All about the CyanogenMod dockbar

Thu, 2010-12-23 15:50 by admin · Forum/category:

This article is based on CyanogenMod 6.1, an enhanced version of Android 2.2.1. Much of it is also valid for CyanogenMod 6.0, which is based on Android 2.2. And it is of some interest to all Android users, mod or not.

The Android dockbar

CyanogenMod 6.1
CyanogenMod 6.1, dockbar at bottom

Every Android user knows the dockbar, which rests on the lower edge of the desktop and, by default, contains the following three action buttons:

  1. Phone
  2. Drawer
  3. Browser

The stock Android dockbar trap

On all Android versions you can change the icons on the dockbar, also called action buttons. You do this simply by dragging and dropping any icon on one of the icon positions on the dockbar, whether it is already occupied or not.

This creates an interesting trap, into which each and every Android user sooner or later falls.

Since even newcomers soon learn that you pull app icons from the drawer onto one of the desktops, it is more or less intuitive to want to stuff one back into the drawer, rather than dropping it into the garbage bin, if you don't want to lose it altogether. (The newbie usually does not know that even after dropping an icon into the garbage bin, it will still be there in the drawer, and that is not exactly intuitive either.)

So the newcomer can easily get the idea to try to stuff the icon back into the drawer. He long-taps the icon and drags and drops it onto the drawer icon on the dockbar.

Unfortunately, this does not have the intuitively expected effect. Instead it does severe damage. It replaces the drawer icon and now sits in the middle of the dockbar instead.

For a newcomer this is a catastrophe, because there is now no obvious way to open the drawer any more. It is a prime stupid design example of the user interface.

The solution is utterly unintuitive: long-tap an empty space on the desktop. The "Add to Home screen" menu should appear. Tap Launcher Actions, tap Open/close App Drawer. Now you have the drawer icon on the desktop. Drag and drop it on the center of the dockbar.

Of course, for good measure, the clever Android designers have put yet another obstacle in the way. If your desktop is locked, the "Add to Home screen" menu does not appear. In that case you have to do this first: Menu, More, Unlock Desktop.

In fact, as we will see later, the entire dockbar is a stupid idea, because it does not serve any sensible purpose. Consequently a carefully designed smartphone like the iPhone does not have it and does not produce stupid traps like Android does.

Unfortunately the iPhone, like every Apple product, introduces other problems, which is why many of us still prefer Android phones.

The CyanogenMod dockbar

CyanogenMod still has the same dockbar, but unlike the stock Android it allows a dizzying number of modifications. For example, you can:

  • Shrink it to only one action button
  • Grow it to five action buttons
  • Add a second, normally invisible, dockbar
  • Make its action button icons smaller or larger
  • Color the dockbar background or make it entirely transparent, so the action button icons are just hovering there without any visible bar
  • Remove it altogether, thereby making room for an additional row of desktop icons

Let's look at the more involved options in detail.

The second, hidden dockbar

This is an option that has already driven many users to desperation, because a finger slide from the dockbar upwards apparently makes the dockbar disappear, but the same slide gesture does not make it come back. It is only all too easy to do this gesture inadvertently, only to stare at the now empty space where the dockbar had been. The only indication that there is something there now is a shadow at the bottom edge of the desktop.

Apparently the irreversibility of the dockbar disappearance was an oversight that may be remedied in a future version. Meanwhile this article will show you how to get your disappearing dockbar back, should this ever happen to you.

In fact, the dockbar is not gone—it is only replaced by the second, normally hidden docking bar that Cyanogen's crew put in place. Try to drag a desktop icon down onto it and you will see.

If your dockbar does not disappear after an upward swipe from the lower edge, check whether you have the second, hidden dockbar enabled. Select Menu, Settings, ADWLauncher, UI Settings (User Interface Settings), and scroll down to the section Hidden Dockbar. Here you have two checkbox choices.

The first, Dockbar, allows you to select whether you want the other dockbar at all. Select it if you want to experiment with this feature.

The second, Closing dockbar, only sets whether you want the second dockbar to go away after you have tapped one of its icons and perhaps opened a program. If this choice is selected, you will later find the first, main dockbar on your desktop after closing all programs. If not selected, the second dockbar will still be there. My recommendation is to select this choice.

Unlike the main dockbar you can remove action buttons from this second one just by dragging them up onto the desktop, where they become normal desktop icons (or into the waste bin at the top, if you want to delete them).

