Update News

News about new product launches and new versions of products

Android’s browser chooser: it’s time for something better

We all love Android’s approach to when you have multiple apps to do the same job: it gives you a chooser to select which one you want. But Android’s chooser can be a bit annoying sometimes, especially with web links (URLs).

Sometimes you click a link that goes to bit.ly, and you choose to open a web browser, but the browser finds that the link really goes to YouTube, and you have to choose again. By the time it’s loaded a browser and shown you some options twice, it’s 10 or 15 seconds before you’re watching that cat video, when the phone could have worked that out for itself in half a second.

Sometimes you want to open a link with one app “Always”… but is it really always? Maybe it’s just “almost always”, and you want to change your mind later, but it takes ages to go through the settings and click “Reset defaults”, just for this one occasion.

Have you ever tried opening a YouTube video when you need to sign into the Wi-Fi? The app goes crazy, because it tries to access the video and gets a sign-in page it can’t deal with, and worse yet, it doesn’t tell you that’s what’s wrong.

And worse yet if you have two browsers installed! I have Firefox and Chrome. I almost always use Firefox, but some sites don’t work in Firefox, so there are some sites I always open in Chrome. But Android’s chooser can’t understand that, so it makes me pick by hand every time.

Let’s not forget the biggest annoyance of all: whenever you install or remove an app, Android forgets the defaults you set up. To Android, “Always” means “well, for now, but ask me again after I change apps”.

Well, we think it’s time for something better. Here’s a manifesto for a better chooser:-

  • It should unshorten short-URLs (such as bit.ly, goo.gl, t.co, fb.me) so they automatically open in the right app. But this might take extra battery and data use, so it should be optional.
  • It should let you “Open with…“, and make it easy to change your mind after you click “Always”.
  • It should detect when there’s a problem (such as a captive Wi-Fi network or a broken link), so you can decide what to do about it.
  • It should understand the rules you use to choose a browser, so it can make the same choice without bothering you.
  • When you’ve told it what you want, it should keep doing that until you tell it not to, instead of second-guessing you.

At Shadowburst, we believe in converting thought to action, so we took this manifesto and did something about it. We created bURLy, a chooser that’s strong enough to deal with those unruly links:-

  • It investigates link that apps open, to find out where they really go, and it’ll do this automatically or on-demand.
  • It has a unique manual override button. You can use this to override rules with more specific ones, or just to do something special with a particular link.
  • It can show you the rules you’ve created, so it’s easy to rearrange them, temporarily disable them, or delete them completely.
  • It detects network errors, link problems (such as 404 errors), and captive Wi-Fi networks, and warns you in terms you can understand.
  • It gives you a simple way to create rules to help choose what app to open each time. Rules can be based on specific web pages, domains, or MIME types, and there are more rules to come in future releases.
  • And it remembers those rules for as long as you want. Once you’ve made a rule, it won’t ask you again about that case until you decide.

More than that, it also gives you new ways to use web links. It can open URLs from the clipboard or NFC tags, even in apps that don’t support NFC. It can block sites completely. It can download files directly into the Downloads app, without opening a browser (and of course you can do that with a rule too). And best of all, it can let apps that don’t normally show up for links handle file types they support. For example, you can open links to image files directly in the Gallery app.

Oh, and there’s one more thing: it’s a free download from Google Play.

Get it on Google Play

Showr 2.4 doesn’t mind when other apps don’t play nice

Showr can work with lots of other pieces of software. When you create a widget, you can use other apps on your device to get the image to show. Since Showr 2.3, you can also get images from Tumblr, using the Jumblr client library supplied by Tumblr. Unfortunately, working together with other apps can sometimes cause problems, which Showr 2.4 resolves.

Showr 2.4 also adds a new click action that several users have asked for, and support for non-touchscreen devices.

Showr 2.3 supports Tumblr

The update to Showr 2.3 will be coming to your device in the next few days. This update adds support for Tumblr, as well as some improvements to reliability and visual improvements to the Stack Exchange wizard.

Owner Photo Widget now supports Android 4.3

Owner Photo Widget 1.2 is now going out on Google Play. This update adds support for devices running the new 4.3 Jelly Bean version of Android. It also adds higher-resolution images, to keep things looking sharp and smooth on high-resolution screens such as the Nexus 10. There are no functionality changes: Owner Photo Widget continues to be the one-click solution it has always been.

Owner Photo Widget is the first Shadowburst app to be updated because it’s the simplest. You can expect Android 4.3 compatibility updates to follow soon for our other apps.

Your images, your schedule: Showr 2.0

Showr 2.0 gives you more control than ever of when Smart Updating checks for updates to your images. Pro users get access to a new “custom” update interval, featuring Shadowburst’s new dial control. Dial the updates up to every minute to make sure your images never go stale, or dial down to save battery and data use. Update intervals as long as 30 days are at your fingertips.

