to let the Background Sync do its thing.

Tap the “+” button to create a new action, choose Task, then choose Wait.

Set a time value, I’ve gone with 5 minutes, which should be enough time for everything to sync. Tap the system Back button to confirm and exit.

Action 4: Turn Background Sync back off. You should already have this action in your “NoSyncing” Task, you can re-arrange the actions by tapping and dragging from the far right edge in the list.

Tasker Background Sync Schedule Task

As I am sure you see now, every two hours your system will try to check for messages. With the Stop action in place, Background Sync will only be activated if WiFi is turned on, otherwise it simply exits the Task and waits for next time.

What’s Next

I feel bad that today’s items only just scratched the surface of all of things that can be done to reduce battery consumption. Rest assured I will have more ideas, tools, tips and tricks coming, some will involve Tasker, but not all, and we will dive into some of the extras one can do with a rooted device.

Please spend some time and play with your WiFi, Bluetooth and Background Syncing needs in Tasker; as mentioned, you can turn each of these on and off based on location, time, availability of specific WiFi networks and Bluetooth devices and so much more. A quick word of warning, however, using location services, especially GPS, can sometimes actually use more power than you are trying to save.

Next week

We will continue with battery saving techniques next week on our Android customization series, perhaps we will take a look at those location services I just mentioned. With recent changes to the Android operating system itself, Tasker needs a little boost to be able to turn on and off GPS directly, we’ll take a look at how that works.

How do you like to manage your WiFi, Bluetooth and Background Sync settings?

Android customization – Screen Filter, dim your display to see in the dark

Posted by wicked August - 28 - 2014 - Thursday Comments Off

Android Customization Screen Filter display dimmer

Sometimes, the pleasures of Android customization require that we put to use small, single purpose apps to get the job done right. One such app is called Screen Filter, who’s single purpose is to dim your display well beyond the lowest brightness setting on your device.

As we go through our day, we often find ourselves with varying amounts of lighting to contend with, be it blaring direct sunlight or the dark of night. While I believe it is generally safe to rely on the default device options or creating your own profiles using apps like Lux or Tasker to adequately increase your display brightness, few devices, on the other hand, do a great job of handling low light situations.

When the only light in the room is the gentle glow of all of your power adapters, even the lowest brightness setting on most Android devices feels a little like staring at the Sun. Since this searing pain is not enough to stop us from using our devices, why don’t we take a look at how to use Screen Filter to tone things down a bit.

Before we get started

Get it on Google Play ButtonScreen Filter is a free app in the Google Play Store. If you like the app and wish to offer up a donation to the developer, in a unique approach, the developer asks that you instead make a donation to Wikipedia.

Great news, Screen Filter is also controllable as a Tasker plugin. This is just extra functionality which I will only briefly show off here today, but you’ll need to drop $2.99 on Tasker in the Google Play Store if you want to play along that part.

Using Screen Filter to dim your display

As mentioned, Screen Filter is made only to dim your display, which it does by placing a semi transparent black screen over top of your existing content. This is not a hardware related solution, and should not provide any battery saving benefits, but at least it let’s you use your device at night.

Warning: Screen Filter can be used to completely black out your display. Please be careful how you use it, as you may be required to pull the battery on your device to recover. On the bright side (no pun intended,) Screen Filter should be your first notification in your Notification bar, you may be able to blindly swipe and tap that to deactivate without having to restart the device.

Screen Filter can be used in three different ways. First, you can go into your apps and choose it from there. Second, and most common, you can set pre-configured widgets on your Homescreens. Last, my personal favorite, Screen Filter can be controlled and configured through Tasker. Let’s look at how to work these three options.

Activate Screen Filter from the app drawer

This is pretty simple, open your app drawer by tapping the “all apps” button usually located just above the Home button on your device. Scroll through to find the Screen Filter icon and tap to activate.

Screen Filter App toggle

Screen Filter will activate at a default value, somewhat out of your control, and remain there until you tap the app icon once again to turn it off. If you like this filter level, feel free to put a shortcut to the app on your Homescreen for easy access.

If the value is not good for you, you can pull down the Notification bar and tap the Screen Filter notification to enter the settings screen. Slide the scroll bar to the desired value and tap the system back button to save and exit.

Setup a Screen Filter widget

Likely the most common use of Screen Filter is through the Homescreen widget. This is very simple as well, drop the widget onto your Homescreen and you will be presented a settings page.

