Sunday, May 10, 2015

For anyone who dislikes the navigation bar, this tutorial will show you how to get rid of it and enable pie controls instead.

Ever since I started using the Paranoid Android custom ROM for the Nexus 4 I have fallen in love with pie controls. For those who don’t know what this means, pie controls(for Paranoid Android) would replace the navigation bar at the bottom of your screen with a new way to control them. The navigation bar on Android is the bottom bar that houses the Back, Home and Overview buttons. This used to be represented by a back arrow, a house and a couple of stacked rectangles. With pie controls, you slide your finger or thumb from the edge of the screen and a set of navigation buttons appears(check the bottom of this tutorial for a screenshot of my setup).

Now we know of the navigation bar as a triangle, a circle and a square. I personally didn’t like the new buttons when I first saw them but they have grown on me. Also, since I disable the navigation bar anyway, I just don’t see it all the time. I enjoy the pie controls method of navigation for a number of different reasons. The main one is that I want my applications to always take up the full screen. I used to like to hide the status bar too for this reasons but I have been keeping that there for a while. Now that I am writing about it, I am starting to think that I should go back to hiding the status bar too. I’ll save that for a different tutorial though.

So yes, I like all of my applications to take up as much of the display as possible. This is fantastic for games that have chosen to not add in the KitKat immersive mode feature but it goes beyond games. I even want to disable/hide the navigation bar while in messaging applications and this is something that features like Expanded Desktop for CyanogenMod doesn’t do. Anytime there is a keyboard up while Expanded Desktop is enabled, the navigation bar was still present. If that feature didn’t function that way then I would probably not have looked for this alternative way of getting Nexus 6 pie controls.

Let’s take a look at how to disable the navigation bar on the Nexus 6 and enable pie controls. I should note that this should work on all custom ROMs and it will even work on stock Android. You will need root access, so please follow the how to root the Nexus 6 tutorial if you need help there. I also recommend that you have a custom recovery installed as well, so please follow the how to install a custom recovery on the Nexus 6 tutorial if you need help there. You don’t technically need a custom recovery installed, I just recommend it so that you can create a Nandroid backup just in case something bad goes wrong.

This modification is very small and very simple, so nothing should go wrong, but I would always rather be safe than sorry.

Nexus 6 Pie Controls
Open the Build.Prop Editor 
ApplicationGrant Root Access to the Build.Prop Editor Application if it AsksPress the Pencil Button at the Bottom(or tap the 3-dot menu at the top right and then press edit)Scroll All the Way DownCreate a New Line a the Very BottomAdd in the Following Text. . .qemu.hw.mainkeys = 1Press the Disk Icon at the Top Right to SaveGrant Root Access to the Build.Prop Editor Application if it AsksWait for the Spinning Circle to Stop(this can take some time)You Should Get a Toast Message Saying the File was SavedClose/Minimize the Build.Prop Editor ApplicationDownload and Install the Pie Control ApplicationConfigure the Pie Control Application How You Want itPress the ‘Apply’ Button at the BottomClose/Minimize the Pie Control ApplicationReboot Your Nexus 6

Ok, so what we’re doing here is making a very small edit to your build.prop file using the Build.Prop Editor application. Be very careful about anything you do here. Changing the wrong thing here can send you into a bootloop and this is another reason why I recommend that you create a Nandroid backup of your Nexus 6beforehand. Once you open this application for the first time you will be asked if you want to grant it root access. You’ll need to allow this because it needs root in order to edit your build.prop file. There’s two ways of editing the build.prop file and I’ve seen it with two interfaces.

I first look to see if there is a pencil icon at the bottom of the application. If there is, then you can press the button and it will go into ‘edit mode’ but if there isn’t then the edit command is hidden in the overflow menu. So if you don’t see the pencil icon at the bottom then you’ll want to tap on the three-dot menu icon that you see in the top right. This will drop down a menu and inside this menu you should see an ‘edit’ option. Go ahead and tap on this and you’ll go into edit mode. Since we are adding a new entry here, you’ll want to scroll all the way down to the bottom of the build.prop file. If you need to create a new line then do so but usually there is a blank line at the bottom already.

Once you are there, you can either type in or you can copy/paste the follow code into the brand new line of the build.prop file – “qemu.hw.mainkeys = 1″. I have included a screenshot above that you can reference if you need help. What this code is doing is it is telling Android to not show the software navigation bar when it boots up. This change will only happen after you reboot so don’t be worried that your navigation bar will disappear after you save this build.prop file because it won’t. Once you have added that single line into the build.prop file then go ahead and save it and then close the app. If you didn’t get asked to grant root access to the editor when you opened it, then you will be asked when you try to save this file. Either way, grant the application root access.

You can go ahead and minimize/close the application once the file has been saved. From here, you’re going to need to download and install the Pie Control application that is linked in the tutorial above. There might be some alternatives in the Google Play Store so you can try those if you want. Just be sure you are happy with your choice before you reboot because it can be rough to navigate through Android without a navigation bar. When you install and launch Pie Control, it comes with a stock version of how it looks but it is completely customizable. I’m a minimalistic type person so this is how I set mine up.

I like it on the right side, I don’t care for the time to be there and I don’t need anything other than back, home and overview. This is just my personal preference though. If you are a fan of pie controls then I want to hear how you set it up on your smartphone or tablet. If you want, you can even include a screenshot. Just make sure it is suitable for all ages.


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