Dark Days, Bright Tomorrow

Written by Steve in iDevices
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Anyone that has tried making or applying a theme to their lovely new iPhone 4 will know that its no easy feat. Back in the glory days of the early theming it was a relatively painless experience. However with the advent of the iPad and continued onto the iPhone 4, theming has become a bitter sweet experience.
iphone ipad
When Apple released the iPad I and I’m sure many people out there thought that theming this lovely new device would be a joy. The larger icons allowing for more detail and the extra screen real estate would make themes even better. While both of these statements are true, it does however come at a price. Introduced along with the iPad was the unknown factor of icon sizes. Now, while making themes up until this point was only a matter of having your canvas and producing icons based on it. The iPad introduced multiple icon sizes. This as it happens has continued onto the iPhone 4 as well and has caused many headaches for the intrepid themer’s paving the way.
You see the problem lays in the fact that both the iPhone 4, the soon to be released iPod touch and the iPad have their own sizes of icons that they use. These differ from the icon size that was previously used and so themer’s must now produce multiple sized icons for their themes. This was to prove to be not the only major sticking point with the whole thing however. Along the way Winterboard has been lacking a much needed updated. This cannot be an easy feat to achieve and I for one don’t mind waiting for a decent upgrade. But in the mean time this has men’t that theming has taking on a new guise in the form of “Bundles”.

Bundles has become the new standard for theming your latest iDevices. Through this method you would create a bundles folder within your theme. This in turn would then contain further folders in the form of the application to be themed. For example

Yourtheme.theme/Bundles/com.apple.mobilephoneBundles

In this example you would place your phone icon into this folder and then Winterboard would allow it to be themed. The largest of the headaches lay ahead. This was in trying to find the correct application folder names and the icon name. You see, whereas before in theming, the icons used to have names relating to the app itself, such as Phone.png. This time on the iPhone 4, icons have been given various names. For the most part icons are now named [email protected], but this varies from app to app. For applications that haven’t yet been given the retina upgrade they lack the @2x icons so the name differs. For yet more the icon name randomly changes from the norm. Camera for example is called [email protected] This as I’m sure many of you can testify has been somewhat of a theming nightmare. There has however been light on the horizon. Various useful spreadsheets have popped up to aid the avid themer on the names and locations of these folders and icons. Such as this one http://iphone.xengi.net/cfbundleidentifier/

Now I know that I paint a dark picture of theming your iDevice, but let it serve more as helpful point making rather than a warning. For the actual joy of having your device looking just the way you want, far outweighs the heartache of actually getting it that way. The path through most of the troubles has already been laid and while some may still remain there is one thing to remember. With the news that the iPod touch now carries the retinal display, this is going to be the norm. Themes that are created are going to be made with this in mind and as such so are the applications that use them. The retinal display sized icons will gradually become the common standard and theming “should” return to the more standard affair that it used to be. With this in mind, the update that Winterboard is crying out for will also be easier in theory to produce.

But, having said all this I’d like to leave on a lighter note. What can we expect from the extra icon size? Well as I’m sure you can understand it is still rather early in the adaption to the larger sized icons. People are still figuring the best approach to making and what exactly they can make. But I would just like to point out two that have caught my eye of late.

The first is from JackieTran over at Deviantart. His theme called Black’UPS Darkness HD is a marvel to behold. Both simple and elegant he has managed to cram an amazing level of detail into each of his icons. Yet with all the detail included they never seem over worked or cluttered.

Black'UPS Darkness HD

The second of the themes that I have my eye on is from Cryot over at mactheme forums. His theme entitled Gladhander is quite simply breathtaking. A drastically different approach to JackieTran’s theme Cryot seems to treat every icon as a mini canvas. As a result of this each is created with the care and dedication of a lovingly produced oil painting. Truly a joy to behold.

Gladhander


I’m sure you can agree that the small heartbreaks and headaches felt in the theming process at the moment. Are a small price to pay when themes of this calibre are being produced. As I say, it is still rather early in the adaption of the retina display for theming. Programs and apps. Tweaks and guides all need time to catch up and be produced. Though it may seem like dark days on the theming front. It has actually never looked brighter.


3 comments

  1. Great write-up Steve, I had no idea the new devices were so difficult to theme. I was a big j/b fan on my old 3g but I have not tried it on my iPhone4 yet so I wasn’t aware of the new challenges. And the Apple “threat” from their new patent has me thinking twice so my 4 remains default (and I hate being default).

  2. Steve says:

    Thanks Chris. They seem to be teething problems rather than great difficulties. The main thing that happens is that it requires you to put more thought into your choice of theme. Which isn’t a bad thing really :)

  3. Vivian says:

    Thanks for this great post Steve :) .

    I’m looking for these new themes, last theme I’ve tried is Upojenie. I don’t know why but my Winterboard was broken and after two reinstallations (3.1.2), I always have some issues with Winterboard and Cydia. So I gave up and decided to wait until iOS4 was customizable :) . It seems it’s time for me to get back into iPhone customization.

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