The Vengeful Polyglot

Android UI Revamp: Tasker and Minimalistic Text

Posted on: May 20, 2011

Since getting my replacement phone I have been absorbed with — maybe a better phrase would be fixated on — revamping the UI using some uber-customizable apps I hadn’t tried before, namely Tasker and Minimalistic Text.

Tasker allows an unprecedented amount of control over your phone, allowing you to specify responses to specific conditions. It’s very much like coding and I can’t get over how incredibly powerful and robust it is. I put off using it for a long time because I was intimidated by its scope, but the level of awesome stuff my phone does now is totally worth the confusion and hours of scrambling things together from the Wiki. I’m planning on doing a post, or a series of posts, on my Tasker set up and how to do various things. I hope it will be helpful because I wasn’t able to find all of the information I needed easily and had to cobble some of it together with trial and error.

Minimalistic Text is a widget creator which allows you to format and populate widgets with information like the time, date, weather, and battery status. It also supports Tasker variables, so you can display pretty much any info you can grab using Tasker (which is pretty much limitless!); in my setup, I only use this capability in two widgets, but there’s a lot more you can do with it than what I felt I needed. Basically, I use Minimalistic text in most of my widgets in order to present a unified theme, as well as to fulfill my anal-retentive tendencies. It’s seriously nuts; give it a try!


Main Homescreen

So, this is fairly different, haha. First off, that’s still LauncherPro, just with a set of custom icons. I made them because I couldn’t find any text ones which fit with my the rest of my UI (if you’re interested, I can give you the PSD, but it’s pretty much just plain text). Since I am still unrooted and I didn’t want to delve into theming all of my widgets, I kept with the Droid Sans font for everything. I still use three homescreens and three docks, though some of the links have changed. My press and swipe actions for this one, my main one, are: “call” goes to the dialer and Google Voice; “mail” goes to K9 Mail and People; “apps” goes to the app drawer and the market; “text” goes to Handcent and Trillian; “web” goes to Dolphin Browser HD. I’ve removed the LauncherPro “number of missed calls/texts” popups because I’ve now handled that with a Tasker/Minimalistic widget I’ll get to in a second. This is also what’s allowed me to finally hide the ugly notification bar!

The widgets should be fairly obvious. Top is time, day, and date. Below that is weather info, and in the bottom right corner is battery status. These are all “out of the box” Minimalistic Text widgets; you specify what text you want, how you want it formatted, and where you want it to go on press (mine go to Calendar, Beautiful Widgets Forecast, and Battery Usage, respectively). Really intuitive and fun. On the bottom left is something slightly more complicated, which I will explain in my Tasker post. Basically, I use Tasker to increment variables that track how many missed calls, texts, and K9 email (that’s the special part — all other widgets I’ve found can’t grab the email count for anything but Gmail … sweet!) I have, and then passes those variables down to the widget. The variables are reset to 0 when I open the app in question. Pretty neat, right? Exciting!


Planning Homescreen

This is familiar. Still Android Agenda Widget and the 4×1 Beautiful Weather widget. Slightly different colors and organization, but nothing much new except that my agenda now shows my Astrid tasks. The dock actions are: “bnet” launches my Battle.Net Authenticator; “read” goes to NewsRob for Google Reader and Mango, my new manga browser; “lols” goes to Reddit is Fun because everything else didn’t fit; “gba” goes to the GBA emulator Gameboid; “wow” goes to the official WoW Mobile app.


Driving and Alarm

This is all new stuff. At the top is another Tasker/Minimalistic widget. Tapping it toggles a variable between 0 and 1 which controls whether I have Bluetooth connected (and then Tasker does other cool “driving mode” stuff if it is). It also gets passed a variable which states if driving mode is active or inactive. Nice! The adorable pink Android controls BTMono, which fulfills a basic phone capability which somehow Android is lacking — routing all sound through any Bluetooth device connected, even if the device is mono and not stereo. I have it turned on in this screen because even though my driving mode is off … it’s pink and cute when it’s on, and grey when it’s not, and I prefer cute. The last widget shows my next DroidAlarm so I don’t forget when I need to wake up (or head out — I swear I don’t wake up at 1:30 on weekdays). My dock actions are: “map” takes me to Google Maps and Google Places; “face” goes to Facebook; “cam” goes to the camera and gallery; “task” goes to Tasker; “yelp” goes to Yelp and Open Table.


Handcent and Tasker

I’ve changed my Handcent setup to use the default font and have “invisible” bubbles. Since my homescreens are so colorful, I wanted my texts to be colorful, too. 🙂

As a bonus, here are just a few of the Tasker profiles I’ve set up recently which I’ll go through when I do my big Tasker write up. I’m particularly a fan of my keyguard settings, though I’ve run into a slight problem where if my battery is full it doesn’t necessarily recognize that I’m still connected to power… I may go back to using a semaphore to deal with it, we’ll see.

Anyway, I hope this can provide inspiration to check out what you can “make” yourself even without actually breaking into the SDK or rooting and flashing a new theme/ROM. You can get pretty dramatic results even without. As always, use the “Ask Lauren” tab or comment if you have any questions!

7 Responses to "Android UI Revamp: Tasker and Minimalistic Text"

I am confused. I thought you wanted the new phone like Uncle Chuck has.

I do, or something like it, but I’m not eligible for an upgrade until January. This “new” phone is actually a replacement I got for my old one because it was still under warranty. 😛 Exact same phone I had before.

Beautiful work. Do you happen to have a link to the integration you used for Tasker and Minimalistic Text? Thanks, MP

Not yet! I’m planning on writing it up in a follow up post shortly. I just got hung up on finals. 🙂

Hi, can you post your profiles for the missed calls and unread messages? I’ve been having some trouble getting texts and emails working.

Done and done. I’d been meaning to get around to this. I hope it helps!

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Blog by a programmer cum linguist cum writer cum total geek. One who pretentiously uses "cum" in place of any other logical connectives. Direct questions to the Ask Lauren page!

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