So You’ve Designed a Theme… Now What?

February 13, 2010 | By | 4 Comments

Last week we talked about how to get started designing themes for  BlackBerry smartphones. We covered BlackBerry Theme Studio as well as additional resources you may want to have available. After you have designed a theme and you are happy with your creation, the next steps are getting the theme onto your device and distribution to others.

The first step, regardless of how you plan to distribute, is exporting your files. This is often confused with simply saving the file. When you save your theme in Theme Builder, it saves a .thm file for future editing. This file will not install on your BlackBerry. When you select export you are given three different options. You can install directly to your BlackBerry, publish for Desktop Manager, or publish for OTA (Over-the-Air).

To install your theme directly to your BlackBerry, first connect your device to your computer via USB. Choose export, then Install to BlackBerry.

You can name the theme whatever you wish, and if you have your device password protected there is a field to enter that information. If you have previously installed the current theme on your device, you can choose to overwrite any existing files. After you click OK you will see a pop-up box with a progress bar on your computer, and your BlackBerry screen will change to show that it is receiving information from your computer. Do not unplug your device during this time! It takes only a few seconds to transfer the theme to your device. Once it is done, another pop-up box will show that it has transferred successfully and tell you to activate the theme when prompted. At this time you can unplug your device and activate the newly installed theme.

If you decide you want to share your theme with others, the next two options after clicking export are Publish for Desktop Manager and Publish for OTA.

Theme Builder gives you a few more options here, such as choosing which handheld and OS you are targeting. This is also where you choose where you want your files saved. I suggest making a new folder for the files that will result from exporting. If you are doing a theme for multiple devices, make sure you name your files accordingly so you can tell them apart later. Publish for Desktop Manager will result in two files, an .alx and a .cod. Typically you would make these into a zip file and from there you can email them, or upload to a forum or website for sharing. Publish for OTA gives you a .jad file and multiple .cod files. Themes will have different amounts of .cod files, depending on the complexity of the theme, so don’t be alarmed if your themes have more or less .cods from one theme to the next. You will see the same pop-up box with a progression bar as with the Install to BlackBerry process from before.
I see a lot of questions on the forums of different BlackBerry websites regarding how to have your theme hosted for OTA
distribution. There are multiple ways you can do this. If you have your own server already set up, or know someone with a server that is willing to host for you, then you are all set. If not, you can set up your own through sites such as For a fee, you can get your own domain name and hosting services.

An even simpler way to host and distribute themes is through  To begin with MobiHand, you fill out a short application which they review and respond to within two business days. Once approved, they act as host and distributor for your themes. If you are selling your themes, MobiHand keeps a portion of each sale in exchange for full access to their App/Content Developer Program.

With MobiHand, you instantly reach hundreds of thousands of highly-qualified buyers within some of the most respected mobile-focused sites – on the desktop and over-the-air.

What that means for you: your themes will be available on all of the 150+ websites that use MobiHand to power their online stores. More information about their services are available on the website.

It is highly recommended by any theme builder that if you are going to distribute your themes to the public, have them tested as thoroughly as possible on live devices before you release them. The BlackBerry Theme Studio simulators do a good job of reproducing how the theme will look and act, but it’s a good idea to have a few people do live testing for you.

So that’s it folks, a quick rundown of how to get started building themes, and what to do once you’ve created them. We will discuss BlackBerry App World and how to get your applications and themes submitted in a later post.

Now get out there and try your hand at creating some awesome new themes for your BlackBerry!
Let us know in the comments what you think!

Filed in: App World, BlackBerry, Downloads, Guides, Tips n' Tricks, Tutorial | Tags: , , , , ,

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