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Ah, the Android navigation bar, or, as friends call it, the navbar. Unless you have a Samsung device with hardware Menu, Home, and Back buttons, you’ve surely experienced this modern Android fixture: A black bar that resides at the bottom of your screen, stealing precious pixels. Sure, it does important work – lets you go Back or Home, and access the Recent Apps screen and the menu… But why can’t it stay out of the way when you don’t need it? Well, with Ultimate Dynamic Navbar, it can – and it can also become more useful along the way.

Many a developer has been irked with Android’s navbar – and as a result, you will find something called Pie Controls on many ROMs, such as Cyanogen or PAC (reviewed here The Best ROM For Sony Xperia Z? PAC, Reviewed The Best ROM For Sony Xperia Z? PAC, Reviewed I had recently started using the Sony Xperia Z, my first non-Samsung Android device in a while. Unlike the international Galaxy S4 (i9500), the Xperia Z has a wealth of available ROMs. Today I'd like... Read More ). This is a circular menu that pops into view as you slide your finger into the screen. It works, and yet, Ultimate Dynamic Navbar is better, as you’ll soon see. So whether you’re running a stock ROM or something that features Pie Controls, you will be interested in this app. It comes both in a Lite version and a full one that will set you back $3. We’re serious about these things here, so I’ll be looking at the paid version.

What You’ll Need: A Rooted Phone (Any ROM Will Do)

There are many cool things about Ultimate Dynamic Navbar, not the least of which is that it is ROM independent. I’ve recently discussed the joys of customizing your phone Customize Your Phone Without Flashing a ROM With The Xposed Framework Customize Your Phone Without Flashing a ROM With The Xposed Framework It is common knowledge that the best way to customize your Android device is to flash it with a new ROM. It is also wrong. Read More without flashing a ROM using the Xposed framework, and at the very end of that post I mentioned that some apps now come with Xposed modules of their own, like Greenify Greenify: Halt The Operations Of Apps Running In The Background [Android 3.1+] Greenify: Halt The Operations Of Apps Running In The Background [Android 3.1+] Read More . Ultimate Dynamic Navbar is another prime example:

ultimate-dynamic-navbar-1

Having Xposed Customize Your Phone Without Flashing a ROM With The Xposed Framework Customize Your Phone Without Flashing a ROM With The Xposed Framework It is common knowledge that the best way to customize your Android device is to flash it with a new ROM. It is also wrong. Read More (left, above) is optional, but offers a good way to hide your navbar in case your ROM doesn’t natively allow for this. Having a rooted phone and granting Ultimate Dynamic Navbar root access is not optional, as you can see in the right screenshot above. If you’re wondering how to go about rooting your phone, our Android Rooting Guide can probably help you out there.

Disabling Your Existing Navbar

With that in place, let’s take our first look at the app:

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The first thing you’re going to want to do is hide your existing navbar – otherwise you’ll end up having two of those, one on top of the other. I was unable to capture a screenshot of that, but it’s as annoying and superfluous as it sounds. So, tap Navbar spoofers (second entry in the main menu) to see your options. The spoofers screen, shown on the right, lays things out sensibly: If you’re already using Cyanogen, AOKP, or a similar ROM, Ultimate Dynamic Navbar recommends you toggle the navbar off using the ROM’s built-in mechanism.

The next-best option is hiding the navbar using the included Xposed module. This is why it’s important to read the screens: I initially just switched on the Xposed module, even though my ROM didn’t need it.

Last, and definitely least, is switching off the navbar by modifying Android’s build.prop file. That could work, but just like the developer clearly states, it’s dangerous and you just don’t want to go there. Get Xposed instead.

For Cyanogenmod, here’s how I toggled my navbar off: I went to Settings > Interface > Pie Controls and removed the checkbox from the top of the screen (i.e, disabled pie controls). I then went to Expanded desktop and selected Status bar visible:

ultimate-dynamic-navbar-2

That was it. I now had a device with a navbar that automatically hid itself out of sight when I didn’t need it. But the fun was just getting started: Now I could start customizing things in earnest, way beyond what Pie Controls can do on Cyanogen.

Swipes And Presses And Toggles, Oh My

Ultimate Dynamic Navbars has one of the most complete preferences menus I’ve seen in recent memory. Seriously, this beast lets you customize anything. Here are just a couple of screens to give you an idea of what you can do:

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Different settings are going to matter to different people, but for me, Type of trigger was important. Initially, the trigger is set to the bottom-left corner of your device – tap it or swipe it to toggle the navbar. As you can see above, I changed it to Whole bottom edge, which means swiping up from the bottom of the screen pops up the navbar – a very natural gesture, for me.

Two other notable settings above are Swipe-to-Action and LongPresses in swipe-mode (in the right screenshot). The first lets you swipe up to expose the navbar, and then simply bring your finger to a button and lift it off the screen. That counts as a button press, and it makes working with an auto-hidden navbar just as easy as working with a visible one: No extra taps needed.

The second setting has to do with the fact that UDN (as we will refer to it from now) lets you set two actions for each button: A press and a long-press. If you want, you can have the long-press activate in the same way: Swipe to expose the navbar, move your finger to the button, and keep it there. After a moment, the long-press action would trigger. This is a mouthful to describe, but is very fluid in action.

Two other key settings have to do with the gesturepad’s height and the length of the activate gesture:

ultimate-dynamic-navbar-8

On my phone, I brought these both down to low values, as you can see above. This means I basically just move my finger into the screen from the bottom edge, and the navbar appears right under my finger – I don’t have to move it back. A small thing, but it matters for an action you do many times every day.

The takeaway here is that there is a lot to experiment with here, and you’re going to want to take your time and adjust things until they feel right for you.