Screen Filter Widget

Slide the scroll bar until you reach an appropriate filter level.

Tap Save.

You can do this multiple times, setting different values for each widget.

To toggle Screen Filter off and on, simply tap the widget.

Setup Screen Filter in Tasker

Now for my favorite. If you are an avid Tasker user, I just need mention that Screen Filter is a Plugin for Tasker. If you are not an avid Tasker user, no worries, we’re just going to create an action within a Task that activates Screen Filter.

I will leave it to you to follow along previous tutorials to create a Profile in Tasker for this project and to create your Task within Tasker to get started. From there you’ll add a new action.

Screen Filter Tasker Task action

Choose Plugin.

Choose Screen Filter.

Tap the pencil next to Configure.

Slide the scroll bar to the desired value.

Tap Save.

Tap the system back button to save and exit.

What’s next

Let’s quickly talk about the Screen Filter notification that pops up when the app is activate. When you start Screen Filter from the app drawer, tapping the notification will both deactivate the display dimming and take you to the settings screen. When you activate Screen Filter from a widget or through Tasker, tapping the notification will only deactivate the filter.

Did someone say Tasker? Why of course I did, and now you may be wondering how and when you might activate Screen Filter. Let me give you just two ideas:

First, Screen Filter is great at night, obviously. If you’ve been following along my Tasker tutorials in our Android customization series, you already know how to create a night time mode for your device. If your night mode appropriately coincides with lights out in your home, it would be a simple thing to add Screen Filter to your sleepy time Task in Tasker, thus dimming your display along with muting the ringer and more.

Second thought, perhaps you looked into using Tasker with Trigger when I covered it a few weeks back. If you’ve got a spare NFC tag kicking around, why not program it to fire up Screen Filter? A sticker style NFC tag placed close to the bed makes it super simple to quickly tap to dim your display.

Prevent device reboots: I warned you above that Screen Filter can be set to a value that completely blacks out your display, often requiring a reboot to recover. I pose to you that an NFC tag made to toggle on and off Screen Filter would serve as a backup recovery plan in the event of a blackout.

Screen Filter Enabled 13percent

Next Week

Starting next week on our Android customization series we will begin to look at some battery saving tools, tips and tricks. If you are so inclined, you may want to start tracking your battery life, so you have a baseline to compare to after we make some tweaks. We don’t want to go too crazy here, maybe just snap a screenshot of your Battery stats at the end of each day and we can compare them later.

Respecting that apps like Lux offer a full featured display brightness solution with some awesome configurations and color filters, how do you feel Screen Filter stacks up for your needs?

Android Customization Tasker Notification Bar

Welcome back to our Android customization series, last week we kept it short and sweet going over a simple display timeout controlling app called KeepScreen. In its simplest form, you choose a selection of apps, when those apps are open, KeepScreen prevents your display from turning off, no frills, no gimmicks.

I had promised that this week we would go over alternative file transfer apps to WiFi File Transfer Pro, I must break that promise. In order to provide the best coverage of the best options, I simply need more time to put it all together, I promise it is still in the works and will be out as soon as it is ready. For today then, we’d like to look as something as simple as KeepScreen, but even more powerful – embedded Tasker Task triggers in your Notifications bar.

The latest release of Tasker was a big one, it included hundreds of new features and updates. One of the most powerful additions is embedded action buttons in the permanent Tasker Notification. You likely noticed this already, the default single button is ‘Disable’, which is a terrible choice in my mind, why would I ever want to turn Tasker off?!?

Let’s quickly look at controlling up to three Tasks and placing them in the Notification bar. Alternatively, if you are absolutely against having these buttons in your Notifications bar, I’ll show you how to turn the feature off as well.

Before we get started

Get it on Google Play ButtonAlthough I feel you can get your money’s worth out of Tasker, it is sill $2.99 in the Google Play Store. You will also need a device running Android 4.4.x or greater, as this is where Google introduced actionable notifications.

Placing Tasker actions in your Notification bar

Before we place any actions in the Notification bar, we’ll need to decide which actions to add. You’ll need to decide for yourself what actions you need available from anywhere, to be performed by a click. Personally, I listen to a lot of music, and have need to stop music playback many time throughout my day. Easy enough, let’s build that Task.

Tasker Task to stop your music

Open up Tasker and navigate to the Tasks tab.

Tap the “+” button to create a new Task.

