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Customize your iPhone: SummerBoard

Update: SummerBoard 2.1+ makes much of this tutorial inaccurate, but the theme instructions still work. I’ll be writing an updated tutorial shortly to reflect the changes and additions.

Note: Before following this tutorial, make sure you have everything you need »

The first tutorial in this series covered using DockSwap to change your iPhone’s Dock background, specifically replacing it with one that matches the Dock on the iPod Touch:

customized iPhone Dock

This was fine and dandy until yesterday, when a new version of SummerBoard (an app which allows customization of the iPhone’s SpringBoard, or home screen) was released. This new version supports themes and various other settings, but most importantly it appears to prevent DockSwap from doing its job. Thankfully, we can now take advantage of SummerBoard’s new theme support to set a custom Dock background, home screen wallpaper, or both.

Summer lovin’

First thing’s first: fire up Installer.app on your iPhone and install SummerBoard (the current version as of this writing is 2.0). If you already have DockSwap installed, there’s no reason to uninstall it; it just doesn’t affect any change when you use it. However, if you’d like to save some space, you can go ahead and remove it.

SummerBoard 2.0 offers the following home screen (aka SpringBoard) customization goodness:

In addition to those main features, there are extra settings which give you additional control over your home screen:

SummerBoard preferences

There isn’t much need to describe in detail what each of these settings does, plus it’s much more fun if you just play around with them and see for yourself.

Simple themes

SummerBoard 2.0 includes four themes by default:

Each theme is comprised of three images (pixel dimensions follow each file name):

Creating your own custom theme is simply a matter of creating each of those images, placing them in a folder and then copying that folder to the proper location on your iPhone.

Adding a custom theme

There’s really no end to the number of custom themes you can create using an image editor and some free time, so I’ll leave that process to you (after all, this isn’t an image editing tutorial). We will, however, walk through the simple process of transferring a custom theme to your iPhone.

First, we need a custom theme—for this example, I’ve created a theme based on the iPod Touch home screen, complete with plain black wallpaper (in case don’t want your “lock screen” image showing up behind your icons). For those of you who already followed my earlier tutorial on replacing your Dock background (see the Dock screenshot at the beginning of this tutorial), this will allow you to have the same look with SummerBoard 2.0 installed:

After decompressing the archive, you will have a folder named “Touch” that contains the required image files.

Next, connect to your iPhone via SFTP (read the instructions if needed), and navigate into Library/SummerBoard/Themes (the full path is /private/var/root/Library/SummerBoard/Themes), where you’ll see the directories of the four pre-installed themes mentioned earlier. Once there, upload the entire “Touch” folder (its path should be /private/var/root/Library/SummerBoard/Themes/Touch).

Now return to your iPhone’s home screen (press the “Home” button) and launch SMBPrefs, then press “Theme” and select “Touch” (the theme we just uploaded). Press the “Home” button once more to return to your home screen and see the new theme in place, looking something like this:

iPhone with SummerBoard Touch theme

Share your customizations

If you feel inspired and create a cool theme, upload an archive to your site or other file repository and link to it in the comments of this entry. At some point in the near future, iPhone customization sites will begin to support themes, but until then it’ll be fun to pass them around.

Even if you prefer to not share your custom images, be a good sport and share any cool customizations with the entire class by posting screenshots of your customizations to Flickr and adding them to the iPhone Customization group.

This item was posted by Dan Rubin on Friday, September 14th, 2007.


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62 comments on “Customize your iPhone: SummerBoard”

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  1. Posted by James Lindsay on Friday, September 14th, 2007.

    Dan, you rock. I noticed that the Summerboard update broke DockSwap last night, but didn’t have time to look into what it would take to put the Touch dock back in there, and now I don’t have to. Thanks.

  2. Posted by Javier M on Saturday, September 15th, 2007.

    Thanks for the tutorials. Been playing around with themes and I love it. One thing I am having trouble with is changing the icons. Can you point me in the right direction?

    BTW… the latest Summerboard update (2.1) fixes the DockSwap problem. It now lets you toggle whether to use the theme dock or not.

  3. Posted by Dan Rubin on Saturday, September 15th, 2007.

    @Javier M: I’m planning to cover changing icons soon, though SummerBoard 2.1’s ability to include icons in themes may negate the need for a separate tutorial.

    I noticed that SB 2.1 fixed that problem, and I’ll be updating the text of this post to reflect that, plus a few other changes in 2.1.

