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How to Create a webOS Style Gesture Area on Android without a Custom ROM


A couple of years ago, Alan Morford and I put together a guide for mimicking webOS on Android smartphones. That guide is still useful, but required the use of a custom ROM (Dirty Unicorns) with the Fling navbar to recreate the webOS gesture area. I recently found a new way to recreate the webOS gesture area without using a custom ROM. The method does require you to root your device and install and use Android Debug Bridge (adb) on your computer. If you do not want to root, the next best option is to make use of XDA's Navigation Gestures app.

Here are the steps:

Step 1: Root your device.

If your device can be rooted, you will find the instructions and necessary files over at XDA. As this will vary by device, I can't provide the instructions. Go to XDA and follow the instructions for your *exact* model precisely. Ask questions in the XDA forum for your phone if you find yourself confused or if you are not sure that the instructions are for your version of the device or the Android version you are running. There are often different variants of devices by carrier, country, or region, and the rooting procedures are designed for specific device types running specific versions of the Operating System.

Step 2: Install adb on your computer.

You can find instructions for Windows, Mac, and Linux here. Follow the instructions to set up both your phone and computer for debugging with adb.

Step 3: Install GMD Gesture Control on your phone.

Install GMD Gesture Control Lite. You may need the paid version for all of the gestures below, but you should be able to set up the basics with the free version.

Step 4: Set up the Gestures.

Note: On reboot, the gestures may not work. Simply relaunch GMD and all will be well. #bugs

  1. Enter the app drawer. Select the GMD Gestures App.
  2. Grant root access.
  3. Select the "Home" gesture (the top one).
  4. Select "Pinch Points" and change it to "Swipe UP."
  5. Select "4 Touch Points" and change it to "1". Press Okay.
  6. Select "Anywhere" and change it to "Bottom Border."
  7. Select "Advanced Options" and make sure that "Active On Keyboard" is toggled on. Hit the arrow in the top left to go
  8. back one screen.
  9. Press the check mark in the top right of the screen to save your changes.
  10. Press and hold "Back" and select "Remove." Repeat for all other actions (except "Home").

  11. Press the + sign
  12. Select Gesture. Choose "swipe left."
  13. Select "Anywhere" and change it to "Bottom Border."
  14. Select "Action" and choose "Action" > "Navigation" > "Back."

  15. Press the + sign
  16. Select Gesture. Choose "Single CLICK."
  17. Select "Anywhere" and change it to "Bottom Border."
  18. Select "Action" and choose "Action" > "Navigation" > "Recent Apps."

  19. (Optional) Press the + sign
  20. (Optional) Select Gesture. Choose "swipe right."
  21. (Optional) Select "Anywhere" and change it to "Bottom Border."
  22. (Optional) Select "Action" and choose "Action" > "Applications" > "Alt+Tab." This gesture allows you to switch between the last two apps you have opened.

  23. (Optional) Press the + sign
  24. (Optional) Select Gesture. Choose "Create path." Choose the up arrow. Then choose the right arrow.
  25. (Optional) Select "Anywhere" and change it to "Bottom Border."
  26. (Optional) Select "Action" and choose "Action" > "Navigation" > "Recent Apps." This action mimics the old BlackBerry 10 swipe up and go right action, and I find that my thumb is in the right place to swipe recent apps off the screen to close them. I encourage you to try it. It works quite well.

  27. (Optional) Press the + sign
  28. (Optional) Select Gesture. Choose "Create path." Choose the right arrow. Then choose the up.
  29. (Optional) Select "Anywhere" and change it to "Bottom Border."
  30. (Optional) Select "Action" and choose "Action" > "Navigation" > "Menu." This action is useful for opening app menus. If you have old APKs with the now-deprecated Android app menu, this action will open the menu, which means that you can still access the settings.

  31. Select the three dots at the top right of the screen. Choose "Device Setup."
  32. Set the Border Size to 10mm.
  33. Reduce the Gesture Size Adjustment to somewhere around -30.
  34. Press the check mark in the top right of the screen to save your changes.
  35. Select the three dots at the top right of the screen. Choose "Settings."
  36. Ensure "Start on Boot" is toggled on.
  37. Select "Notification." Choose "Hide Notification."
  38. Select "Gesture Toast" and choose "None."
  39. Under "Gesture Vibration," you might want to slide the slider all the way to the left to get rid of the haptic feedback.
  40. Exit the app.

Step 5: Change the appearance of your navbar to mimic the webOS gesture area.

  1. Download the the file gesture.png (which mimics the white line in the gesture area) by right-clicking or long-pressing the link and choosing "Save link as" or "Download link." Put gesture.png into a folder called NavIcons in the root directory of your smartphone.
  2. Connect your device to your computer with a USB cable. Type adb devices and ensure that a device is connected. Then type adb shell to enter the shell.
  3. Find your current settings with this command: settings get secure sysui_nav_bar
  4. Write down or record the output somewhere so that you can return the navbar to its current state later if you want.
  5. Alter the navbar with the following command: settings put secure sysui_nav_bar "left[0.25WC],space;key(0:file:///storage/emulated/0/NavIcons/gesture.png);space[0.8WC],right[0.25WC]"

The result will be a navbar with a single white stripe like the webOS gesture area. The navbar is non-functional. It serves simply as a background image. You will be controlling your device with GMD gesture control.

If you want to return the navbar to it's original setup, enter the adb shell and type: settings put secure sysui_nav_bar "" with the information you recorded earlier between the quotation marks.

I learned how to do this at XDA. See this page for more details. Some of the most important information is at the bottom of the page in the comments. Life is crowdsourced.