Tasker Task Stop Music Media Control

Provide your Task a unique and concise name. I will call mine “StopMusic“.

Tap the “+” button to add a new action.

Choose Media.

Choose Media Control.

Under CMD change Next to Stop.

(There is an alternative Music Stop command parallel to Media Control above, although it is easier to implement, I found that it fails to actually stop my music. Feel free to try it out and let me know how it goes for you.)

The remaining options are fine as they are, tap your system Back button to confirm.

That is all you need to do. I have chosen to add a quick flash notification, just an old habit. To do so yourself, add another action, choose Alert, choose Flash, enter your Text, I just put “Music Stopped”, then back out to save and exit.

Tasker Task Alert Flash

The media control action should work for most of your audio and video content, not just your music. I’ll admit that it appears to no longer stop my video playback through MX Player, but it may for you.

Moving on, we now have a Task ready to go into our Notification bar.

Adding a Task trigger button to your Notification Bar

Tasker Notification bar Tasks

Open Tasker and tap the triple dots “hamburger” menu button in the top right corner.

Tap Preferences.

Navigate to the Monitor tab.

Right at the top should be a section called General, a few items below is the option Notification Action Buttons.

For those that absolutely do not want any buttons in their Tasker Notification, simply tap the checkbox to turn it off.

For the rest of us, we can add up to three buttons. Go ahead and tap the magnifying glass button to add a Task.

Choose your desired Task. My Task was named “StopMusic“.

(On my phone, I’ve also added a Display Rotation toggle and Tesla flashlight toggle. On my Tablet I’ve added a display brightness control.)

Tap your system Back button to confirm and exit.

You may need to close and re-open Tasker to finalize the changes, but your buttons will soon populate in your default permanent Tasker notification. Now, no matter where you are or what you are doing, your few items will be there.

 Tasker Notification bar Task buttons

What’s next

As you may have guessed, you could use the three slots for different music playback controls, turning Tasker into a music player. As is true of Tasker, the sky is the limit here, if you can imagine Tasker controlling it, you can get it into the Notification bar.

Perhaps you would like to configure a Task that fires off a SMS message to your family telling them you’ve left work and are headed home. I always forget to do so before getting behind the wheel of the car, since texting and driving is a bad thing, one tap from the notification bar to send a pre-formed message is extremely handy.

Next Week

For next Thursday in our Android customization series, we’d like to take a little closer look at controlling display brightness. We’ve previously looked at an app called Lux, which is super powerful, but perhaps a little complicated at first glance. I’ve got a much simpler solution on deck for you, best of all, it integrates with Tasker and it’s free – but you’ll have to check back next week to see what it’s called.

While Tasker itself is a robust, and somewhat complicated, system, adding buttons to the Notification bar that trigger your created Tasks is a simple things. While the goal with Tasker is to also setup Profiles that make for a truly automated flow, these few things into the Notification bar can be super important to how you use your device.

What Tasks have you chosen to put into your Notification bar?


Via: Android customization;

Top Xposed Framework Modules

Posted by wicked August - 17 - 2014 - Sunday Comments Off

Xposed Framework is a powerful tool, that allows you to add certain functionality and features to your device which would otherwise be available only through flashing custom ROMs. Xposed framework requires root to access core Android resources, using them to run different modules to add new functionality to the OS. This tool is considered to a must have for power users, and there are quite a few tutorials and guides on how to get started. As mentioned, root access is required, but keep in mind that rooting your device may result in your warranty being void, and a certain amount of technical know-how is recommended before diving in.

The potential here is almost unlimited, and as the number of modules keep growing, it can prove to be daunting task to filter through the various applications available in this tool. That’s where we step in. Today, we’ll be taking a look at some of the top XPosed Framework Modules. Let’s get started!

Activity Force New Task

Android Xposed framework - activity-force-new-task-3-2

While launching an application from within another isn’t a new feature, there is definitely some room for improvement in this regard. Some of you may have noticed that when you launch an application from within another, hitting the back button takes you directly to the homescreen, instead of back into the app. In some cases, when you launch an app from within another, it doesn’t register as a separate task in the Task Manager or Recent Apps screen, that makes multi-tasking slightly more annoying than it should be. A great solution available is in the form of an Xposed framework module called ActivityForceNewTask.

As the name suggests, this module forces the system to create a new task when an application is launched from within another, making switching between the two that much easier. You also have the option to set filters for different apps, that lets you choose which applications this module does and does not affect. ActivityForceNewTask is a very useful tool for anyone that faces such problems. You can find out more about this module here.

