Technology

Here’s how to customize Gboard using Rboard Theme Creator and Patcher

In the infinitely customizable world of Android, hobbyists and modders alike are constantly on a journey to make our devices better suited to our personalities. We like to customize anything and everything, whether it’s a new wallpaper, the hottest new icon pack, or a fully custom theme. This is why many users prefer Gboard as their keyboard app, as you can customize the stock UI with custom themes through projects like Rboard Theme Manager.

While Google provides a plethora of themes for Gboard by default, a whole community exists for homebrew themes and other mods for the keyboard app. However, customizing an existing theme pack or creating a custom theme from scratch is no easy feat. To fill the void, two veteran Gboard themers – XDA Senior Member RKBD and XDA Member DerTyp7214 – have come up with a few apps: Rboard Theme Creator and Rboard Patcher.

  • Rboard Theme Creator allows you to create rudimentary Gboard themes.
  • Rboard Patcher allows you to further edit various aspects of the themes.
  • The custom themes can be applied through Rboard Theme Manager.
  • You need root access to install the themes.

Navigate through this article:

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Internal structure of a Gboard theme

In Gboard’s theme scene, a theme pack can be identified by the “.pack” extension. Essentially, the file is a collection of image assets, style sheets, and metadata – all compressed under a special container format.

In a Gboard theme pack

Since most theme components are unencrypted, one can also write additional patches to modify specific parts of a theme on the fly. The patches are usually distributed as ZIP files.


Create a Gboard theme with Rboard Theme Creator

The Rboard Theme Creator is a lightweight Android app that allows anyone to create a simple Gboard theme right on their phone. You don’t even need a PC to put together the theme pack, because the app takes care of everything for you.

To design your own Gboard theme, follow these steps:

  1. Install the app from the aforementioned Google Play Store link.
  2. Open the app and locate the color selection dial.
    Rboard Theme Maker
  3. Then select the color scheme (e.g. Dark or Monet) and the associated UI component (e.g AMOLED or tertiary accent). With the app you can try out all possible combinations.
  4. Now adjust the color buttons until you get the user interface with the theme you want in the preview section.
  5. To save your custom theme, tap the share icon in the lower left corner, choose the file picker and save it after giving it an appropriate name and author information.

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Alternatively, you can transfer the newly created theme directly to Rboard Patcher (if installed) for further editing. To do this, tap the Add theme button and follow the wizard.

For all app developers reading this, Rboard Theme Creator is completely open source. You are free to explore the code, submit new patches, or compile the app yourself.

Rboard Theme Creator GitHub Repository

Notably, the developer also hosts a web version of the app, which can be useful for designing Gboard themes from your PC/Mac.


Patching a Gboard Theme with Rboard Patcher

Rboard Patcher is a versatile tool for Gboard themes. For starters, the app allows you to customize the base theme pack (*.pack) produced by the Rboard Theme Creator app. In addition, you can edit existing community-created themes and customize various aspects of them using the publicly hosted theme patches. The patcher is not yet to support third-party patch repos, but the feature is expected to be available soon.


Here’s how to customize any Rboard compatible theme via Rboard Patcher:

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  1. Install the app from the aforementioned Google Play Store link.
  2. Open the app and open a valid Gboard theme *.pack file using the file picker.
    • For example, you can refer the app to a theme pack produced by Rboard Theme Creator.
  3. Rboard Patcher retrieves the publicly hosted theme patches and displays them categorically.
    Rboard Patcher
  4. Tap the one you want to apply (for example, a font or a rounded icon).
  5. To save the custom theme, tap the share icon in the lower left corner, choose the file picker and save it after giving it an appropriate name and author information.

If you want to immediately prepare the custom theme for flashing via Rboard Theme Manager, you can do so by clicking the Add to Manage button and follow the wizard. Of course, you must have the Rboard Theme Manager app installed on your device beforehand, otherwise the option will not work. In addition, you need root access to install the themes.

Rboard Patcher is also open source, meaning you’re welcome to play around with the codebase. If you want to try out the latest builds without compiling the app itself, opt for the continuous integration releases.

Rboard Patcher GitHub Repository


Conclusion

That’s all. As you can see, creating custom themes for Gboard isn’t that hard, especially if you can use the great tools of the Rboard community. How much detail you get with Gboard themes is entirely up to you, but if you’re not happy with Google’s offerings, then it’s best to build your desired theme from scratch.

Do you regularly update your keyboard app with different mods, or is such a theme not interesting for you? Let us know in the comments below.

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