Power Android users require quite a few tools in order to execute all the fun hacks that are possible these days. It’s not enough to have a file explorer, you need one that can access root and mount /system. It’s not enough to be rooted, you need a system to manage your custom recovery and ROMs. Managing a custom Android build can be a complex task at times that requires many different tools.
Enter all-purpose utility apps. As we’ve mentioned before, the Android Market (sorry, Google Play Store) is full of helpful aids like Titanium Backup and Super Manager. Continuing in that line of utility apps is ROM Toolbox. ROM Toolbox is truth in advertising- it’s a virtual toolbox full of things you’ll need in order to maintain a good custom Android build. Here are a few things it can do and why you should give it a look.
ROM Toolbox is capable of doing everything that ROM Manager does. In fact, ROM Toolbox actually operates by piggybacking off of ROM Manager’s code (you need the Manager in order to use Management functions in the Toolbox).
Everything for controlling ROMs is there. Rebooting into recovery, making Nandroid backups, flashing a new ROM and wiping the phone can all be executed quite easily from within ROM Toolbox. If you prefer not to spend time mucking around within ClockworkMod, then ROM Toolbox should help a little.
The Nandroid management options are very nice. You can rename, delete, or restore any backup saved to the SD card. We do not recommend renaming them, though, as it is sometimes helpful to have the date in the title.
The ROM download list is by no means comprehensive, but it hits a few of the high points. The ever-popular CyanogenMod 7 is there, as well as a few Evo Classic ROMs. A package for Google Apps is included as well, a very helpful touch. Flashing certain ROMs can be a pain if you don’t have gapps.
Once a new ROM is downloaded (or copied to the SD card), installation is as easy as tapping “Install ROM.” Just be sure to save a Nandroid backup before doing anything.
The App Manager part of ROM Toolbox is pretty neat as well. It lists all the apps on your phone, divided by system, user, running, and on SD card. The Toolbox can do just about everything that Titanium Backup can do (and a little more).
Select a few apps (batch is always enabled) and you can backup, uninstall, stop from running, share with friends, freeze and unfreeze, wipe data, zipalign, fix permissions, or use a link to that app on the Play Store.
There’s a lot to do there and it’s all very necessary for flashing new ROMs and such. App backup and restore might take up some space on the SD card, but it is absolutely worth it. Simply restoring your apps is so much easier than re-downloading them all.
A root browser is extremely useful, especially for serious modifications. By default, part of the Android file system is inaccessible by the user. There’s a reason for this. It’s sort of like editing /system32 on Windows. However, that restriction is just annoying if you want to get into /system and you know what you’re doing.
That’s what a root browser is for- it browses with no restrictions whatsoever. You can now finally edit any part of the Android file system. Just be careful when you do it.
Scripter and Terminal Emulator
This feature is more useful for developers and people who really know what they’re doing. Scripter and Terminal Emulator are two ways of executing changes to the Android system via scripts of specialized code. Scripter comes with scripts for the CPU information, mounting and unmounting /system, and rebooting the phone.
Average users might not get much out of this, but it is helpful. There are even options to create new scripts from scratch or download them from the internet. We found stuff for recovery safe mode, disabling the boot animation, hot reboots, wiping battery stats, and such.
Terminal Emulator is similar but simpler. The terminal executes simple commands, again for app development. To be honest, we’re not developers and could not find a use for it.
Borrowing a page from SetCPU, ROM Toolbox has a feature for adjusting how much power is used by the phone and on what governor. It basically changes how fast the phone operates. More power means a shorter battery life but improved performance.
The slider in the upper right corner should provide some more information about the state of your battery as well. We recommend experimenting with different governors as well. If your phone has a custom kernel installed, then there should be quite a few options for power management. If you are new to Kernels, our beginner’s guide to Android Kernels can help you get started.
Where the goods really come in, though, is in under the Profiles tab. Similar to Tasker, ROM Toolbox can automatically change the power plan when something happens. By far our favorite profile is automatic undervolting when the screen is off (and we’re not using the phone), something that really boosts battery.
The Kernel Tweaks menu is where things get drastically different from SetCPU. There are a whole lot of options that get into the gritty technical details of exactly how a kernel operates. If the phrases dirty ratio, VFS cache pressure, and sampling rate sound confusing, then stay well away from this menu.
For reference, a build.prop file is sort of like a master control center for some rather important functions. Here you can change all sorts of technical measures through very simple sliders. The LCD density is by far the most interesting option as it changes the appearance of everything within the Android system.
VM heap is a term referring to the Dalvik virtual machine. In non-programmer, reducing the VM heap might make your phone run a bit faster but cause large apps to crash. Use with caution.
The WiFi scan interval is a little simpler. Wireless connections are one of the biggest drains on a battery for any electronic device. Constantly sending and receiving wireless information really sucks up the power. So, to lower power consumption on your phone, try lowering the wifi scan interval.
Those are the easy adjustments, the ones that don’t really require as much technical expertise. In a different menu is a whole list of technical specifications controlled by build.prop and they can all be edited. Call ring time, phone model, and manufacturer data can be changed.
Auto Memory Manager
What makes ROM Toolbox very special is the Auto Memory Manager. It’s basically the same thing as the Low Memory Killer in Super Manager and the V6 SuperCharger custom script and is easily one of our all-time favorite Android hacks.
The Android system operates by allocating a set amount of memory to the last six tasks that ran. When the memory starts to run out, the system starts killing the oldest tasks to free up memory. In Android, all free memory is committed to speeding up the phone’s general ease of use.
What that means is that by moving the sliders to the right, you can decrease the amount of apps that run. It means you can run fewer apps, but those apps run dramatically faster. We highly recommend this hack, it provides an incredible boost to any phone.
When adjusting values, be sure to “make a pyramid.” The first slider should be smallest, the next one slightly larger, then next one larger than that, and so on. Failing to do so will result in lots of force closes.
ROM Toolbox has a good font installing system somewhat crippled by the lack of previews. In order to see what a font looks like, you have to download a rather large batch of preview images. We can’t help but think that this could have been handled better.
If you wish to have a app just for this purpose, the previously mentioned Font Changer works nicely. A good feature of this app is that you can easily preview the font before applying it. On the other hand, ROM Toolbox has a huge choice of fonts available to change. This, with the ability to easily change the font through the app, makes up for the lack of previews.
The Ad Blocker is an unexpected but welcome feature. Using a simple GUI, it offers the option for blocking advertisements, pornography, gambling, and risky websites. If the blocker lets something slip through that you notice, it also accepts custom URLs for its blacklist.
The Custom IP feature spoofs advertisers and automated web tracker tools to prevent you from being tracked as easily. Those concerned about privacy should definitely give this a look.
Also included is the Auto Start Manager, which lists everything that runs when the phone boots. If nothing else, it’s certainly educational. We had no idea that so many apps ran in the background when our phone turned on. You can try to disable these, but don’t be surprised if it causes errors.
SD Boost aims to increase the speed of reading and writing files from the SD card. Be careful with this feature, as we have dealt with corrupted SD cards before.
And finally, Rebooter. Users not on a custom ROM will appreciate an option for quickly rebooting into recovery or the bootloader.
ROM Toolbox is, generally speaking, a highly useful app which can replace multiple apps on your phone. There are quite a few tools in the toolbox. Something in there is bound to help you with rooting and maintaining a custom Android build. We found it very helpful.
If nothing else, download it for the Auto Memory Manager. That’s one of the absolute best hacks on Android and should not be missed.