  4. Posted by Javier M on Saturday, September 15th, 2007.

    Thanks, DR. In the meantime I did manage to figure out how to change the icons. Looking forward to figuring out how to do it as part of a theme.

  5. Posted by Craziplaya21 on Sunday, September 16th, 2007.

    This is a great app. I was wondering if there was a way to change the charging status pic plus background that appears on the unlock screen when youre charging the phone.

  6. Posted by giovanni Fracasso on Sunday, September 16th, 2007.

    if i try to update from 2.0 to 2.11:
    “Error during install script execution”

    if i try to unistall…the same…how can i solve it?

    a manual update?

    please help me…

  7. Posted by Lucas on Sunday, September 16th, 2007.

    Any idea how to change the position of the labels under the dock icons to make it look like the iPod Touch?

  8. Posted by Dan Rubin on Monday, September 17th, 2007.

    Craziplaya21: I’m not certain about changing the wallpaper of the charging screen, but I believe that you can change the charging status icon using iFuntastic. I haven’t tried that app however, so use at your own risk (and make sure you get the latest version if you decide to try it).

    Giovanni: I haven’t run into that problem myself, but as it’s unsupported beta software, you can’t even contact Nullriver Software about that. I recommend checking one of the many iPhone modification forums that are popping up, and search for any similar reports/solutions.

    Lucas: That’s something I’d like to do myself, but haven’t been able to figure out how to modify that yet. I expect, however, that the SummerBoard developers will figure that out soon, since they already allow hiding those text labels.

    I suppose if you *really* want them in the same position as the iPod Touch, you could hide the default labels using SummerBoard, and then add them onto the dock background image using an image editor, in the new position, and then upload that background image in place of the default.

  9. Posted by Anggun Syaputra on Monday, September 17th, 2007.

    hello all,

    Dan Rubin; well done & nice tutorial! very cool…

    Javier M: I’ve been playing around with themes too.. and trying to get the icons to work, i could get it to work at first.. turn out you have to rename the icons folder with “Icons”, with capital “I” after that it works like a charm.. thanks again for all nullriver guys to make this happened.

    giovanni Fracasso; for “Error during install script execution” the same thing happened to me a while ago.. turn out somehing messed up with file permissions.. because of my iPhone is jailed.. after that i fixed with unjailed my iphone and keep it unjailed.. you can jailbreak it using indepence or re install the apptapp installer..

    hope it helps,..
    happy customizing : )

  10. Posted by Justin on Tuesday, September 18th, 2007.


    First off, your tutorials were great. My iPhone is running summerboard, NES, and installer.app with no problems. The only issue Im having is that since Ive installed all these, my phone no longer automatically shuts down the screen as it did before installing. The screen will now just stay on permanently at full brightness without ever going to sleep. This is a major worry for my battery life. I can turn it off manually with the screen-sleep button but it would be nice if I didnt have to. Any Ideas?

  11. Posted by David Kypuros on Tuesday, September 18th, 2007.

    I’m a little nervous about jail brake’ing my iphone, but I want to move images over. I’m wondering if anyone has tested [http://code.google.com/p/independence] on iTunes 7.42, iPhone firmware 1.02, Mac OS 10.4. There seems to be several jailbreak tools. How do I know which one works? ideas?

  12. Posted by Lucas on Tuesday, September 18th, 2007.

    Justin: Go to Settings->General->Auto-Lock to set the duration you want the screen to go back to sleep. I have mine set to 1 Minute.

  13. Posted by Justin on Wednesday, September 19th, 2007.

    Lucas: Thanks. That was the obvious fix, I guess I forgot to turn it off after finishing with Transmit. Cheers and thanks to everyone, my Iphone is now the sickest on the block.

  14. Posted by Mike on Saturday, September 22nd, 2007.

    I’m trying to get to the point that I can change the themes on my iphone, but I’m having trouble. I’ve installed the Installer.app, but can’t find OpenSSH. I found OpenLLDP, but I don’t know if it does the same thing. I can’t connect to my iPhone via SFTP, so I’m assuming it’s because I’m missing OpenSSH. Did I do something wrong, or have the instructions I’m following changed?

  15. Posted by kaycee on Monday, September 24th, 2007.

    I’m very new to the iphone and need a tutorial (in layman’s terms) on how to either create themes, find themes, or upload a .ipb file to my phone. I have ibrickr installed, I’m using Windows XP, I have iswitcher and springboard installed…Please Help.