This widget is set to update every 4 days, 3 hours, and 30 minutes.

This widget is set to update every 4 days, 3 hours, and 30 minutes.

Of course, checking for updates every minute could be an unnecessary drain while you’re not using your phone or tablet. A new option lets you save those updates for when you really need them, by stopping updates when the screen is turned off. Regardless of what you choose, Showr won’t wake your device from sleep mode: to save power, it only updates images when the device has to wake to let another app run.

Keep updating while screen is off

Showr 2.0 also adds a new channel to the existing feedback mechanism to help us find out what new features to add and how to make it easier to use and more efficient for you. As well as making it easy for you to send a message to Shadowburst at any time, Showr now analyses how users use it: which parts of the app, and which kinds of Showr widget are most popular. This doesn’t include any data that could be used to identify you or the websites you use. Our new privacy policy spells out how Showr protects your privacy.

Showr 2.0 also fixes a problem seen by two users with widgets that had never been updated, because of a typo in the URL. Depending on which Showr screens had already been shown, clicking on such a widget could have caused a “Showr has stopped working” message or force close. This didn’t have any other effect on Showr’s functionality: other widgets would continue to update as normal. In Showr 2.0, clicking on a widget that has never been updated will show its Source settings page, so that you can see what’s wrong.

Showr 2.0 is already on Google Play, and existing users will get the update within the next day or two.

Showr 1.5

Showr 1.4 introduced behind-the-scenes improvements, to make the Pro settings work more efficiently and look “buttery smooth”. Unfortunately, these improvements also resulted in a compatibility problem for devices running versions of Android earlier than 4.1. This would result in Showr exiting unexpectedly from the widget settings screen , for Pro users who had cleared the cache of Google Play Services or changed to a different Android version. An error in our internal validation tools meant that this problem wasn’t detected before the update was released.

In addition, users on phones (but not tablets) may have seen similar unreliability when trying to set up the new “Launch an app” click action. This problem had the same underlying cause, so was also not detected, but could appear regardless of the Android version in use. In both cases, the problem only showed up while changing settings: widgets would continue to update in the usual way, and no data was lost.

Thanks to one user who reported the errors, we were able to fix them all, and improve our internal validation to avoid such problems in future. It really does help if you click Report on an error dialog. Doing so doesn’t share any of your personal data, nor the images or feeds you’re using. We’re sorry for any inconvenience caused by our mistake, and we resolve to do better in future. It’s important to us that you can depend on Showr no matter what.

Showr 1.4

This month’s update is a small one after all the big features of March and April, but it’s still packed with improvements to help you get the most out of your Android phone.

Create a Showr from the web browser

Showr 1.4 adds intent filters for links to RSS and Atom feeds and image files. When you click such a link in your web browser, the “Complete action using” dialog will show, with “Add image to Showr” or “Add feed to Showr” as an option. This will take you straight to the “Get image from Internet” wizard, with the address filled in.

Unfortunately, Android doesn’t allow an app to create a home screen widget this way, so the wizard saves an inactive Showr configuration. After finishing the wizard, drop a Showr widget on to your home screen or lock screen in the usual way, and choose “Activate inactive widget”. That activates the widget using the saved settings, so you don’t have to enter the address yourself.

Not all web browsers on Android can launch an app from a web link. For example, Chrome works perfectly, but Firefox doesn’t currently support this: it displays the raw code of the RSS file instead of letting you open Showr. The Firefox guys are working on this, so be patient with them.

Launch an app from a Showr

The When you click the widget setting gets a new option, to launch an app. A new setting on the same page lets you choose which app to launch. You can pick any app that shows up in the main list of apps.

For example, if you use a Showr to show the latest photos from a Flickr photostream, you might want a click on the photo to open a Flickr app you have installed, instead of browsing to the Flickr website. If you show a stock price chart, you might want to click on it to open a stock market app.

This new functionality also lets you use Showr as a way to create custom shortcuts for any app. Maybe the default icon for Chrome clashes with your wallpaper. No problem! Just draw or download a new icon, create a Showr of that icon, and set it to launch Chrome when clicked.

If you want to see other kinds of click action (such as opening a particular contact, or triggering a sync), email support at this domain to suggest it. We already have plans for more click actions to add, but your feedback sets our priorities.

Captive Wi-Fi detection

A captive Wi-Fi network (also called a captive portal or walled garden) is the kind you often find in hotels or pubs. When you visit any website, it redirects you to a page where you have to enter a code, accept some terms and conditions, or log in, before you can get real Internet access.

If this happens while Showr is trying to update images or feeds, the update will fail. There’s not a lot Showr can do to help, but it can give a useful error message. Showr 1.4 will detect when an update fails owing to a captive Wi-Fi, and report that as the update status when you look at the widget settings. This also allows the Smart Update system to better choose when to retry the download, reducing power consumption.

