Tabris on Android: Themes and Skins

Tabris on Android: Themes and Skins

TabrisThis blog post marks the start of an ongoing series that will highlight some of the top features of Tabris (previously RAP Mobile) from an Android developer’s perspective. To kick things off we’ll look at the most visible feature: the application’s UI.

When dealing with Android development we are faced with an endless array of devices from many different manufacturers. Inherently that is a good thing as there is most likely a device tailored for everyone’s needs. From a developer’s point of view this diversity in devices can be challenging.

In order to differentiate a device from the competition, manufacturers create custom UI modifications in the form of skins. Although these skins can, in fact, enhance the user experience, it means they can also come with a different UI look and feel on every device. The same application can look vastly different on a device from manufacturer A or B. The developer has to go to some lengths to ensure that his intended UI looks the same across all devices.

When developing an application with the Tabris framework, we have already done the hard work for you and provide a consistent look and feel across all Android devices. There is no need to implement custom theming if you don’t need it. Your application will look the same on every device. Of course, you can also tailor the look specifically to your application.

An application developed with Tabris is based on a port of the Android Holo theme. Your application will already look like the latest Android version even when running on older devices without Android 4.0. We support every machine that runs Android 2.1 or higher.

In the screenshot above you see an HTC Magic (Android 2.2.1), HTC Desire (2.2), Samsung Galaxy S2 (Android 2.3.6) and Galaxy Nexus (Android 4.0.2) – many different forms and sizes with one consistent look.

Not only do you get a modern look for all your applications, you also get a couple of benefits on the application developer side.

  • For starters you can choose to base your application on a dark or light Holo theme. This means that you don’t have to customize everything when opting for a darker look.
  • Android provides four different “buckets” of screen density. Every graphical element in the default Holo theme is already available in these target densities. When providing application-specific graphics we automatically scale them for you based on the target density.
  • Because the application runs server side and we do have knowledge about the theme the client uses, we can easily make assumptions about the size of a widget without actually measuring anything on the client.

In the future we will create more documentation and blog posts with sample code that will show you how you can leverage these features in your projects.

With Android 4.0, Google is forcing manufacturers to bundle the new Holo theme on their devices. This is an excellent step towards having a common base UI but currently things are still troublesome as we are dealing with older devices that make up 98% of the market. Tabris allows you to have a good looking base theme today, without having to wait for the industry to move to Android 4.0.

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