    Thank you

  16. Posted by Jeff Gossett on Monday, September 24th, 2007.


    You have to download Community Services and all of the other apps will be downloaded for you to install and OpenSSH is one of them

  17. Posted by Mike on Tuesday, September 25th, 2007.

    Okay, done that. I didn’t realize I needed the Community Services installed based on the instructions. I still can’t connect to the iphone via SFTP, but I think I’ve found a workaround by using ibrick to upload the theme files. So far, so good. It’s nice to see new themes being made available almost daily. Now, if I could only find a better weather icon. :-)

  18. Posted by dylon on Wednesday, September 26th, 2007.

    im running summerboard and all that good stuff and can switch themes at will all fine and good, but do i have to create my own theme in order to have a specific wallpaper and icon combo or is there a way to use the icons from theme and the wall paper from another?

  19. Posted by Dan Rubin on Friday, September 28th, 2007.

    @David: AppTapp (aka Installer.app) is your best bet, since it jailbreaks the iPhone and allows you to install 3rd party apps. Of course, this won’t work with the new 1.1.1 firmware, so make sure you don’t update your iPhone (and don’t update it after jailbreaking, either).

    @Mike/Jeff: Sorry about leaving that important step out of the original instructions (I’ve since updated them).

    @Dylon: I’ll be covering theme creation soon, but it’s really easy to figure out. If you already have SSH working, connect to your iPhone and just download one of the Summerboard theme directories to your computer. All the files are PNGs, you just have to make sure they are the correct size and name. To create a new theme, just make a directory with the name you want to give your theme, and drop in your new files (with the proper names, of course).

  20. Posted by Mike on Friday, September 28th, 2007.


    Thanks for the follow-up. I went ahead and updated my iPhone to the 1.1.1 firmware and have lost the ability to use Summer Board, but I didn’t have any other issues with the upgrade. Part of me would rather have the use of Summer Board, but I took the chance that there will be another workaround that will allow it to work with the newest firmware update. If not, it will be a pretty big disappointment, but that’s how it goes. Thanks again!

  21. Posted by HubmaN on Sunday, September 30th, 2007.

    Well, it certainly IS Christmas whenever I open Installer.app on my iPhone!

  22. Posted by Sy Naka on Wednesday, October 10th, 2007.

    You’re an inspiration. Thanks for the handy resources and tips. This has led me to start on a very clean minimalist theme:



  23. Posted by monmich on Monday, October 15th, 2007.

    After trying both a manual and from the ipod touch installs, my dock keeps going to the top of the screen and blocking the top row of icons…

    What gives? Is it the .plist permissions perhaps? Investigating.

  24. Posted by Steve on Friday, October 19th, 2007.

    I have the 1.0.2 firmware and my phone has been working great for the last month, last night i tried to put the summerboard 1.1.1 on my phone thinking it was compatible. Now my springboard wont load and i cant even use the phone..any suggestions?

  25. Posted by arran on Sunday, October 21st, 2007.

    Hi,can the summerboard scrolling work with firmware 1.0.2?

  26. Posted by Shaze on Wednesday, October 24th, 2007.

    Hi guys need some support here. Last night i deleted my springboard software now I cant see any of my new softwares i installed an i cant move my icons. Even i cant c my installer software. pls suggest how to reinstall springboard

  27. Posted by Wes on Tuesday, November 6th, 2007.

    I have several themes that I have uninstalled and I can’t make them leave summerboard. How do I go about cleaning them up? I am running Windows Vista.

  28. Posted by VeeshNeedsHELP on Wednesday, November 7th, 2007.

    Please help I have downloaded Installer, and the Customize apps. And a bunch of other apps on my 1.1.1 New Iphone.
    Then in Customize, i was rearranging the icons for the app screen and i believe that the Installer and the Customize App icons got bumped into the “Hidden” section below, on the screen where you customize the app icons.

    How do i access my Customize Application (App) if the icon is hidden, so i can rearrange the icons again.

    Please HELP!! :(

  29. Posted by AndyNeedsHelp on Friday, November 9th, 2007.

    Veesh: I have had the same problem & need the same help. Can anyone let me know what to do short of a full restore & start everything again…. Trying to avoid this if possible

    I was in customize & hit “restore to backup” & now my entire screen is blank. All content seems to be there as I can access my ipod library by double clicking the bottom button but I can’t access customize or installer to change anything in the phone.