Of course, the same mechanism also detects other networks with no Internet access, such as a locked-down corporate Wi-Fi.

Helps you out more

It’s not always easy to get started with a new app. Much as we’d like to be there to help in person, there’s no way we can get to every user. So we did the next best thing, and made Showr offer to help. When you’ve been using Showr a little while, it’ll check with you to see how you’re getting along. If there’s anything wrong, it can put you in touch with Shadowburst support. And if everything’s going smoothly, don’t forget to give Showr a pat on the back by rating it on Google Play. Your review helps other Android users to find Showr, which helps us to develop the app further.

If you haven’t tried Showr yet, download it now, free from Google Play.

Get it on Google Play

Showr 1.3 brings RSS to your home screen

It seems like no time at all since the last update, but once again a new version of Showr brings the features that users have asked for, as well as being more sensitive to your phone’s needs and more responsive to you, the user. If you don’t already have Showr, download it now from Google Play.

RSS and Atom feeds

The biggest addition really expands what you can do with Showr. You can now use Showr to stay up to date with a webcomic, a Tumblelog on Tumblr, any photostream on Flickr, or a photo blog. Best of all, because Showr runs on your phone, not someone else’s “cloud”, nobody’s going to go all “Google Reader” and turn it off.

Now, when you create a Showr widget with a Get image from Internet source, instead of entering the address of an image, enter the address of an RSS or Atom feed. Showr will download the feed and display the first image it can find from the feed. This is the point where I’d normally put a screenshot of the new user interface, but there’s no new screen to shoot! Just enter the address the same way you do in previous versions, and how often you want to update, and Showr does the rest.

If you’re moving away from Google Reader but your new feed reader isn’t very good with images, Showr can complement it by putting your favourite webcomic right on your home screen where you can see it. Showr’s smart updating works with RSS and Atom feeds too. Even if you set it to update more often than the feed is updated, Showr will only download the feed if it has changed, and will only download an image if it has changed.

In more detail: if any item from the feed has an image enclosure, or an HTML summary or description that uses an <img> tag, Showr will download and display the most recent item’s linked image.

Showr will also set the widget’s “website” to the item’s link from the feed, so the Visit website option on the widget popup menu takes you straight to that photo or blog post. Don’t forget you can use the Widget settings page to tell Showr what to do When you click the widget, so you can set your comic to go full-screen with one click, or share an interesting image.

Kinder to your battery

Showr 1.3 is more sensitive to your phone’s needs. When your phone’s battery is running on fumes, the last thing you need is home screen widgets burning those last electrons, so Showr 1.3 stops updating when your battery is low. At other times, Showr 1.3 is more aware of your phone’s Internet connection, and can use this to schedule updates better to use less energy.

Meeting your expectations

We know that exciting features aren’t all there is to a product, so Showr 1.3 incorporates some of the latest User Experience research, so even in unusual situations it fulfils your expectations of how it should behave.

When you update a Showr manually (using the action mode in the widget list, or the Update Now item in a widget’s Source settings), Showr will update the widget right away, even if you’re connected to a network you don’t usually want Showr to use. If the update fails, Showr will try again at the next opportunity (e.g. when you next connect to Internet). Previously, Showr would not let you override the network settings in this way, and if a manual update failed, it would only retry at the next scheduled update time. This change makes it possible to use the manual update feature for control over when widgets update.

Showr 1.2 made it easier to enter image addresses using an NFC tag or QR code. Unfortunately, this change introduced a problem that could cause Showr to close unexpectedly after scanning a QR code. This problem was found with improved internal testing and is fixed in Showr 1.3.

Showr 1.3 declares itself in a User-Agent header when talking to web servers. This probably makes no difference to most users, and is provided for users who are using Showr with their own web or intranet site.

Paying the bills

The new RSS and Atom support in Showr 1.3 means you’ll all be filling your home screens with widgets. Showr 1.3 helps the users who get the most value of Showr to contribute to its development. When you try to create your fourth widget, Showr will first remind you about the benefits of upgrading to Showr Pro. Income from Showr Pro sales pays for the development of Showr, and if you already have three widgets, you’re using it enough that you should contribute.

If you already have four or more widgets from Showr 1.2 or earlier, they will keep working after the update. If you have inactive widgets restored from a backup, Showr gives you an extra two slots so that you can activate them. And if you’re already supporting Shadowburst as a Showr Pro user, you won’t see any difference from this change (unless you notice that the Image source menu is a little smoother than before).

Showr 1.2

The improvements in Showr 1.2 go beyond the boundaries of the app and even the phone, and focus on how Showr fits into your world. This update’s three headline features have been popular requests from users, so don’t forget to email your feedback to support at this domain. Even if you don’t know what feature you want, letting us know how you use Showr helps us to make it easier and faster for you.

