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Active covers on Sailfish OS

 
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Michal Jerz
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PostPosted: Friday, 22.Nov.2013 00:22    Post subject: Active covers on Sailfish OS   Reply with quote   

While porting my Harmattan applications to Sailfish OS, one thing that needed to be added to each of them (as that feature is not present on Harmattan) was active covers.

On the N9 it is the thumbnail of an application that is shown on the "task manager" screen once you send an application to the background. It simply shows a miniature of the application's screen as it looked while you were closing it, and, depending on the code, it may 'freeze' until sent to the foreground again (e.g. to save battery) or continue working (in such case the thumbnail gets updated in real time).

On Sailfish OS, however, the active cover can be a wholly separate page, which can be made look differently and offer different functionality than the application screen when working normally (full screen). This is very useful because you can fully optimize it for such a small view, and it may work like a "widget" (the user may interact with it).

Technically, active cover is simply a separate QML page that is shown once the user minimizes an application. That QML page is fully funcitonal, i.e. it can do almost everything a normal QML page can do.

Below are some examples of active covers in some of my applications. In each case, to save battery, when active cover is active all the timers (refreshing/recalculating data shown by the application) get slowed down from 1000 (once per second) to 10000 (once every 10 seconds), so data shown in active covers is simply refreshed every 10 seconds.

SunCalc active cover shows times of sunrise, transit (highest elevation) and sunset for a selected day and location. When GPS is selected rather than manually entered coordinates, cover window shows "Waiting for GPS" so that you can do something else and see when the GPS fix is obtained. In application settings it will be possible to change data shown in the active cover, e.g. to show dawn/dusk times rather than sunrise/sunset.



MoonCalc active cover shows some Moon data for the current time and location (or for some other day / location if selected so in the application): image of the moon phase and its name, percentage of Moon surface's illumination, moonrise and moonset times and their azimuths, selected date. I am also going to add showing current azimuth and elevation. As in SunCalc, when waiting for GPS fix the active cover shows corresponding message.



Biorthythms simply show details of each cycle for a selected person, either for the current day or for any other day selected in the application.



StarFinder shows some astronomical details of any object currently selected in the application (planet, star, constellation, asterism, deep sky object, meteor shower, the Moon, the Sun). Details shown include: object name, image, current azimuth and elevation, today's rise and set times. And the status of waiting for GPS fix.



And the following screenshot shows all four applications working simultaneously:



I will soon post screenshots of active covers of the remaining applications - I am still polishing a couple of things in them.
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Ketilk
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PostPosted: Friday, 22.Nov.2013 00:33    Post subject:   Reply with quote   

This looks awesome, never thought about active covers like a cool mini-interface to an application Smile
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Michal Jerz
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PostPosted: Friday, 22.Nov.2013 00:38    Post subject:   Reply with quote   

Yeah, that's really how it is. I could actually duplicate full functionality in this tiny window, but I guess it doesn't make sense if just one tap takes the user back to the full screen window where everything can be done. But providing the most useful information on that cover certainly is useful, so that the user can quickly check some data while working with some other app, without having to switch to this application.

So far it's just the basic stuff, but I am going to extend it so that it is much more interactive. Possibilities are really huge and it really is kind of a "widget", i.e. a small application on its own. I will surely make it possible to quickly change days by swiping left or right in the cover, or two switch between different sets of data shown.

Android apps, of course, won't do anything with it other than showing a thumbnail like it is on Harmattan, so this is where native software can show its superiority.


P.S. If someone finds any other projects of Sailfish OS applications on the web and there is a screenshot of an active cover, please post the link or the image itself in this thread so that we can have a nice gallery presenting this useful and unique feature.
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Ketilk
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PostPosted: Friday, 22.Nov.2013 01:34    Post subject:   Reply with quote   

Only settings that you might want to change many times a day makes sense to implement as gestures in the cover, but for some applications it makes sense do either change the behaviour, or change the output information.

For one application it might make sense to swipe left to slow down the interval of updates to the application and repeatedly to slow it down even more to a freeze. Swipe right to update more often and be more accurate.

For another application it makes sense to have pause/unpause as flip-setting in one gesture and use the other(s?) for something else.

For third application it makes sense to use gestures to provide different type of information.

For a forth application it makes sense to let the user define what the gestures does from a set of predefined actions. One action can be show an info-page with the information defined in a user-definable list.
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Michal Jerz
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PostPosted: Saturday, 30.Nov.2013 06:42    Post subject:   Reply with quote   

Active cover for ISSTracker:

It simply shows for the satellite currently selected in the program its current latitude/longitude and its next visible night-time pass over user's location (if any within the next 10 days). When GPS is selected as location source and the program is waiting for GPS fix "Waiting for GPS" is shown. Normally the application refreshes its calculations every second; if active cover is shown the timer slows down to 10 seconds to save battery.

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alexpain
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PostPosted: Sunday, 01.Dec.2013 20:53    Post subject:   Reply with quote   

Very interesting idea! But at the moment, only Michal seems to have native apps ready for Sailfish. It is encouraging to see more people like Ketilk working too.
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Michal Jerz
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Phone: Jolla, BB Z10, BB Passport, N950, N900, N8, Nexus 4 (Ubuntu Touch), Lumia 920

PostPosted: Tuesday, 10.Dec.2013 08:08    Post subject:   Reply with quote   

Active cover for SunCalc Premium:

It shows the most important Sun data for the location currently selected in the application (location name is shown at the top): dawn, rise, set, dusk, transit (time and elevation), day and night length, current azimuth and elevation.

I am going to further enhance functionality of this application's cover and improve its visual appearance before the application is released.

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