BlackList

Android Xposed framework - blacklist-3

The next module, called BlackList, is something that could be considered a must have for a lot of people. BlackList is an advanced call and SMS filter and blocker, with various features to easily manage unwanted calls and text messages from anyone. You have the option to set up blacklists, exception lists, and even configure blocking options for specific numbers. It’s very easy to add numbers to the different lists and stay organized. You can check out the full list of features and find out more about the BlackList module here.

BootManager

Android Xposed framework - bootmanager-3

If you’re worried about slow boot times and have noticed multiple and unnecessary apps running during system startup, this next module is for you. BootManager, as the name suggests, is a simple tool that lets you control which apps run when the device starts up. All you have to do is click on the apps you don’t want to load when Android boots up, and that’s it. You also have the option to restrict system apps from loading, but that requires a donation. You can find out more about BootManager here.

Complete Action Plus

Android Xposed framework - complete-action-plus-3

What we all love about Android is that it gives us a lot of options. We can share with any application we want, and we can even set application defaults. But with the problem with having so many options is that it can sometime slow down your workflow. With this next module, called Complete Action Plus, you can modify these options, and customize your share options and default application window. For example, you can remove applications you never share with, select from different applications, change the size, and modify colours. There are dozens of options for you the choose form, so it’s something that is definitely worth installing and checking out. You can find out more about the Complete Action Plus module here.

DS Battery Saver

Android Xposed framework - DS-battery-saver-3-3

With our ever-increasing dependency on our smartphones, a growing concern over recent times has been battery life. If you’re hoping to get the most juice out of our device battery, the DS Battery Saver module is the one for you. This application lets you select from a list of battery saver profiles to suit your needs, and you can also set parameters to optimize your battery life. Most current high-end smartphones come with battery saving modes baked in, but for any other device, the DS Battery Saver module helps make a big difference. You can find out more about this module here.

Protected Apps

Android Xposed framework - overview-3

Security is important when it comes to your device, and most of us have a PIN, password, or pattern required to unlock our devices. If you’re looking for the same option when it comes to individual apps as well, the Protected Apps module is what you’re looking for. This module lets you use the device unlock PIN, password, or pattern to unlock a specific app. This proves especially useful for devices used by multiple people, or if you’re worried about your friends posting that awkward Facebook status update when they get their hands on your phone. Since this is a system level lock, there is also no way around out. You can find out more about Protected Apps here.

Smooth Progress Bars

OnePlus One Xposed Framework Smooth System Progress Bar

The next module, called Smooth Progress Bars, is a little add-on that enhances the visual aspect of the OS greatly. This does what it says, and makes your progress bars a lot more smooth. You can tweak and adjust exactly how the loading bar animation should be. This module creates a small visual tweak, but once you have it installed, you’ll find that it is something you can’t live without. You can find out more about this module here.

Tinted Translucent Status Bar

Android Xposed Tinted Transluscent Bar

The Tinted Translucent Status Bar is another module that allows for a visual tweak, that makes things look a lot better. This module gives you the opportunity to use the Translucent mode for the Android status bar and navigation bar in every application that you want. It has a built-in database that downloads the colour profiles for you, and then makes the status bar the same colour as the application. Choose the apps and activities you want to be tinted, set the colour, and how the layout should be adjusted, and that’s it. You can find out more about the Tinted Translucent Status Bar module here.  

Wanam

Xposed Wanam Kit

Apart from the Tinted Translucent Status Bar module above, if you’re looking to further customize your status bar, as well as other UI elements, the Wanam module is the one for you. This lets you tweak and customize various visual elements, and also adds a lot of functionality to the device. You can find out more about the various options available here, and there is also a module that is compatible with the Samsung TouchWiz UI, that you can check out here

XPrivacy

Xposed Framwork Xprivacy

If security is a big concern for you, Xprivacy is the module that lets you completely protect all your information. XPrivacy can prevent applications from leaking privacy sensitive data, and can restrict the categories of data an application can access. This is done by feeding an application with no data, or even fake data. There are several data categories which can be restricted, such as  your contact list or location. You can find out more about the XPrivacy module here

And so, there you have it, a look at some of our top Xposed Framework modules! If there is any module that you feel deserves to be on this list, don’t forget to let us know in the comments section below.

