When it comes to Android, my first and best love has always been theming. Dark Theme is finally coming back for real with Android Q — I gotta stop crying for joy when I hear that — leaving me free to focus on home screen theming, an area I haven't been able to give as much attention in recent months.
I've still kept up on the updates and happenings with each of the major launchers, but where I once spent oodles of time constantly changing up my launchers, layouts, and widgets, I seem to have hit upon a system that makes things easier for me to create and to swap themes with ease. I mentioned this system in AC's what's on your phone roundup last month, and I'd like to expand on the system, how I've arrived at this combination, and how to achieve it on your own device.
Because this system is perfection, and it deserves to be shared!
Theme engine: KLWP
I've prefered traditional wallpapers and individual widgets in the past, but KLWP allows for two things that have made it my hands-down choice from here on in: it allows me to get more and more complex with my themes while still keeping things drop dead simple for my friends and readers to install. No matter how complex I build a theme, applying it on another phone is as easy as downloading the .KLWP file, opening it in the KLWP app, and hitting save.
That simplicity is critical when it comes to trying to share new themes with new users. I can't expect you to sit through 50 steps getting a widget's margins and settings just right, but KLWP is literally "Open, Save, Quit".
KLWP has also freed me up to focus more on refining my templates and my KWGT settings in order to build higher quality themes in a shorter amount of time. This means my themes can look quite similar — because they rely on the same base templates — but also means that they fit a wider array of home screens since I utilize a "info/widgets up tops, apps on bottom" style that makes the most since in this ultra-tall-screen environment.
Launcher/layout: Smart Launcher 5
I still love Nova Launcher's adaptability and Action Launcher's Quickdrawer, but last spring after I reviewed the overhaul of Smart Launcher 5, I had trouble going back to other launchers for lengthy periods of time. A few things kept drawing me back like a sweet siren song.
Firstly, Smart Launcher 5 uses a categorized app drawer that mirrors a manual system I'd been using on Nova Launcher for years, allowing me to quickly locate my designated apps quickly and consistently. I've tweaked my categories a bit differently than the normal sorting — A feature available with Pro — but even most new apps are easily found within five seconds of hitting the home button. The sorting options within the category pages is also impressive, too, including a color-sort option that will be perfect for Pride month!
Even as you swap themes, the layout remains the same.
Smart Launcher 5's home screen is also subtly different from traditional launchers, with apps and widgets existing on two different layers with completely different layout styles. App icons are confined to the dock — which can be arranged in one of four styles, from flowers to Honeycomb to the traditional grid — while widgets are arranged on a gridless, overlapping widget page behind it. With all apps on the home screen confined to a set area near the bottom of the screen, that both makes it easier to arrange my themes around a guaranteed open space and ensure that even as you swap themes, the layout remains the same.
The last major benefit comes from Icon Pack Studio, which is developed by the Smart Launcher team and integrates seamlessly with Smart Launcher 5. This eliminates the need to export and re-install the icon pack every time I swap themes or install a new app, which is a small but very lovely benefit for someone who's constantly trying new apps and themes.
Consistent apps: Icon Pack Studio
Icon packs are plentiful, fabulous, and there are hundreds out there that are 110% worth paying for, but no matter how good they are, every icon pack has gaps of one kind or another, unthemed icons that either leave gaps in your app drawer or rely on poorly-done masks to help hide said gap. Icon Pack Studio ends this problem by using a custom mask and applying it equally to all icons, with you having control over each and every aspect of an icon's shape, size, colors, and textures.
Getting icons that perfectly match a theme is an absolute bear, and something I used to spend hours on. With Icon Pack Studio, I can take the same Hex color codes I use in my KLWP and whip up a matching icon pack in seconds that will cover every single app I have installed. This helps avoid on ill-fitting icons and gaps while also cutting down on theme creation time.
Even better, IPS's export/import system is ridiculously simple and the app also seems to automatically restore my previous packs when I first open the app on a new device. It ties in natively with Smart Launcher 5, uses the same hex codes as KLWP, and it makes excellent icons 95% of the time. What more could a themer ask for?!
Bringing it all together
When this all comes together, it makes applying and swapping themes an actual snap, with me being able to swap themes in real time. Smart Launcher 5 keeps things consistent, KLWP keeps things adaptable, and Icon Pack Studio ties it all together with great custom icons. While you can use different launchers with KLWP and IPS, this is the system I'll be using for themes going forward as it means that all themes can rely upon a single set of simple instructions.
So, themes are coming back, guys! I swear! So if there's any theme you want me to tackle, hit me up on Twitter or in the comments with your requests.
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