January 1, 2014 By: Will Verduzco
Over this past year, we’ve seen loads of innovative tools/utilities, applications, and games created by the talented members of our community. These creations have given new life to our devices by letting us accomplish simple tasks more easily, tailor our devices to our own tastes, and giving us a bit of entertainment when we have some down time.
Thanks to all this hard work by these developers who call XDA home, we’ve seen applications that change the way we perform everyday tasks, help us stay connected, and keep our devices safe. We’ve also covered some fantastic utilities that allow us easily theme our apps, transfer files wirelessly to and from our devices, rid our devices of proprietary Google files, and build our own ROMs from source. We’ve even seen innovative games that allow us to relive the past, travel the Matrix, become extremely dizzy, and even use our noggins.
Now, we’d like for you to tell us your favorite utilities, applications, and games that you found here on XDA in 2013. Leave us your favorites in the comments section below, as well as what you’d like to see more of in 2014!
December 28, 2013 By: eagleeyetom
Theming has become an art on Android. Changing the look of your device is a complicated process, as sometimes very small elements need to be modified. To accomplish this, many themers often use really advanced graphical tools like Photoshop. But editing elements one-by-one is a time consuming task, so an automated process would be handy.
PNG files used in Android are saved as a NinePatch PNGs, which are a bit different than regular PNGs. The border has to be transparent and use a black one pixel width. In short, they differ. That’s why the batch tool presented by XDA Forum Member F4bioo might be useful.
This Windows-only tool gives themers the ability to work on several .9.png files simultaneously. F4bioo made a short tutorial detailing how to use this tool, along with screenshots and a YouTube tutorial video. 9Compile also has some extra features like InjectTheme, which allows you to apply the changes directly into the APK without breaking zipaligning.
If you are planning to start some theming, you should make your way to the tool thread and download the latest version.
December 26, 2013 By: eagleeyetom
Changing the look of open source apps is relatively easy. All you need to do is to download the source, add new images, and compile. Things get more complicated when the application’s author does not provide the source code and the app needs to be decompiled and recompiled using something like APKtool.
Aware of this situation, the XDA Forum Member Ankush menat created a tool to ease the process of changing the look of your favorite apps. This Windows-only tool allows you to modify application contents by extracting them to a specified output folder. Then, you can use popular applications like Gimp or Photoshop to edit the PNG files. After you’re done editing, you recompile the application and push it back to your device through ADB (or simply install it for non-system apps). The tool creator also provides a short guide on using the utility. The only things you need to use this tool are Windows OS and Java Runtime Environment 6 or 7.
More information and download files can be found in the original thread. So if you’re looking for a way to change the look of your favorite applications, go there and give this a shot.
December 26, 2013 By: Samantha
Wires can be such a mess. You trip over them, you go nuts trying to untangle them, and many times they simply stop working—and these things only happen once you actually find them. So it’s no wonder that we’re gradually moving towards a more wireless technology, such as wireless charging, wireless entertainment systems, and wireless data transfers.
A great tool for facilitating this wireless shift is Fast Push. Developed by XDA Senior Member pesiran, the same developer of the tool APK Organize, Fast Push runs on your PC and allows users to transfer files and other data over ADB without the hassle of wires.
Consisting of just a PC client, the user interface is straight forward and easily navigable while providing the available transfer options and other settings. You can add shortcuts to your favorite or most accessed folders on your device, navigate your device with an extensions-based system, and push text to your device. If things go wrong, such as a failed transfer, there’s also a handy log panel to help identify and diagnose the issue.
Additionally, pesiran has created and uploaded three video tutorials to help new users understand the tool’s basic functions including UI navigation, pushing texts to the device, and receiving files from your device.
If Fast Push sounds like something you’d be interested in, be sure to check out the original thread for more details and download.
ADB is an incredibly versatile and useful tool for everything from simple tweaks to major modifications, and even sometimes averting a complete disaster. It is relatively easy to set up, and it is simple to use for anyone with a little knowledge. Traditionally, ADB is used over USB. But in this day and age, how many of us have time to rummage through drawers and connect devices manually? It is possible to use ADB over your local WiFi network and save yourself the hassle and a little desk clutter at the same time.
While the wireless option is not much more complicated than the USB option to set up, that process can be made even simpler with the help of ADB Over WiFi Helper by XDA Forum Member extremewing. This nifty little tool comes in two parts: a JAR file to run on your PC and an APK file for your Android devices. Once installed and set up, you’ll be able to switch devices between a USB or TCP/IP connection with the click of a button, and instantly see which devices on the network are ready and listening.
