Tips and Tricks Every webOS User Should Know (BONUS!)
Thought I was gonna end my Tips & Tricks without including homebrew, didn’t ya? Actually, homebrew makes excellent “encore” material because, even though you might feel it’s not your cup of tea (heavens, why?!)… every webOS user should still be aware homebrewing exists. Why? Because homebrew simply has taken webOS to the next level, arguably more so than has been done on any other mobile platform.
What is homebrew? Essentially, homebrew is like “hacking” your phone. Before the word “hack” makes you run for the hills, don’t sweat it: homebrewing a Palm Pre is nothing like hacking a computer or jailbreaking an iPhone. Why?
- Homebrewing is easy, even for amateurs (trust me, I’m one of ‘em!).
- Unlike Apple, Palm is not against homebrewing. We don’t even call it “jailbreaking” or “hacking.” We use words like “homebrewing,” “tweaking,” or “patching.” 🙂
- It is virtually impossible to “brick” a webOS device.
- Does the picture above even make you the slightest bit curious? Then read on after the jump!
In this article, I’m not gonna show you how to homebrew. The experts at Precentral have already put together great how-to article. The title of this series is “Tips & Tricks Every webOS User Should Know.” That means it’s my job to make you aware of what homebrew is, and all the cool things you can do with it… rather than just repeating the work of others.
Before the Palm App Catalog began taking off, many early adopters subsisted on a steady diet of homebrew apps to keep them happy. Homebrew apps currently number over 400 and even have a catalog of their own. Many of them go on to be published in the App Catalog. The cool thing about homebrew is you get to see the apps and their updates quicker with homebrew than in the App Catalog. Since the App Catalog is much more robust these days, this has become less of a selling point. Still, there’s a bunch of homebrew and beta apps people swear by. For example:
If you like podcasts, then this app beats anything in the App Catalog to date, in my opinion. It sports a very easy-to-use interface, it’s fast, and best of all… it’s the only webOS podcasting application so far that allows you to download entire podcasts. It’s been the consistent favorite of many a webOS user. I highly, highly recommended it.
Music Player Remix
This is by far the most downloaded app in all of homebrew. It basically takes the rather anemic webOS MP3 player and puts it on steroids. It supports a full-time scrim bar (for skipping to parts of a song), allows you to customize the background, lets you do a wikipedia search on a particular song/artist, pulls up lyrics for particular songs, and best of all… supports Flylists, where you make playlists on the fly! It’s totally replaced the stock music player on my Palm Pre.
Now here’s an app you likely won’t ever see in the App Catalog. Basically, this app allows you to program autocorrect dictionaries for your most common typos. For instance, even though I’m pretty fast and accurate on my Palm Pre’s keyboard, I still make some recurrent typing mistakes, such as “rhe” instead of “the.” Thanks to AutoCorrect Edit, that mistake is a thing of the past.
An even better application of this app is typing shortcuts. For instance, I type “omw” and it becomes “on my way.” Typing “wcgm” turns into “wanna come get me?” … I’ve used this for quickly typing webpages and entire sentences. I love it.
This is another app that likely won’t make it into the App Catalog, but I use it daily. Basically, it’s a task killer and resource monitor. While that doesn’t sound (or look) very sexy, it’s become an indispensible tool for me. Sometimes, apps don’t close completely and lead to what’s called a “memory leak.” This bogs down the phone, won’t let you open new cards, or rarely even leads to crashes. With JSTop, I just have to see which apps are open, which are consuming more resources, and kill ‘em! It’s really great. I’ve hardly ever had to reboot my Pre to speed it up.
… Okay so that gives you just a small taste of the homebrew apps that I love to use. What else does homebrewing bring you?
Patches are tweaks that we apply to our webOS phones that give us a whole new level of customization. Want the phone to hang up a call when you close the slider? There’s a patch for that. Or how about viewing your emails in landscape mode? There’s a patch for that. How about blinking notifications when you get a text or an email? Have your icons show in a 4×4 manner instead of 3×3? Add up to ten launcher pages rather than just three? Turn your camera’s flash into an LED flashlight? … Yeah, you get the idea. It’s pretty cool.
I use like 25 patches, but here’s just a few that have been particularly useful for me:
Device Menu MegaMix
If I tap the upper right hand corner of my screen, I’m instantly given access to:
- screen brightness: A nifty control slider pops up to quickly control screen brightness
- my phone’s radio: I can shut the phone off (aka airplane mode), shut off just phone data (save battery), force roam only
- GPS: toggle on/off easily
- Flashlight: quickly turns camera flash into a LED flashlight!
Okay, I’ll admit I don’t use this patch that frequently, because I’m quite satisfied with the Palm Pre’s keyboard. But it’s cool to show off what homebrew can do, and it’s nice to have the convenience of both physical and software keyboards. It’s slightly janky and has no autocorrect whatsoever, but it does come in handy when typing next to your sleeping spouse who doesn’t like to hear the clicking of keys! Also works in landscape.
Oh yeah… there’s different themes, too.
Delete From Notification
Discreet notifications are all well and good, but if I have ten emails, and the top one is junk mail, that’s all I see. I’d have to tap the message to open the email app, just to delete it! But what if I had a patch that allowed me to just hit a trash can icon to delete the message right then and there? Wait… there is a patch like that!
… And yes fellas, Jessica Alba is totally following Totally Palmed. That’s not Photoshopped at all. 😉
Advanced Power Options
This is a patch for people who do a lot of homebrewing. It gives you quick access to Luna restarts (a “quick reboot,” if you will), Java restarts (basically resets all the phone’s radios) and so on. It also gives you quick access to the basic restarts with one tap, rather than having to do it in three.
So much more…
4×4 icons. Extra launcher pages with page labels. Battery percent meter. I really wish I could show you all the tweaks I have. Guess you really need to join the homebrew party!
… And no I have no problem with the game “Blocked.” The “x” just happened to land on top of it! It’s really a fun little puzzle game. As proof, I even recommended it on my favorite webOS games article!
Themes have been such a fun part of homebrewing for many webOS users. There’s currently almost 1200 themes for webOS. You can make your phone look like an iPhone (as shown at the top of this article), or…
… a Blackberry!
… a Mac!
… Support your
… Show some
… couldn’t resist!
Want to see more themes? Hop on over to prethemer.com
If you’re feeling creative, you can design and submit themes of your own! I personally designed the Blackberry, Palm, and Tiger Woods themes… ya like? A friendly tip on themes: Always remember to delete a theme before installing a new one!
Well, that covers homebrew! This basically scraped the tip of the iceberg, but I hope it gave you a good idea of what you can do. Want to get in on the action? Then head on over to Precentral for their excellent how-to article on getting started with homebrew. Set up takes a few moments, but you’ll thank me later!