State of Substratum: Upcoming Re-Base, a New Website, More Features and Future Plans

State of Substratum: Upcoming Re-Base, a New Website, More Features and Future Plans

What started as a small project nine months ago is now a widely-used theming medium with an ever-increasing user-base. Moreover, Substratum is still experiencing constant development, and we routinely observe new additions like “rootless subs” and “floatUI” to the Substratum family. Today, we’ll talk about the state of Substratum as it now flaunts a new website and new icons.

Rootless Substratum

A few days ago, XDA Recognized Developer Nicholas Chum stated in a post on G+ that rootless will soon be implemented for all devices. Now, we can confirm that starting next week, Custom ROM builds supporting rootless Substratum will be rolled out. The team of developers has achieved a model that doesn’t necessitate root privileges.

However, Substratum functionality is not completely “rootless” as of now. A prominent element of custom themes is the BootAnimation changes (which can not be loaded off an encrypted data partition), for which root is still needed. Also, “Legacy” mode will still need root.

Rootless substratum has reportedly sported faster overlay compilation speeds, and the application is now a lot more streamlined. The compilation speeds were considered to a rather prominent downside and now that the overlays compile faster, the team can focus on other additions to Substratum.


QuickApply was a feature that shipped with the first versions of Substratum.  The name says it all — QuickApply basically lets you apply themes on-the-go with a single tap. The feature was handy, yet limited. Moreover, due to certain issues with ‘lmk,’ the implementation of QuickApply was scrapped altogether. Now that the overlay compilation speeds have improved, Team Substratum will try their best to re-iterate this feature into upcoming versions.

UI overhauls

XDA Recognized Developer and Developer Relations Officer sykopompos recently gave the masses a sneak peak of what looked like a new addition to the Overlay Manager. Following the G+ post where sykopompos reveals the new UI, Nicholas Chum showed a re-iterated color preview for the Overlay Manager off in yet another post on G+. Not only has the ThemePicker received some dev love, the Advanced Manager (which is considered a “complicated” part of Substratum) will experience a UI overhaul too. Below are the images of what the final visual UI for the ThemePicker will look like.

The developers have already stepped into the direction of providing a “what you see is you get” interface with the introduction of color previews for the Overlay Manager. Although color previews (and FloatUI ) will be rolling out with the fresh rootless builds, the team is focusing on what they call “visualUI.” As the name suggests, it is an entirely different UI for picking themes which will reportedly be 90% visual once more in line with the “what you see is what you get” philosophy.

It should, however, be noted that visualUI is something the team is planning for the future and hasn’t been implemented into a working version of Substratum yet.

Substratum and Google

Following the recent merger of a sepolicy commit for OMS to the AOSP Gerrit, ( the commit does nothing but enable the use of OMS ) Team Substratum will be re-working and filtering/splitting legacy and OMS into legacy/OMS/custom ROMs. As Substratum is a modified OMS base, the team will be ready to work natively with Android O in OMS mode if the next version comes with OMS merged into it.

The design of Substratum accommodates a model through which Custom ROM teams don’t have to worry about bumping specific themes to the next version of Android. All they have to do is get their ROM ready for the next release and leave the parts concerning themes to Team Substratum.

The Android Community is well-aware of the fact that T-Mobile and Sony have sported their theme engines in the past. This led to Google recommending individual iterations and putting forward certain guidelines as to what the “ideal” theme engine should consist of. Team Substratum has focused on building a model following these very directives and recommendations.

While speaking with sykompompos, it was made clear that Team Substratum focuses on bringing us a Google-friendly layout. In the words of the lead developer,

We try to work on what Google wants in a theme system because we want to try to get Google to use Substratum or a variant based on it in aosp. Hence, we avoided things that Google has previously discouraged using like existing self-referencing methods.

We have aopt (which is stripped down) and aapt (which is less powerful than the regular aapt) because Google does not want to have a full aapt on the device due to security concerns. We have aapt specifically for Sony devices in legacy mode since those devices don’t play well with our aopt.

Everything in modeled with the hopes of one day Google considering our contributions to the open source community and introducing powerful and standardized theming and ship it as something default with Android.

So we like to think that as working together as a community we might have a shot at showing Google what can be accomplished by including a theme system.

One Final Note

Taking the featured image into account, 221 Pixels (an initiative of Kevin Aguilar) created brand new iconography for the “Substratum” and “masquerade” apps. Also, “masquerade” will be renamed to ThemeInterfacer in order  to make things easier and more generic.

We hope you enjoy what’s coming!

What do you think about Substratum and its upcoming features? Sound off below!

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Designer interested in all things programming. Comp. Sci. student.