This is usually a paid application, but extremewing is generously making it available here on the XDA forums for free to all XDA community members, so be sure to check this out the thread for more information if you use ABD frequently.
It’s worth mentioning though that although using the wireless option is in some ways more convenient, it is by far the less secure of the two methods. This option should probably only be used on your own secure network, and you certainly don’t want to use it on a public network, so don’t go throwing out that micro USB cable just yet.
December 23, 2013 By: eagleeyetom
Some time ago, we talked about the freecygn project, which was created to remove the remaining traces of Google from CyanogenMod. This project brought quite a bit of controversy, as Google not only is most responsible for Android, but also collects data and gathers statistics for various advertising-related purposes.
XDA Senior Member MaR-V-iN‘s freecygn project was quite successful, and Senior Member sylentprofet decided to make a modification of it that allows it to compile alongside CyanogenMod itself. Sylentprofet compiled the Java Archive file in the Android Studio and wrote short instructions on how to make the necessary modifications to get a Google-free system straight from source.
It’s no longer necessary to run a script through ADB to remove Google’s files, as you can now compile this and flash in one go. Of course, all credit should go to MaR-V-iN for his original modification, but once again we can see how keeping things open source brings good things to the community.
Sylentpro’s remix can be found in its original thread. Don’t forgt to also visit MaR-V-iN’s thread too, so that you can keep track of the project’s latest updates.
December 22, 2013 By: eagleeyetom
Performing some of the basic tasks on Android device is easy but also time consuming. For example, if you want to install an application through adb, you need to type adb install and a full name of the APK. Of course, you need to have a working ADB to even think of adding something.
There are some tools that make things easier and faster. One such tool is Android World Multitool, created by XDA Forum Member youssef badr. This Windows-only tool can perform the most common operations like installing an application, flashing a boot animation, and rebooting your device. It even supports unrooting and backup/restore.
As an added bonus, some Samsung-only actions are present as well. For example, it’s possible to enter the download mode or reboot straight to the recovery. It’s an initial release, so many things are yet to be added, but this tool can be considered as a good solution for people with less experience in Android or with limited time to do something.
Head over to the development thread to grab the newest version of this tool and give it a try.
December 22, 2013 By: eagleeyetom
Building a ROM from source is an exciting, but sometimes problematic process. Setting the build environment is time consuming and you need to find and copy-paste many lines of code to get the necessary libraries on your Linux machine. Also, initializing the correct repo and using Git might be problematic for some users.
A kitchen in ROM terminology is not a place where the food is prepared. It’s a tool that allows you to do some things automatically, like for example split the zImage and the ramdisk, which are parts of the kernel. Probably the most famous kitchen around is dsixda’s kitchen, presented here back during the stone age. Of course you can do it manually. But with a kitchen, you are always few minutes ahead.
XDA Senior Member Dark Wraith used some resources available on XDA to make a tool that can help to get the source code for CyanogenMod, set up the build environment, and perform some kernel or Git operations. By executing a single command, you can get everything that is needed to start twiddling in the AOSP world. This tool works only on Linux machines, but even if you are on Windows, you can create a virtual machine. The list of features is quite long and can be found in the original thread.
If you want to try to compile your first ROM from source or simply set up the build environment after moving to brand new operating system, make your way to the development thread to get the kitchen. Don’t forget to check the github repository of this open source project and make some contributions if possible.
December 20, 2013 By: eagleeyetom
Most XDA users know how to root their devices, flash a recovery, and perform all the necessary steps to be a happy custom ROM user. But the world isn’t perfect, and there are still members who are not tech savvy enough to do everything on their own. After all, allowing less advanced users to use custom ROMs was one of main driving forces behind projects such as CyanogenMod Installer and CASUAL.
By design, CyanogenMod Installer is quite limited, as it only allows users to flash the newest version of CyanogenMod. XDA Senior Member ssrij created an open source tool similar to the above projects called CustomDroid.
CustomDroid can unlock the bootloader on selected devices, flash a custom recovery, and of course flash a custom ROM. It’s unable to root the device and flash the custom kernel, but the developer is working hard to add these features. The list of currently supported device maybe isn’t the longest, but you can find Nexus 4, Nexus 7, Nexus 10, Galaxy Nexus, Nexus S, Nexus One and HTC One support so far. Currently only GSM variants are supported and the HTC One support needs some additional work, but everything is nicely written in the original thread. This project is still in alpha stage, and with some help it can become a great flashing tool for new XDA community members.