So let us get back to the problem on hand. If you have the hidden dockbar feature enabled and have gone to the second dockbar, which is initially empty, how can you get your main dockbar back? There are several ways to do it:

  • Reboot the phone. This is the simplest, but also the slowest way.
  • Create an icon that swaps the dockbars. Do a long tap into an empty space on your desktop, then select: Custom shortcut, Pick your activity, Launcher Actions, Open/close DockBar, OK. Now you have a new icon on your desktop that swaps the two dockbars.
  • Make the down swipe gesture swap your dockbars: Menu, Settings, ADWLauncher, General Behavior, Swipe down actions, Open/close DockBar. Now after you've gone back to your desktop, do a downward finger swipe anywhere on the desktop. The dockbar should be swapped.
  • Have the already mentioned option enabled: Menu, Settings, ADWLauncher, UI Settings, Closing dockbar—select. Draw a desktop icon onto the second dockbar, so you have at least one action button on it, and use it. After getting back to the desktop, you will find the main dockbar there.
  • You could also get your main dockbar back by disabling the second, hidden dockbar altogether, with Menu, Settings, ADWLauncher, UI Settings, Dockbar—deselect. Brutal, but effective. Do this if you think that the second, hidden dockbar is more trouble than it is worth.

Other dockbar modifications

Most of the interesting modifications can be found in Menu, Settings, ADWLauncher, UI Settings. They are mostly self-explanatory. The second option, Desktop dots, refers to the pagination dots to the left and right of the one-or-three-action-button dockbar, which allow you to shift desktops or, with a long tap of the finger, zoom out to see all five desktops at once.

Here's another trap you can fall into. What happens if you draw some desktop icon onto the middle action button, where originally the drawer icon was. Now the drawer icon is gone. What can you do to get it back?

To recreate the drawer icon, do a long tap into an empty space on your desktop, then tap Custom shortcut, Pick your activity, Launcher Actions, Open/close App Drawer, OK.

If you like, you can now drag this icon back onto the middle position of the dockbar where it used to be. Of course, you could also leave it on the desktop, if you prefer that.

A radical proposal

After investigating all this and seeing the power of the two dockbars, I began to think about what I wanted to use it for. The strange thought that came to me was, however, that I could not find any objective justification for the dockbar at all, even less for two of them.

I could not find a single function where the dockbar had any significant advantage over no dockbar at all. All functions can be duplicated just as well without any dockbar. I now believe that the dockbar is merely a gimmick that panders to newcomers and gives them something that is seemingly simple and always there, to hold on to.

The main argument for the dockbar, that it is always there on each of the five desktops, does not hold water for me, because I have all important and quickly needed icons on the main, center desktop, and I can always get there instantly with the home key. Moreover, the absence of the dockbar makes room for an additional row of icons on each of the desktops, which is a significant advantage and partly alleviates the need to switch desktops in the first place.

The app drawer can easily be reached with the already mentioned icon or, perhaps even better and more intuitive, with an upward finger swipe. To set this up, tap Menu, Settings, ADWLauncher, General Behavior, Swipe up actions, Open/close App Drawer.

The pagination dots to the left and right of the one-or-three-action-button dockbar are not needed, because all of their three functions can be had in another way:

  • Paging through the desktops can be done with horizontal finger swipes or by zooming out and selecting the desired desktop.
  • The zooming out that could be done by long-tapping the dot place can instead be done with a finger-pinch gesture. Put two fingers, like your thumb and index finger, diagonally or side-by-side on the desktop, then close the pincer quickly while pushing your fingertips on the desktop until they touch each other. Alternatively you can create an icon for this function: Do a long tap into an empty space on your desktop, then tap Custom shortcut, Pick your activity, Launcher Actions, Show previews.
  • The dot indication of how many desktops you still have on the left and right side and on which desktop you therefore are can better be achieved with a similar indicator at the top of the desktops: Menu, Settings, ADWLauncher, UI Settings. Here you should make three settings:
    • Show desktop indicator—select
    • Autohide desktop indicator—select
    • Indicator type, Dot paginator top

Even having the same icons on every desktop can be done, simply by putting the same icons in the bottom row of each desktop.

If you actually want to get rid of the dockbar, all that remains to be done now is two or three things:

  1. Disable the dockbar altogether with: Menu, Settings, ADWLauncher, UI Settings, Main Dock Style, None (expand desktop).
  2. Increase the desktop icon rows: Menu, Settings, ADWLauncher, Screen preferences, Desktop rows—increase by one.
  3. If you want to make maximal use of your desktop space, you may also have to prevent the desktop from changing orientation, with: Menu, Settings, ADWLauncher, System Preferences, Home Orientation, Portrait.

As mentioned above, interestingly the iPhone does not have a dockbar or anything like it. I am no friend of Apple for reasons of my own freedom, but I have to admit that their designers seem to be more intelligent than those of Android.