Android customization – Screen Filter, dim your display to see in the dark

August 28, 2014
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Android Customization Screen Filter display dimmer

Sometimes, the pleasures of Android customization require that we put to use small, single purpose apps to get the job done right. One such app is called Screen Filter, who’s single purpose is to dim your display well beyond the lowest brightness setting on your device.

As we go through our day, we often find ourselves with varying amounts of lighting to contend with, be it blaring direct sunlight or the dark of night. While I believe it is generally safe to rely on the default device options or creating your own profiles using apps like Lux or Tasker to adequately increase your display brightness, few devices, on the other hand, do a great job of handling low light situations.

When the only light in the room is the gentle glow of all of your power adapters, even the lowest brightness setting on most Android devices feels a little like staring at the Sun. Since this searing pain is not enough to stop us from using our devices, why don’t we take a look at how to use Screen Filter to tone things down a bit.

Before we get started

Get it on Google Play ButtonScreen Filter is a free app in the Google Play Store. If you like the app and wish to offer up a donation to the developer, in a unique approach, the developer asks that you instead make a donation to Wikipedia.

Great news, Screen Filter is also controllable as a Tasker plugin. This is just extra functionality which I will only briefly show off here today, but you’ll need to drop $2.99 on Tasker in the Google Play Store if you want to play along that part.

Using Screen Filter to dim your display

As mentioned, Screen Filter is made only to dim your display, which it does by placing a semi transparent black screen over top of your existing content. This is not a hardware related solution, and should not provide any battery saving benefits, but at least it let’s you use your device at night.

Warning: Screen Filter can be used to completely black out your display. Please be careful how you use it, as you may be required to pull the battery on your device to recover. On the bright side (no pun intended,) Screen Filter should be your first notification in your Notification bar, you may be able to blindly swipe and tap that to deactivate without having to restart the device.

Screen Filter can be used in three different ways. First, you can go into your apps and choose it from there. Second, and most common, you can set pre-configured widgets on your Homescreens. Last, my personal favorite, Screen Filter can be controlled and configured through Tasker. Let’s look at how to work these three options.

Activate Screen Filter from the app drawer

This is pretty simple, open your app drawer by tapping the “all apps” button usually located just above the Home button on your device. Scroll through to find the Screen Filter icon and tap to activate.

Screen Filter App toggle

Screen Filter will activate at a default value, somewhat out of your control, and remain there until you tap the app icon once again to turn it off. If you like this filter level, feel free to put a shortcut to the app on your Homescreen for easy access.

If the value is not good for you, you can pull down the Notification bar and tap the Screen Filter notification to enter the settings screen. Slide the scroll bar to the desired value and tap the system back button to save and exit.

Setup a Screen Filter widget

Likely the most common use of Screen Filter is through the Homescreen widget. This is very simple as well, drop the widget onto your Homescreen and you will be presented a settings page.

Screen Filter Widget

Slide the scroll bar until you reach an appropriate filter level.

Tap Save.

You can do this multiple times, setting different values for each widget.

To toggle Screen Filter off and on, simply tap the widget.

Setup Screen Filter in Tasker

Now for my favorite. If you are an avid Tasker user, I just need mention that Screen Filter is a Plugin for Tasker. If you are not an avid Tasker user, no worries, we’re just going to create an action within a Task that activates Screen Filter.

I will leave it to you to follow along previous tutorials to create a Profile in Tasker for this project and to create your Task within Tasker to get started. From there you’ll add a new action.

Screen Filter Tasker Task action

Choose Plugin.

Choose Screen Filter.

Tap the pencil next to Configure.

Slide the scroll bar to the desired value.

Tap Save.

Tap the system back button to save and exit.

What’s next

Let’s quickly talk about the Screen Filter notification that pops up when the app is activate. When you start Screen Filter from the app drawer, tapping the notification will both deactivate the display dimming and take you to the settings screen. When you activate Screen Filter from a widget or through Tasker, tapping the notification will only deactivate the filter.

Did someone say Tasker? Why of course I did, and now you may be wondering how and when you might activate Screen Filter. Let me give you just two ideas:

First, Screen Filter is great at night, obviously. If you’ve been following along my Tasker tutorials in our Android customization series, you already know how to create a night time mode for your device. If your night mode appropriately coincides with lights out in your home, it would be a simple thing to add Screen Filter to your sleepy time Task in Tasker, thus dimming your display along with muting the ringer and more.

Second thought, perhaps you looked into using Tasker with Trigger when I covered it a few weeks back. If you’ve got a spare NFC tag kicking around, why not program it to fire up Screen Filter? A sticker style NFC tag placed close to the bed makes it super simple to quickly tap to dim your display.

Prevent device reboots: I warned you above that Screen Filter can be set to a value that completely blacks out your display, often requiring a reboot to recover. I pose to you that an NFC tag made to toggle on and off Screen Filter would serve as a backup recovery plan in the event of a blackout.

Screen Filter Enabled 13percent

Next Week

Starting next week on our Android customization series we will begin to look at some battery saving tools, tips and tricks. If you are so inclined, you may want to start tracking your battery life, so you have a baseline to compare to after we make some tweaks. We don’t want to go too crazy here, maybe just snap a screenshot of your Battery stats at the end of each day and we can compare them later.

Respecting that apps like Lux offer a full featured display brightness solution with some awesome configurations and color filters, how do you feel Screen Filter stacks up for your needs?

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