More information about this project ;can be found in the development thread. If you own one of the above devices and use Windows, try this tool and send some feedback to the developer.
Android is an operating system that uses a lot of programming languages. The most common languages are Java (or Android Java if you prefer), C, XML, Bash, as well as a few more. Android applications can be decompiled by APKTool and a few similar tools, and their output is Smali. I know that many of you will disagree with me, but Smali is quite complicated language—much more than Java.
There are two tools that can convert Smali back to Java: Dex2Jar and JAD. They are pretty hard to use, though, and need some experience to use them properly. Luckily, XDA Recognized Developer broodplank1337 created a simple bash script, that does all the work for us. This script can get all necessary dependencies, as well as get the Java code straight from APK. It works on Linux only, but I’m quite sure that can be used on non UNIX-like systems like Windows with Cygwin. The developer recommends that you put the file in ~/bin and make it executable. Further instructions are available in the thread.
Sometimes scripts can make life a lot easier. If you are interested in the project, make your way to the original thread to get more information and learn how to convert assembler code into Java.
Note: Tools like this should be used for educational purposes. “Borrowing” code from applications (paid or free) is unethical and should not take place. They are closed source for a reason. Keep that in mind.
December 2, 2013 By: eagleeyetom
Home screen customization is quite important to many users. Most of us like to keep our screens aesthetic. And from time to time, we want to share the look with our friends in real life or here on XDA.
Unfortunately some ROMs don’t offer screenshot functionality, so the Android-SDK must be used. It’s very inconvenient to download a big package just to make a few screenshots via ddms. XDA Senior Moderator and Recognized Developer Diamondback created a Windows tool, named Advanced Screenshot Creator (ASC), to ease the process of creating screenshots. In addition to its main feature of creating an image of the visible portion of the screen via a custom ADB implementation, ASC can automatically save all screenshots to a user-specified folder and let you manage the already taken screenshots.
The Advanced Screenshot Creator was originally a part of Virtuous Ten Studio, a powerful IDE for reverse engineering on Android. ASC is the second feature, which was released as a standalone application after Advanced Logcat Viewer. There are still more to follow.
If you a Windows user and looking for an advanced utility to manage screenshots, head over to the original thread and give Advanced Screenshot Creator or Virtuous Ten Studio a try.
December 2, 2013 By: eagleeyetom
Logcat is a powerful diagnostic tool designed to help developers with debugging errors in their applications. Without it, fixing most of applications would be significantly more difficult. However, it appears that logcat is not the only diagnostic tool available to app developers.
Now, there is an alternative tool ported by XDA Senior Member alireza7991. STrace is a debugging utility to monitor a program’s system calls or signals it receives. Unlike logcat, Strace can be used to monitor a single application, so it’s much easier to find abnormal behavior. This tool can then be used to find causes for crashes or anomalies.
Using STrace is really simple. All you need to do is to push the bin file to /system/bin/ on your device and set the correct permissions with chmod. Then, you can run it from terminal emulator or ADB shell.
If you are interested in a new piece of debugging software, make your way to the utility thread and learn more about STrace.
About a year ago, we covered a tool by XDA Recognized Developer lyriquidperfection that allows users to create, modify, and analyze Samsung PIT (Partition Information Tables ) files. For those who aren’t familiar with PIT files, they contain all of the relevant information for each partition such as partition id, partition name, flash filename, block size, block range, partition description, and more.
Some time ago, XDA Recognized Developer Benjamin Dobell created a Java-based library for Samsung PIT files, as part of the Heimdall project. Then to further development, Benjamin relinquished copyright over to XDA Senior Recognized Developer AdamOutler, who relicensed the project under GPL, with source available over on GitHub.
Now, Adam has released an online PIT analysis tool and associated library that allows you to obtain a human-readable analysis of a PIT file easily, either through his online web-app, or directly on your local computer with a provided library. What makes Adam’s tool unique is that thanks to work by Adam, Recognized Developer Ralekdev, and Senior Recognized Developer Rebellos, the tool can identify every part of the PIT file. As stated by Adam:
I’m happy to announce that we have 100% identification of all parts of the PIT files as they stand today. We are no longer working on identifying variables thanks to Ralekdev, Rebellos and Benjamin’s work. We can read, and write and integrate PIT files into our Java Applications.
Make your way over to the original thread to learn more!