Working with BlackBerry Themes

This tutorial will show you how to create themes using BlackBerry Theme Studio v5.0, despite the fact that v6.0 is out in its beta release. Theme Studio v5.0 is recommended for new users and works with a wide variety of BlackBerry phones, so we will stick that that version. If you are a more experienced user, v6.0 is what you are looking for. Keep in mind that v5.0 will not support smartphones using the BlackBerry 6 operating system, such as the Style 9670, Bold 9780, Curve 9300, Torch 9800, and others.

Installation

Before you can jump into the process of building your own BlackBerry themes, you will need to download BlackBerry Theme Studio software first.  BlackBerry Theme Studio is a free tool that allows you to create themes, animated content, graphics, and more for BlackBerry smartphones.  The software is Windows-based and works on your computer, so you will have to be running Windows 7, Windows Vista, or Windows XP Professional.  Other system requirements include 400MB of available hard disk space, and BlackBerry Device Software v4.2.2 and up. 

The download link to Theme Studio can be found here:

http://us.blackberry.com/developers/themes/devtools.jsp

As mentioned, we will be using Theme Studio v5.0, as it’s the best choice for beginners and it is also the most recent full release available at the time of this writing.  Click on the link for Theme Studio v5.0.  To download the software, you will need to be a BlackBerry Developer Zone member.  If you are one already, just enter your login credentials.  If not, you will have to register to become one by filling out some basic personal information.

Once you are past the registration process, download the software and install it onto your computer.

Introduction to the BlackBerry Theme Studio Interface

BlackBerry Theme Studio is divided into two main platforms: the Composer and Theme Builder.  Composer is a tool that helps you design and create the graphics you want to incorporate into your new themes.  It’s a nice tool for those who do not use other design programs like Photoshop.  You can tweak images, animate content, and more.

Theme Builder does just what its name suggests.  It helps you build your themes.  Since you will be using Theme Builder to create your new themes, let’s break down some of its features. 

The left side of the Theme Builder houses the Preview Window.  This shows a virtual model of a BlackBerry smartphone so that you have an idea of what your theme will look like on an actual phone.  It will change as you change the various elements of the theme you are composing.

The right side of the Theme Builder interface houses the design center of the program.  The most important segment on the right side is the Inspector panel.  This panel separates the various elements of your theme into different categories.  Icons represent the different categories, and this is what you will use to import your theme elements. 

Importing theme elements is the basis of the whole creation process.  As such, here is a brief breakdown of the different categories in the Inspector panel, from top to bottom.

Banner: Use this to change banner items like icons for battery life, clock style, etc.

Home Screen: Use this to change your background and other items found on the home screen.

Application List Screen: Use this to shuffle the order of applications, their icons, and more.

Controls: Use this to change menus, dialog boxes, etc.

Message List: Use this to change the look of message windows.

Phone Screen: Use this to change graphics associated with incoming calls, ringtones, and more.

Lock Screen: Use this to change the appearance of lock screen font, background, etc.

Global Items: Use this to change the look of items such as progress bars, the hour glass during load times, and more.

The Catalog panel falls beneath the Inspector panel on the right side of the user interface.  It holds things such as sample graphics that you can use if you want to play around with the Theme Builder at first.

The final section on the Theme Builder’s right side is the Alignment window.  This is what you use to change the spacing, size, and alignment of your theme elements.

Now that you are acclimated with the layout and features of Theme Studio v5.0, it’s time to go ahead and build your new theme. 

{mospagebreak title=Creating a BlackBerry Theme}

The first step is to create your theme’s essential elements.  This includes things such as your backgrounds, icons, and anything else you want to customize.  As stated earlier, Theme Studio has the BlackBerry Composer that can help you in creating these elements.  If you are not comfortable with the Composer, however, you can use other design programs that you may have experience with, such as Paint Shop, Photoshop, etc.  When you create your theme elements, remember to save them as one of the following supported formats: JPEG, BMP, GIF, PNG.  The software will also support Photoshop files.

Once all of your theme elements are created, you can now import them into the program to develop a full theme.  In actuality, the hardest part of the entire process is creating your elements.  After that is finished, it’s just a matter of placing the elements into their correct category in the Theme Builder.

As an example, let’s import a background, since its usually one of the most noticeable aspects of a them and sets a good foundation for the rest of your work.

To import the background, enter the Theme Builder.  In the Inspector, click on the Home Screen icon.  Next, click on the Background icon.  Locate the Background file you created that you want to appear in your new theme.  Remember, it has to be one of the aforementioned formats to work properly.  Select the file, and click Open.  You should now see your custom background inserted in the preview pane.

Now that your background is finished, you can move on to importing the other theme elements.  The process is the same, and involves plugging them into the proper category.

After all of your theme elements are imported and you are satisfied with your theme, you can now put it into action.  There are a few options here.  You can install it to your BlackBerry, publish it for Desktop Manager, or publish it for the web.  Let’s put it to use on the BlackBerry and see how it looks in person.

Click File and select Export.  The Export window should appear.  You will see the three options listed on the left.  Click next to Install to BlackBerry, since we want to make use of it immediately.  In the Theme Name field, enter an appropriate name for your new theme.  Next, enter your BlackBerry password.  Before you click OK, make sure that your BlackBerry is connected to your computer via USB.  After it is connected, click OK.  Give it a little time to process.  You should see a notice appear on your BlackBerry stating that your theme has been found.  You will be asked if you want to activate it now.  Click Yes.  Your new theme should now be visible on your BlackBerry.

Thanks to BlackBerry Theme Studio, creating your own BlackBerry themes is both easy and fun.  Now that you know how to do it, you can customize your BlackBerry to fit your style.

 

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