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Blackberry Theme Builder

 

Before you start downloading all software below, make sure that you have below required programs:

Java Virtual Machine Software, click here.

Java 2 Platform Standard Edition 5.0, click here.

Blackberry Java Development Environment 4.1, click here.

When you have all of the above software, you are only a few steps away from starting to build your own themes.... you only need the, Plazmic Developers kit:
Plazmic Content Developer's Kit v4.1, click here.


Now lets get started building/editing Blackberry themes!

Step 1:
Make sure you've already Downloaded the Plazmic Content Developer's Kit v4.1 for BlackBerry!

Step 2:
Download the Smoothie sample theme for Theme Builder (ZIP). Unzip it then open the smothie.thm files using Plazmic Content Developer Kit v4.1.

Step 3 (Also see: How-to: Plazmic theme builder):
Edit themes (font size, colors, menus etc) then click 'Export'. Now save themes as *.alx and install using desktop manager.

First thing is first: the users guide. This will most likely be located in C:\Program Files\PlazmicCDK 4.1\docs\user_guide\, depending upon where you have installed the program.

1. Filesize
2. Icons/Images
3. Theme creation walkthrough

File Size's both in appearance (pixels) and data (kb)
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The Plazmic Theme Builder will adjust for your mistakes if you are using an image that is not exactly the right size in pixels. It will resize the image and then anti-aliases the picture, which will increase the filesize. This will do one of two things: simply not appear, or else be a huge issue while attempting to export the theme. The best rule of thumb is to use files that are already correct in pixel size and filetype (32-bit dithered .png), so that the PTB will not have to resize them.

Below are standard dimensions for images used directly out of the users guide:

Component Element Standard size (in pixels)
7100 7200/7500 8700
Banner Background 240x76 240x38 320x76
Home Screen Icons; underlay/overlay 60x56 36x36 64x48
background 240x260 240x160 320x240
background mask 240x260 240x160 320x240
Dialog box Icons 32x32 32x32 39x41

Everything else can vary. There are still some pitfalls you want to avoid. Particularly there is one which if you make the dialog background too large, not all of the symbols will show up. This is something that you will not be able to notice until you have installed it on your phone and are in the testing phase. Try to stick as closely as possible to the original size (in pixels) of the default themes files for each of the varying components, such as dialog, menu, incoming call, title bar, and messages list backgrounds.

The theme, once exported, can be no larger than 600kb. The PTB will inform you, of course, if the theme is too large. Each varying component cannot be larger than 60kb, or they will be dropped from the theme once exported. This can be very frustrating in regards to a Home Screen background that just refuses to get any smaller.

Icons/Images - where to find, how to create, etc...

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Depending upon where you have the PTB installed, the first place to look for icons (and other image files) will be something like: C:\Program Files\Plazmic CDK 4.1\samples\Themes\Images. There you will find four folders: one for each supported line of Blackberry handhelds, and a fourth one named "Sample Icons."

Another great way to find images is good old-fashioned net-surfing. Lots of people just use google image search and modify images from there; I have to articulate, however, do this at your own risk since you will most likely be dealing with copywritten material. You will need some means of modifying the pictures to conform to the appropriate size in pixels and filetype.

The other safest and most original way to create themes with PTB is to create your images and icons from scratch. There are ultimately an infinite number of ways to do this. You will need a graphic program capable of transparencies and saving in a .png file format. Use the above listed guidelines, think outside the box, and get down right creative.

Transparencies: you will need the ability to do this for two reasons. One, no one wants all square icons (well almost - depends on design I suppose); the other reason is associated with the most commonly asked questions about theme creation: "How do you make invisible/partially visible icons?" You need to be able to set the opacity (level of transparency) of your icons. Zero percent opacity for invisible and your desired percent between zero and 99 for the partially invisible ones.

Walkthrough for Theme Creation from start to finish
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I. Open Plazmic Theme Builder

II. From the drop down menu, choose which model of Blackberry for which you will be creating a theme.
7100 Icon
7100 List
7200/7500 Icon
8700 Icon

III. Go to view, change plastics to display a different model phone if you like (such as 7100G vs 7100T). You can also choose not to show the plastics at all.

IV. Notice there is the screenshot of the handheld display on the left, and what PTB calls the "Inspector" is on the right. This is where you will navigate the different areas of modifiable visual displays within your theme. If you go to window; catelog, the catelog will appear on the right hand side and reveal thumbnails of images for use while building. These can be edited and new catelogs can be created to make the whole process more effecient as well.

V. Theme the Banner:
The first selected inspector is for the banner. Set the background image and colors for date, time, battery meter, signal meter, network, carrier, and other indicators.

VI. Theme the Home Screen:
This will most likely consume a majority of your building time. Here you will set the homescreen font, font color, bold, italic, and anti-aliasing (takes away "jaggy" edges for the letters). Next comes the background, background mask, and all icons both normal (unselected) and focus (selected). This is also where you will be able to customize the icon overlay.

VII. Theme the controls:
The third Inspector screen has a whole slew of options. From top to bottom you can modify the dialogs, buttons, menus, titlebar, and lists. Each one has somewhat different options; however, they are all very similar and should most likely be setup with some sort of uniformity. When setting the background for the dialogs, menus, buttons, and titlebar, you will have the ability to set the "tile" area. Since you will be using a fairly small file (in pixels) that will cover differently sized areas depending on the situation, you have to tell PTB how to resize the background so that it will always look the same inside the tiled area. Another way to put it would be: you can set all four boundaries around what PTB will repeat -- both across and down the display -- for that menu or dialog to be the appropriate size for the given dialog or button. This will ultimately come with practice, but it is easier than it seems! Regarding the dialog background, if you make the file too large on the outside of the tile selection, then some may result in an unproper display. The symbols dialog will cut off a portion of those symbols and thereby be rendered useless. So, you see how truly important the testing of a new theme really is. Another tip to look out for is that some fonts will force your unselected and selected text to be the same color. This can be an issue if you are designing a theme using a limited amount colors in the scheme. Another mistake to avoid is setting the curser to be the same color as the background. This is a mistake that will not appear until you are testing and in the browser after selecting the "go to" option.

VIII. Theme the message list:
There is not a whole lot to do here. Just like all the previous fonts, choose them and set your desired bold, italic, or anti-aliased. The only other modification to do here is to set the background for each date's heading. This is just like all the previous background selelctions as well. Pick the image, and then set the tile area.

IX. Theme the phone screens
The fifth and final Inspector is divided into three tabs: Phone Hotlist, Active Call, and Incoming Call.
Phone Hotlist: The only selection you can make here is the color for the number you dial as they appear on the display.
Active Call: Here you set the text and volume colors. This is also where you put in your "phone call icons" such as bluetooth, or active call, or speakerphone. These will show during an active call.
Incoming Call: You can set the text color, background image, and tiling area for the incoming call screen.

X. Export the finished theme.
Lastly, you need to export the theme so you can test it and hopefully share with others as well. Click on the fourth button from the left (green circle) to open the export window. You now have a choice: ALX or JAD. It all depends on how you will be installing the theme. ALX is the format you would use for desktop manager installs. The JAD is, of course, then going to be the format for over the air installation. You then decide the name of your new masterpiece and the location where you would like it saved. The PTB will save ALX exports in two files. One is the .alx, and the other will be the .cod file. Each ALX export you do will automatically be saved with the .alx and .cod needed to instal Plazmic Theme Reader on the handheld. This should be included in the ZIP file with the theme when sharing with others. The JAD option, on the other hand, will save with one .jad file and sometimes multiple .cod files. They will also be accompanied by a .jad and .cod file for PTR software, too.