Jaku Theme

Will Jaku ever come to the iPad/iPad 2/iPad mini?

This is actually asked a lot. And I feel for iPad owners, I really do. Those devices (inexplicably) just don’t get any love from the theming community despite being so damn popular. But the answer is, regrettably: no. It will never come to the iPad/iPad 2.

The Retina display on handheld devices boasts an icon canvass of ~120px. The iPad, despite it’s larger screen size, boasts icons that are substantially smaller (~72px). This is a serious loss of real estate. And to redraw all 180+ icons (not to mention the UI changes and 3rd party application images) is nothing short of staggering. It took me almost a year to get Jaku to where it is now.

But it will come out for the Retina iPad. Let’s hope the next version of the iPad mini has a Retina display.

“But why don’t you just resize them as-is to 72px?” I hear some of you asking. Because that’s not how I roll. I aim for pixel perfection. Anything less doesn’t interest me in the slightest (and I feel degrades my work).

Where’s the auto-mask?

There actually is an “auto-mask,” of sorts. Let me explain how iOS works.

iOS Automask

The first part of the pictogram shows the layers applied to an icon. The top most layer is optional, providing the gloss (as you can see on the Plants vs. Zombies icon). It has somewhat fallen out of favor and rarely used these days.

The second layer, is called the AppIconMask. It is a clipping mask or what people have dubbed the “auto-mask.” For those of you that don’t know what that is, it’s exactly like a cookie-cutter. It cuts out a part of the canvass (anything within the red block in the pictogram) and discards the rest. For example, if you made the clipping mask a circle, your icons would be round. The other two layers are self-explanatory (the last layer provides the shadow for the icon).

The layers are stacked exactly like they are pictured in the pictogram by iOS. Together they make a 3rd party icon. Note: the default apps don’t use these because they’re only there so other developers don’t mess up their app icons and make them look different than the one’s in iOS; you know Apple likes to run a tight ship.

In the first row, you’ll see my current mask in action. It falls over the entire icon, resulting in that fabulous and iconic bevel unique to each icon. The second row is what the icons would look like if I used an “auto-mask,” like some people are looking for. It doesn’t look as good, but it’s not repulsive, right? The last row is what the auto-mask would look like in actual practice. Now this won’t be the case for some of the 3rd party icons, but it will be the case for the majority of the icons found in the App Store. Cydia apps (like the default ones) don’t use the mask either, so you’re still left with some icons that won’t be themed regardless of what kind of mask you use.

My design philosophy behind Jaku (and my work in general) is to continually maintain the highest standard possible. That’s what drives Jaku: pixel perfection. Cutting corners or having something that’s “good enough” just isn’t how I roll. I’d rather make this my full-time job and theme every single one of the few million icons in the App Store than sacrifice an ounce of quality if I can help it.

Theming iOS is all about trade-offs. You win some, you lose some.

Will you ever theme “x, y and z?”

Maybe, maybe not. The fundamental design principle that drives Jaku can be summed up in one word: refinement. iOS has been out now for 5 years. In that time, a lot has changed, and some things haven’t. With Jaku, I aim to bring the more aging components up-to-date, with respect to the other components they are hooked into. For example, I have shied away from theming the toolbar because it would break a large number of apps and theming them all would be nigh impossible.

This theme is not a testbed to show the limits of theming. To be sure, others have gone out of their way to completely re-design iOS, giving it a completely different look and feel (which illustrates just how much can be done). But that is not something I’m interested in doing. First of all, things break the more you change them. Every component is multi-faceted and elements are used in numerous locations across the OS. Your modified resource file may look great on the home screen, but it may look a bit of awful on the Lock Screen, or in Mission Control. The point of Jaku is to “sanely” apply changes that not only respect, but keep Apple’s current aesthetic.

Second, there are many components of iOS that I like. The iOS 5 chat bubbles for one (which does come up as a possible venue to extend Jaku’s reach). But I love them. Sure, I may not dig the heavy green of the SMS bubbles, but I can’t violate Apple’s copyright by distributing a slightly altered version of their work with my (paid) theme. I already skirt copyright violation as is by using their corporate logo/branding and product likeness for various icons. Regardless, I never meant for Jaku to one day replace the entire UI. And if the day comes that Apple will make a better Alert popup or a better Notification Center background than the ones included in Jaku, I will most definitely pull my resources and return that element to stock. (But they would have to really one-up me!)

Some elements I haven’t themed because I have deemed it to yield an inferior product (i.e., break too many iOS components), others because I like Apple’s existing design, and still others because I have just not had the time. So while I can’t definitely answer this, I can tell you that default iOS SMS Bubbles are here to stay; that much is certain. The rest falls into the other two categories.

You changed an icon in this new version. Can you give me the old one?

Nope. I have someone who is visibly upset that I made a change to an icon in almost every version. And I tell you now that I do that. I am always hunting for perfection and that often means revisiting old icons because something about them just always felt “off,” or I thought of a new concept or a new way to present the metaphor.

Firstly, you should be making backups before you update if this concerns you. This is absolutely within your means to do. I can’t take on the burden to ensure everyone is always happy with everything I create. That’s a fight you just can’t win. There is always bound to be someone who won’t like some element and those that just don’t like change, period.

Secondly, I rarely do alternates because they are so rarely used (most people don’t go rummaging around the theme looking for a bundle that may have more than one icon) and I have no intention of burying something I worked really hard on in some folder for 5% of the population to enjoy. Then there is also the added burden of having to organize and manage such things. As it stands, it’s already quite time consuming to package and maintain Jaku. And I’d rather put my time and effort towards bringing you more content than housekeeping.

Thirdly, some people get on board late. They didn’t buy Jaku on day one, so they didn’t get an opportunity to save the icon before it was changed. To them, I say: that’s life. If you bought a Mac with OS X Lion and then saw your friend’s Mac running Snow Leopard and fell in love, it’s unreasonable to walk up to Apple and expect them to swap the OS for you. Same deal here. You just missed the boat and while it’s not something you probably want to hear, that’s how life works. It’s not fair or unfair, but just how things work.

Lastly, I don’t keep old icons. I don’t have a war chest of all the versions I’ve done for Safari or Maps (which were quite a few actually) or get off on being withholding. I keep the most current icon. If that changes, then I too, like yourself, lose the old one. If I backed up every single version, my entire Time Machine backup would be filled with icons and not much else. So in many cases, I couldn’t get the old version for you even if I wanted to.