Android customization – KeepScreen, the free way to keep your display turned on

Posted by wicked August - 14 - 2014 - Thursday Comments Off

Android Customization KeepScreen

A few weeks back in our Android customization series, we showed you how to use Tasker to control your display timeout. Basically, your Android device follows a single setting to control when your display should go to sleep, usually that is set to 30 seconds or a minute. There are times that this is just not going to work, so we customized it just how we like it.

Some of you mentioned that you would like to do this without Tasker; in response, I give you KeepScreen.

The Tasker project tackled this in a very straightforward and binary way – your device is either set to turn off as normal, or, when specific apps are open, the display remains turned on indefinitely.

KeepScreen also handles this in an on or off sort of way, allowing you to simply choose a set of apps for which your display stays lit.

Before we get started

Get it on Google Play ButtonKeepScreen is a tiny little free app in the Google Play Store. As this was one of the first customization apps I had ever installed on Android, I think you’ll find it works on almost any device going back to Froyo and even older.

Setting up KeepScreen

Once installed, open KeepScreen and head into the Applications section.

KeepScreen Main Menu

Choose the apps for which the display should remain turned on.

Tap the system back button to confirm.

Tap the Start / Stop Service button to start the service. Watch for the quick flash ‘toast’ notification for confirmation.

KeepScreen Start Service

Congratulations, setup is complete. Feel free to play with the other options, then exit the app whenever you’re ready.

Using KeepScreen

Just kidding, there is nothing to do here. Open up one of the apps you had set in the steps above, wait a moment… Boom, there is that little red table lamp in your notification bar to confirm things are running. You are good to go.

KeepScreen active

I hope I don’t need to mention this, but do be careful which apps you use KeepScreen for, it cares not about your battery consumption and will keep your screen turned on until you stop it, you’ll need to make sure to close the app or manually turn off the display when you are done.

Next week

Next week on the Android customization series we’ll take a look at another alternative solutions to a task we’ve already performed. Many of you shared some great solutions for duplicating the functionality of WiFi File Transfer Pro, based on your suggestions and requests we’ll run through another option, or two.

KeepScreen is about as simple as it gets, does anyone have any suggestions for a similar app that rocks this level of simplicity for controlling display timeout? Perhaps something that has seen an update in the last couple years?

Android customization – WiFi File Transfer Pro

Posted by wicked August - 7 - 2014 - Thursday Comments Off

Android Customization WiFi File Transfer Pro Header

Throughout a number of our Android customization tutorials thus far, there has been one simple little thing that has been taken for granted, the ability to get files, usually images, transferred to your Android device.

It may seem a trivial thing, but the ability to efficiently transfer files between your devices is important. For many of us, transferring files between our computer and our Android device means connecting a USB cable, if we had the foresight to bring one with us in the first place, downloading and installing the appropriate drivers and software, then enduring software update checks and data syncing before finally being able to transfer files to and from devices.

Perhaps my description is a little outdated, but I think you’ll find my solution is still very relevant; let’s look at WiFi File Transfer Pro for transferring files between your Android device and your PC.

WiFi File Transfer Pro is a simple yet powerful app which should be in everyone’s arsenal of productivity tools. As the name implies, you can leave your cables behind and enjoy fast data transfers between your devices.

Before we get started

Get it on Google Play ButtonWiFi File Transfer has a free version that allows you to transfer files up to 5MB in size. If 5MB is not large enough for you, I believe it is worth coughing up the $1.40 for WiFi File Transfer Pro in the Google Play Store.

Important: Your devices need to be on the same network for WiFi File Transfer to work.

WiFi File Transfer Pro initial setup

Once installed, go ahead and open up WiFi File Transfer. The interface is pretty simple, but before you hit that Start button, head into Settings to configure at least one important little thing, security!

WiFi File Transfer Pro Settings Access Password

The first option within Settings is Access Password, tap this and input a password. This password will be required by all other devices attempting to connect to your Android phone or tablet. From there, if you think you’ll be using WiFi File Transfer on public or un-trusted networks, get into Advanced Settings and turn on SSL Encryption.

You may find that enabling SSL Encryption severely reduces the speed of WiFi File Transfer Pro. Hopefully you can operate on a secure network so to avoid this issue. Also, SSL Encryption in this app uses a self-signed certificate, this will result in browser navigation warnings, it doesn’t look good, but just verify that your URL is accurate and that your security warning specifically says that there is a self-signed certificate (not a missing certificate) and you’ll be good. If in doubt, turn off SSL Encryption and try again on a secure network.

