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December 09, 2008

Hands On with LiveScreens from DreamTheme

Posted in: Editorials

Every BlackBerry user has a special love for their BlackBerry theme of choice. As one of the few ways users can personalize their BlackBerry, it’s a pretty significant statement: do you choose something trendy like an iBerry theme, or relive your youth with a Super Mario Bros theme?

We were recently contacted by DreamTheme, a company that is looking to evolve BlackBerry personalization beyond simple themes with LiveScreens. LiveScreens are essentially animated homescreen applications, but there’s more to them than meets the eye. Hit the jump and come check out one of the coolest new things you can put on your BlackBerry.

So what is a LiveScreen? It’s not a theme, that’s for sure (although each LiveScreen comes with a matching theme and some ringtones). It’s actually an application that serves as your BlackBerry ‘launchpad’. Think of it as a homescreen replacement, or the sexiest Start Menu you’ve ever seen. However, the LiveScreens by DreamTheme are not intended to contain all of your applications, but instead display those that you use 90% of the time. All of the big ones are there, like Messages, Contacts, Calendar and Browser, as well as links to popular consumer applications like Google, Myspace and Facebook.

Upon launching your LiveScreen, your new launchpad closely resembles Bplay’s popular ‘CrossBar’ theme, but with many more applications (my Mech LiveScreen defaulted with 18 applications). If you feel like there are too many applications, you can use the Setup icon to hide a few or create new ones. You can even create push marks to your favorite websites. There are a number of clean and elegant graphics to choose from for each of your application or website icons.

It’s not just the icons that look good. DreamTheme’s LiveScreens are easily the prettiest interfaces you’ve ever seen on a BlackBerry. The CrossBar-style icon queue leaves a lot of space for the striking backgrounds and tastefully chosen information displays (essentially signal strength, battery life, time and new messages). Even the best designed BlackBerry themes are usually bogged down with the clutter of too much information; DreamTheme knows just what to call attention to and what to leave out in their LiveScreens.

LiveScreens are also more customizable than most BlackBerry themes. The scroll speed and distance between your icons is adjustable and each LiveScreen comes with a moving background and a handful of static backgrounds to choose from. In addition to the backgrounds and complimentary theme that comes with the LiveScreen, DreamTheme also gives you a bundle of icons as well.

As pretty, clean and customizable as LiveScreens are, I can’t help but wonder what DreamTheme will add next. Because each LiveScreen is an application and not a theme, DreamTheme has much more control over feature upgrades than the BlackBerry Themebuilder provides. Think of how cool it would be to assign icons for actions rather than applications (such as ‘compose new email, cc’d to my personal address), or perhaps having useful information moving in the background of your LiveScreen (such as the latest sports scores or stock quotes). For now, check DreamTheme’s LiveScreens out and be impressed — Links, Mech and Deep are personal favorites.


Important Things to Know about LiveScreens

    - Click the red, ‘call end’ button to exit the LiveScreen (this will leave the LiveScreen running in the background). Select ALT+DEL (hold Alt then click Del) to KILL the program and stop it from executing.

    - When your LiveScreen launches you will see the core set of icons - click the ‘BlackBerry button’ (to the left of the trackball) to view the options screen. At this time ALL icons will become visible, including the ‘hidden’ icons. Scroll left and right to select an icon - and toggle the ‘hidden/visible’ option. When you click the back button and close the options screen - only icons set as ‘visible’ will remain hidden.

    - Note: LiveScreen animations are memory intensive - please make sure that you have 4 Mb of free memory for Pearl, Curve, and 8800 devices, and 8 Mb of free memory for Bold, Curve 8900 and Storm devices. Check free memory by selecting ‘options->status’.

    - Note: if you are loading several LiveScreens, you should only run 1 LiveScreen at a time. Running more than 2 LiveScreens sequentially may use a great deal of memory, and you should consider rebooting in between (pull the battery and replace it)

    - To add an ‘application icon’ (an icon that will launch an application on your device), select the icon name, the application icon, and the ‘module name’ of the application. This is an advanced feature.

    - The ‘module name’ of the application can be found by clicking ‘options->advanced->applications’ and selecting the application. Often there are several modules listed (usually of the format com_companyname_anothername), and there is no way to know precisely which module name should be used - some trial and error will be required, ie you may have to create a few application icons using a few module names in order to get the right one. If this is the case, you can delete the icons that you won’t be using on the options screen - simply highlight the icon and select ‘delete icon’.

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