OMS/Substratum, Layers RRO, CMTE: A Look At Android's Theming Options

Hello, I thought I would spend a little time discussing what's new, the ins and outs and the how to's when it comes to using the new OMS/Substratum theme engine. What are the differences between CMTE (CyanogenMod's theme engine) and the new OMS or better known as Substratum?

Substratum is the metamorphosis of the older or what the BitSyco community like to refer to as "depreciated", Layers Manager, I would have just called it abandoned. It was designed to feel more like the CyanogenMod Theme Engine (CMTE) in the way it is laid out and used. Based on Sony's overlays, it has block shaped preview windows and even has most, if not all, of the options that you will find in CMTE, like a colorful and animated preview window of what the theme banner looks like, different sections for basic theme layout and other sections for adding boot animations, fonts and sounds. But the real magic is in the way that it is implemented or the way in which it actually themes your device. In contrast to the Layers Manager, you don't need to do those pain in the ass "soft reboots" again. Man, I seriously hated those soft reboots.

Yeah, you read that right, you no longer need to soft reboot your device when applying a layers theme in the new OMS/Substratum theme engine. Whether you are applying a whole theme, theming just a few apps or even a single app for that case, all you have to do is  make your choices and hit the paint roller icon which opens a drop down menus and you are ready to compile or build your theme. Be prepared though, the compiler can take up to 5 minutes to build your theme and install it, so it hasn't bettered CMTE in that category as CMTE still themes your device in a matter of seconds as opposed to the "put your phone down and walk away" time that OMS takes on some themes.

The way it works is that it builds individual themes every time you make your choices and use the "compile and apply button". Well in the latest release it is called "Build and Apply" button. It first builds the theme, then applies the theme and then it does a SystemUI restart for you automatically. And as they say "Bob's Your Uncle", you have just created and applied your theme and you didn't even have to reboot your device like you did when using the now seemingly ancient Layers Manager. A word to the wise though, I still highly recommend that once you get your theme the way you like it, reboot your device to seat everything in. 

The different sections of the Substratum theme engine are the quick apply section, that is the first window to show.

When you swipe to the left you are greeted with the meat and potatoes of this engine and that is the custom theme apply window where you can pick your colors, background, highlights, offsets, header colors, system status bar icons and even navigation bar icons. It can be as overwhelming as the original Layers Manager was too. There are just so many options in color choice that it gets mind boggling. And it may take you several attempts to get your theme the way you want it because of the choices. With these type of themes It is just hard for me to envision what the final theme will look like until I am done with it because I forget what colors I used because of the plethora of color choices in some themes. Again, in CMTE you know what it is going to look like because it shows you that in the Play Store description pictures. With CMTE you just pick the theme you want and apply and your done. This is also the window that has the paint roller icon that houses the "build and apply" options.

If you swipe to the left again you come to the boot animation chooser window. This window allows you to both see and apply the boot animation. Obviously a reboot is required in order to see your handiwork. It is important to note too that like CMTE, not all OMS themes come with boot animations. Also in CMTE, the previews work. They are iffy at best in Substratum and there are only a couple that have the quallity of the ones from CMTE in my humble opinion.

If you decide to swipe to the left again you will be greeted with the custom font window where you can apply custom fonts from the theme you have chosen. This does not require a reboot and is dependent on only a SystemUI restart, which the OMS theme engine does for you.

Last but not the least, by swiping to the left one more time you come to the window that let's you apply custom sounds for ringtones, notifications and alarms, just like in the CMTE theme engine.

Well there you have it, a brief overview of Substratum and how to use it and my thoughts on the differences between the two. The app is actually a pleasure to use  (once you get used to it) and the latest build update is running very well and works as it should. There were many bugs when they first released it to the public. I for one think that they should have held back a little longer until a lot of the bugs were worked out, and there were a lot. There was also a lot of confusion amidst the theme developers because when Substratum would update, the theme developers wouldn't know about it, and then no themes would work until everyone got on the same page again. It is still that way really. If Substratum updated over night and your favorite theme doesn't, it is no longer compatible. Unlike CMTE themes, I was a theme tester for several theme developers at the time and it was very frustrating until it all just started to click one day. 

There are a few prerequisites to use the Substratum theme engine. We have listed them down for you:

1. You must be running a custom ROM that supports OMS
2. The theme you are using must be up to date. (If you are running an older version of the theme, even a couple weeks old, it will not be compatible with the current Substratum build). 
3. You must be rooted. If you are not rooted, Substratum will not function or even load completely. 
4. If you are coming from a Layers supported custom rom, you must go into your storage and delete the folder named "Overlays". If you fail to delete this folder, Substratum will not function properly.

Well, that is about all that I can think of and this blog should get you acquainted with and show you how to get started using OMS/Substratum and the differences between CMTE. If you have any questions on how to use it, I have a several videos out showing it's use and even one video that is just on Substratum and how to use it. You can also find themes on my Google Plus Community where I have links to themes and rom reviews. Plus, you can always head on over to the BitSyko Google Plus community where they have links to tutorials and themes. If you want to watch the video I made on Substratum and how to use it, there you go:

Final Thoughts

I still do not care for Substratum. Or I should say that it isn't my "my cup of tea". CMTE themes are much more vibrant and punchy. They theme deeper and don't glitch. They theme to the core of the OS from changing the background image to applying custom icons throughout the system including the quick settings panel. CMTE also has Arcus. Now that allows certain CM13 themes to be changed, in the way it colors the fonts and system icons, just like Substratum now. So that is not just a Layers function any more. CMTE doesn't look cheap and haphazardly thrown together and above all they are grounded.  The fact is, CMTE and CyanogenMod have been around for a while and they know what they do and how to build themes. They are reliable and just to put it together I would say "they look better and are much easier to apply or learn if you are new to android". This of course is just one man's opinion, mine, and I am not the foremost expert on this subject. I am just an average end user with the desire to be different and not be afraid to stand out a bit. So I make my phone my own. Hopefully, you do too.

I would like to thank "Krittin Kalra" for all of his help. I couldn't have put this together without his guidance and knowledge of Blogger.

David Hayes
A lover of custom ROMs, a husband, and a proud father, David Hayes is the eldest member of the AndroGuider family. He owns a plethora of devices including several from Google, Samsung, OnePlus and Motorola. In addition to being a blogger, David is also a custom ROM developer having compiled ROMs for the Nexus 6, the Nexus 6P, and the Google Pixel 2.
OMS/Substratum, Layers RRO, CMTE: A Look At Android's Theming Options OMS/Substratum, Layers RRO, CMTE: A Look At Android's Theming Options Reviewed by David Hayes on 9/08/2016 04:53:00 PM
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