WiFi File Transfer Pro Advanced Settings

I would only recommend messing with the Port numbers if you’ve got other services that conflict. Usually, WiFi File Transfer uses Port 1234 for standard connections and Port 2345 for SSL connections.

Finally, I find the WiFi File Transfer Homescreen Widget very handy, but I transfer files almost daily. Just wanted to make sure you knew it was there.

WiFi File Transfer Pro Widget

How to connect to WiFi File Transfer Pro

Android Device

On your Android device, enter into WiFi File Transfer Pro and tap the Start button. If you have the widget setup, you can simply tap the icon on the left side of the widget.

WiFi File Transfer Pro Start and Stop

You will be presented with a URL, it will look something like http://192.168.1.76:1234 or https://192.168.1.76:2345.

Other Device

Head on over to your laptop or desktop computer, or another Android device on the same WiFi network.

Open a web browser.

WiFi File Transfer Pro Log in

Enter the URL into the address bar.

Enter your Password, if applicable.

That is it, you are now connected and can begin transferring files between your Android device and the machine you’ve connected to it with.

Transfer files off of your Android device using WiFi File Transfer Pro

From your connected web browser, navigate your Android device file system to find the files you would like to transfer. Click [Parent Directory] to go up a folder level, think of it as your back button when you go into folders.

WiFi File Transfer Pro Download Files

Select the files to be transferred by clicking the check box on their left.

Click the Download button at either the top or bottom of the list.

If multiple files, choose whether to download them individually or as a zip file.

The files will now download in your browser, as if from any other website on the internet.

Transfer files to your Android device using WiFi File Transfer Pro

From your connected web browser, navigate your Android device file system to the folder that you would like to transfer the files into.

WiFi File Transfer Pro Upload

Click the Choose Files button (or the Select Folder button) and find the files (folder) on your computer that you would like to transfer.

Click the Start Upload button to start the transfer.

Pro Tip: although you are free to navigate your connected Android device’s file system whilst files are downloading or uploading, I’ve found that it often enough breaks the file transfer. I recommend finding something else to do until the file transfer is complete.

There you have it, open up your Android device and check for yourself, the files are transferred and ready to roll.

Properly shutting down WiFi File Transfer Pro

When you are done, hit the Stop button in the app, then hit the Quit button in the bottom right corner to exit. If you were using the widget, simply tap that icon in the widget again.

Access to your Android devices files will be cut off on the connected computer, but the loaded page will still be visible until you click on something in it. Be sure to close that browser tab to keep things private.

What’s next

I only briefly mentioned that you can use any device with a modern web browser to access your files through WiFi File Transfer Pro. Primarily, a laptop or desktop computer will be your connection, but you can use nearly any Android device as well. Since the program has the power to delete files, I would avoid handing over the URL and password to others, but it can be done if needed.

Remember how I said any web browser? That includes the web browser on your smart TV or set-top box as well. Beside ‘File browser’ on the web interface is ‘Media gallery’. It is not magical, but is certainly a quick way to display your local media on the big screen.

WiFi File Transfer Pro Media Gallery

Next week

A while back, we used Tasker to control when your display goes to sleep. The tutorial covered display rotation as well, which I thought was pretty handy. Some of our readers expressed that they needed this functionality, but were either not fans of Tasker, or just wanted a free solution to tackle this display timeout problem. Next week in our Android customization series we’ll show you quickly how to use a free little app from the Google Play Store that controls your display timeout on a per app basis.

Did you get the chance to transfer some files using WiFi File Transfer Pro, how did you like the experience? There are many alternatives to WiFi File Transfer Pro out there, have you found any that have any major advantages over the rest?


Via: Google Play Store;

Android customization – Use IFTTT to get notifications for your favorite feeds

Posted by wicked July - 31 - 2014 - Thursday Comments Off

Android Customization IFTTT July 31

Android customization is important to us. So are choices. Over the last few weeks in our Android customization series, we’ve shown you how to take control of your Android device, creating custom control panels, setting up sleep modes, scanning NFC Tags and more. In that spirit, we’d like to now put IFTTT to work in a similar way.

IFTTT (If This Then That) has been around for a while on the web. Users are able to automate and streamline their online world with dozens of tools that work across dozens of services. A fairly typical example would be to have IFTTT send you an email with the download link of a podcast that you follow.