    Can anyone help?

  30. Posted by M.Berkel on Monday, November 12th, 2007.

    Special problem: For a certain reason I deleted SUMMERBOARD (old) and now i cnnot scroll anymore which leads to the unconvenient fact that i cannot reach neither the Installer nor some other Icons. Without the Installer i am not able to reinstall SUMMERBOARD. It is a vicious circle !!!
    Please help! I need Summerboard (old) to downlaod directly from a website via my safari on the iphone or another solution if available.

  31. Posted by Fidias on Monday, November 12th, 2007.

    I have the same problem , my screen is blank after changing from springboard to summerboard , and i cant do anyithing. the only thing i can see is ” ipod , the time and battery” please help me !!!

  32. Posted by Tom on Friday, November 16th, 2007.

    Just curious if anyone has had problems with summberboard crashing their 1.1.2 phone. I was running it and a few select apps in 1.1.1 when I foolishly installed dock which ended up forcing me to restore my phone to 1.1.2. I finally got that jailbroken and reinstalled all of my apps only to have my phone crash constantly. Through the process of elimination and multiple restore/jailbreaks I’ve narrowed it down to either summerboard causing the crash (the only third party app I have installed on this fresh jailbreak) or a problem with the 1.1.2 jailbreak itself. Anyone know if summberboard is stable in 1.1.2? Thanks in advance for the info!

  33. Posted by benny on Tuesday, November 20th, 2007.

    tom: i’ve only been using summerboard for an hour but it seems stable to me on my 1.1.2 iphone, EXCEPT, and here’s my question for you: my wallpaper (chosen in settings) isn’t showing up on my “slide to unlock” screen like it should. my slide to unlock screen is just black (can still see battery and stuff just no wallpaper), although i CAN see the wallpaper i chose in settings in springboard (as long as theme wallpaper is turned off). i want my slide to unlock screen to have wallpaper also! any ideas? or anyone else had this glitch/bug?

  34. Posted by benny on Tuesday, November 20th, 2007.

    nevermind i answered my own question. i was charging the phone at the time, so i saw the battery with black screen instead of the normal unlock screen. duh.

  35. Posted by KayZee on Thursday, November 22nd, 2007.

    I found your web page pretty helpful. I am using ver 1.0.2 of the iphone unlocked out of US. I have installed the installer.app and started downloading softwares from various community services. However, could not download something like summerboard. Now what has happend that my home page has been restricted to 16 icon and it doesn’t scroll, and the installer icon has gone to the hidden icons. I am not able to download anything, including the summer board application. Is there any way I can download summer board directly from my PC (using Windows Vista Operating System) and that starts scrolling my homepage. I am stuck need your help. Thanks

  36. Posted by DiscoverCCENT on Thursday, November 22nd, 2007.

    Did you make any Summerboard themes Dan? I’m sure you’d do a good job with making one! Your blog design looks nice!

  37. Posted by i_d on Sunday, November 25th, 2007.

    Tom: I’m very much suspecting of summerboard on my 1.1.2 jailbroken iPhone. It’s quite crashy. I intend to uninstall it, and see if that helps.

  38. Posted by victor on Monday, November 26th, 2007.

    hi guys

    as u all know, the sms tone volume is terribly soft. while I know 1.1.1 or 1.1.2 allows the volume to be adjusted, 1.0.2 does not! Is there any way I can have the sms tone volume adjusted in 1.0.2? Cheers

  39. Posted by isiah on Wednesday, November 28th, 2007.

    i have the new summerboard and i can not put any themes on it i do not know why. pls help me

  40. Posted by Frank Lowney on Monday, December 10th, 2007.

    Summerboard is great but I found myself wanting to arrange the icons to suite my fancy but could not. Is this simply a matter of the order in which things were installed or is it more subtle than that?

  41. Posted by jojo80s on Tuesday, December 11th, 2007.

    i had the same problem with customize and iPhone 1.1.2, after using customize it crashed the iPhone, and now i cant see any icon in the springboard or in the dock, i can receive calls, but i cant make any or do anything else, is there a fix to it without running the whole jailbreak thing all over again?

  42. Posted by Gregg on Wednesday, December 12th, 2007.

    I have the summerboard downloaded on my phone and when I download a customization how do I view or use it?

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