Customizing Button Actions

Now that you have the bar working the way you like it, it’s time to consider individual buttons. Which buttons do you want, and what should they do? Possibilities abound:

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Above you can see just a small part of the button customization screen. That list on the right shows you what each button can do (and there are more actions, too). You can turn off your screen with a button, change the volume, and of course, do whatever the button usually does.

One thing that is sadly missing is a way to trigger Shortcuts via buttons: It would have been great if I could long-press the Home button to open the app drawer in Nova Launcher Prime (reviewed here Nova Launcher - Even Better Than The Default Android 4.0 Launcher Nova Launcher - Even Better Than The Default Android 4.0 Launcher Up until Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0) came along, Android’s interface felt somewhat less polished than iOS’s. But with Android 4.0, Google made a clean break with the previous visual style for Android, introducing Holo... Read More ). That is one of UDN’s few shortcomings when it comes to customization.

Changing The Navbar’s Appearance and Size

Okay, so now you have the navbar of your dreams, along with the buttons set just so. This would be a good time to consider cosmetics and aesthetics:

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UDN ships with lots and lots of button themes, ranging from stock ones (you can have your buttons look just like on the ROM that came with your phone, or with your friend’s phone), to some wild (not to say ugly) variants. Above you can see the stock Motorola and Samsung themes. You can also change the colors and glow effects.

Next, customizing the navbar’s size:

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Above you can see two extremes (that 15-pixel navbar on the right is tiny, or what?), but 45 tends to be a sane setting for most.

Reading The Docs, And a Lone Bug

Since UDN can do so much, it’s nice to see the developer took some time to bundle a FAQ and address some potential concerns:

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As you can see above, the FAQ is quite informal – “Now my device won’t boot,” says the user, “LOL,” replies the developer. That made me chuckle. The answers are informative, but they do contain the occasional typo.

Finally, this would be a good spot to mention the one and only bug I’ve come across when using UDN:

ultimate-dynamic-navbar-10

Above you can clearly see that Display notification is unchecked – I really don’t need yet another notification, what with having Lux (reviewed here 4 Apps to Manage Brightness and Save Your Eyes on Android 4 Apps to Manage Brightness and Save Your Eyes on Android Eye strain is a huge issue for those of us who spend a lot of time looking at screens. Improper screen brightness settings can cause your eyes to fatigue faster, and overly bright screens at... Read More ) and Switchr (reviewed here Switchr Brings Swift, Responsive Task Switching to Android Switchr Brings Swift, Responsive Task Switching to Android Android has had multitasking built into it right from the start. But to really benefit from multitasking, you need a quick and simple way to switch between apps. Read More ) already showing two permanent notifications. And yet, even with the setting disabled, I still got a notification. Not the end of the world, but a bug is a bug.

It’s Worth It

Ultimate Dynamic Navbar is one of the most impressive customization tools I’ve seen recently. It is not only powerful, but it just plain works – it feels solid. I’m happy to know that I can get my navbar configuration just so, and have it work across any ROM I pick. Highly recommended.

  1. Hands
    March 23, 2015 at 8:53 am

    well for big phones bottom swipes are difficult with one hand, I prefer PIE from the side with LMT

  2. Ntani
    January 24, 2014 at 11:23 pm

    Sirs, is it only on my phone that in landscape mode the exposed module won't hide the navbar? I get TWO bars in this way when I'm on landscape reading a book :-P.
    Any idea?
    Thanks so much. :-)

    • Erez Z
      January 26, 2014 at 3:05 pm

      Should definitely work! You might want to try submitting your question to MakeUseOf Answers - click Answers at the top bar, and write it, maybe attaching a few screenshots to show what you mean. Best of luck!

  3. Pavel Sikun :D
    November 8, 2013 at 12:23 am

    Hello, guys! I'm the developer of this app :)
    That's the best review of UDN I've ever seen!

    I just wanted to mention that it's impossible to remove notification on android 4.3 and newer, so that can't be counted as a bug :)
    Also, the next update will be kitkat-optimized (you can find latest beta on UDN's xda thread) and will have few new nice features like "previous app" and "custom shortcuts".

    • Erez Z
      November 8, 2013 at 8:47 am

      Hey Pavel,

      I'm glad you liked the review! Thank you for your kind words.

      Thanks for explaining re the 4.3 notification issue! I wish the app included some text about this next to the button. :)

      "previous app" is a killer feature for me - I used to have this in PAC ROM as a nav ring target and it was really useful. I'm actually going to XDA to try out the beta right now!

  4. Eric B
    November 6, 2013 at 2:32 pm

    The bug is a "feature" of android 4.3 according to google. Any app that tries to hide its notification is automatically shown by the OS in 4.3. If you see "Service is running. :)" under a notification, it is cause the OS unhid it for you.

    http://www.reddit.com/r/Android/comments/1j6lut/for_43_apps_that_abuse_the_notification_service/

    Sadly, if an app uses the "abusive" notification hiding, even manually unchecking the Show notifications checkbox on the app's system settings doesn't prevent the app from reappearing after a reboot.

    Since Google considers this a feature, it doesn't look like it will be fixed. There is an exposed module called NotifyClean that appears to be able to comepletely hide a notification. I'm currently using it to hide the notification of Swipe Home Button that uses the same method to hide its notification.

    Just as a thought, you could try turning off the notification hiding in the app and hiding it on the app's info page. Might make it work.

    • Erez Z
      November 8, 2013 at 8:48 am

      Thanks Eric - I might try that out!

  5. PsillyPseudonym
    November 6, 2013 at 11:09 am

    Sony Xperias don't have the navbar either.

    • Erez Z
      November 6, 2013 at 11:44 am

      You're right, the old ones really don't. But the newer ones (Xperia Z for example) don't have the trio of metal buttons at the bottom of the screen... So they do have a navbar.

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