More recently, IFTTT launched an Android app. Along with all of the web services already available, the Android app includes a small set of Android actions that can either be performed or acted upon. We’re not talking Tasker level Android customization resources here, but some of the big ones are covered.

Be sure to check out our coverage of the IFTTT Android app for all the particulars.

IFTT Promo and Recipe Description

 

Now that you know what IFTTT is all about, let’s use it to build stuff!

Before we get started

Get it on Google Play ButtonIFTTT is a free app in the Google Play Store. You’ll need an Android 4.0+ device and will have to setup an account with IFTTT.com to use the service. I highly recommend setting up your account on your PC before diving into the app, and, although we won’t need it today, I find it handy to build my IFTTT recipes with a computer nearby to look up URLs and such.

The first time you start IFTTT on your Android device, it runs you through setup and a lengthy introduction, you’ll need to get through all this as well before we start.

Receive an Android Notification when Android Authority posts a new article

It may be a little overwhelming to receive a notification for each and every post we make, so let’s instead drill a little deeper and only receive notifications for posts of a specific nature.

Go ahead and open up IFTTT.

Tap the mortar and pestle icon on the top right to view your recipes.

IFTTT If This demo

Tap the “+” icon to add a new recipe.

Tap the blue “+” icon where it says Start here! to establish the ‘if’ in our recipe.

Scroll sideways through the many services until you find Feed. The list is alphabetical, so it should be somewhere between Facebook and Fitbit.

Tap on the “+” beside New Feed item matches.

Fill in the keyword to match. If you wanted to only get our posts with videos, simply type “video”. Myself, I will enter ‘Android customization‘.

The Feed URL is http://feeds.feedburner.com/androidauthority

Tap Next to continue.

IFTTT Then That demo

Tap the red “+” icon to add the ‘that’ to your recipe.

Scroll through the huge list of available actions until you find Android Notifications.

Tap the “+” beside Send a notification.

Tap Finish to save your recipe.

There were a lot of steps, but you got through it all. Now, you can sit back and wait for your notification of when we next post something. Or, of course, if you followed along my example, you’ll get your notification next Thursday when I post my regular Android customization article. Hmm, what should I cover next week?

What’s next

As I am sure you noticed, IFTTT has many available triggers and is able to fire off a bunch of actions. You will need to use your imagination a little bit to really put the app to work. Good thing they offer sample recipes in-app.

Many people use IFTTT to automatically upload images and screenshots to Dropbox or another cloud/photo service. Some use IFTTT to control their Nest thermostat based on the weather. Others Yo IFTTT to trigger an incoming phone call from IFTTT, you know, that fake emergency call to escape a bad date.

 

IFTT Recipe ideas

Next Week

Let’s really change directions next week. We’ve spent weeks dealing with design and automation projects on our Android customization series, to produce all of these articles, we’ve needed to move a ton of files to and from our PC and Android devices. We assume that you have need to transfer files as well, so let’s take a look at moving files using the app WiFi File Transfer (free and pro.)

What is your best and most useful IFTTT recipe on Android?

Swiftkey Keyboard updates with new themes, performance improvements and more

Posted by wicked July - 29 - 2014 - Tuesday Comments Off

SwiftKey_Ver_5_Splash_Banner

SwiftKey pushed an update to the Play Store today, their largest update since making the popular keyboard free to the public. While the update features a ton of performance improvements, it also features some new themes and three new languages (Kyrgyz, Tajik and Turkmen).

It should be noted that in their official statement, the developers made sure to point out that while the update will fix performance issues on some devices, results may vary. Here’s the full list of improvements:

  • Improved typing performance
  • Improved some translations
  • Improved keyboard loading time
  • Improved Flow performance
  • Fix for the bottom row being hidden in some devices
  • Fixed Yahoo! personalization
  • Fixed background disappearing issue in some themes
  • Fixed some other force closes and crashes

If that wasn’t enough, SwiftKey also kicked off their summer sale today, offering savings of up to 33% on themes and theme packs. You can find these saving in the SwiftKey store, alongside five new themes: Spotlight Purple, Edge Green, Pulse Yellow, Pulse Pink and Hazy Pink. Hit the Play Store link below to update today, and if you aren’t already using SwiftKey, there is no time like the present to try one of the most popular alternative keyboards of all time.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Source: SwiftKey
qr code

Play Store Download Link

 

 

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