Friendlier to your data plan

Showr 1.2 gives you more control of downloading over mobile networks. If you’re on a metered data plan, a new setting lets you stop Showr updating images on a mobile network. If you miss an update that way, Showr will update all the images it missed as soon as you connect to a Wi-Fi network.

Even if you’re on unlimited data, many mobile networks compress images you download. This helps them to save network bandwidth, but it makes JPEG images look bad when updated on a mobile network. By default, Showr 1.2 won’t update images if they might be compressed this way, to keep your home screen looking good. (That is, on mobile networks it will only download JPEG images if the server uses HTTPS.) Another new setting lets you control this feature.

ProMaybe you use a tablet with a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot, or you don’t want to update images when you connect to your office Wi-Fi network. Showr 1.2 Pro lets you customize your download settings for each network individually. You can tell it that a Wi-Fi network is really using 3G, or not to use certain Wi-Fi networks at all.

Google Backup

Showr 1.2 integrates with the built-in Android backup system. If you have backup turned on in your system settings, Showr will automatically backup all your widget settings and any photos you’ve taken. It uses the Google backup system or whatever backup transport your device manufacturer included, so your widget settings are just as secure as other data backed up from your device.

If Showr’s settings are restored but not the home screen’s settings, Showr can end up with widget settings that don’t correspond to a widget on the home screen. This might happen after reinstalling Showr, when starting on a new device, or if your home screen app doesn’t support backup. In this case, Showr 1.2 keeps those settings as inactive Showrs. You can activate an inactive Showr by adding a new widget in the usual way and then choosing Activate inactive widget from the list of sources. Alternatively, you can delete an inactive Showr by selecting it in the main Showr activity.

Easier to get started

screenshot of "Image source" menu

Now gallery and camera apps on your device can add themselves to this menu directly.

Showr 1.2 reduces wear on your fingers by letting you add a new Showr with fewer clicks. All the options for choosing an existing picture or taking a photo now appear in the first menu, along with their apps’ icons to help you go straight to the one you want.

Easier to manage widgets

The main Showr activity now uses an “action mode”. You can select several widgets and update them all at once with a single tap. The activity also tells you how many Showrs you have.


Showr’s new action mode helps you manage several Showr sources at once.

New optimizations in this activity also make it more responsive, and kinder to your battery.

When you’re changing the URL a Showr downloads from, the dialog now gives you the same options to scan a barcode or NFC tag that were already available when creating a new Showr.

Get in touch

Because we want to hear from you, we’ve made it even easier to get in touch. The main activity and the widget settings now have a menu option that starts composing an email to Shadowburst support. Now if you see anything odd, or want an option but can’t find it, you can let us know right away (before you forget).

More reliable

When creating a Stack Exchange flair widget, returning to the sites list from the users list no longer makes it forget your filter.

Updating an image will now succeed even if the web server reports the MIME type incorrectly or doesn’t report a type.

If you haven’t tried Showr yet, download it now free from Google Play.

Get it on Google Play

New image sources in Showr 1.1

Showr 1.1 went out today on Google Play. This new version adds new sources, including the first integration with a third-party service: Stack Exchange. If you get into trouble with your widgets, the new troubleshooting feature helps you get sorted again. And it’s easier to view and share downloaded images with the new widget popup menu.


Showr isn’t just for downloading images from the Internet. You’ve already seen that it can show an image from your Gallery (or another gallery app you have installed). Now Showr integrates with the built-in camera too. When you create a new Showr widget, tap the Take a photo option to do just that. Capture your little one’s new finger-painting to give you some inspiration later, or just use it as a sticky note on your home screen to save an important notice or signpost without cluttering up the Gallery. Just like any other Showr, from the widget you can view the photo full-screen or share it.

Stack Exchange

Stack Exchange is a family of question-and-answer forum sites. You may already know Stack Overflow for programming questions, or Arqade for questions about computer games, but there’s a Stack Exchange site for nearly every topic. Stack Exchange offers a thing called a ‘flair’, which is a little image showing your username on one of their sites, and your ‘reputation’ on that site. For instance, here’s mine from the site for Bicycles:

my flairIf you use a Stack Exchange site and you want to see your flair, it’s usually quite fiddly. First you have to log into your account and view your profile, then find the page about flair, then copy and paste the link into your address bar, or into Showr. With Showr 1.1, it’s simple. When you add a new Showr to your home screen, the Stack Exchange option takes you to a menu of Stack Exchange sites. When you’ve chosen the site you want, you can enter the name of any user on that site to create a Showr pointing to their flair. It automatically links to the user profile: if the reputation changes unexpectedly, it’s quick and easy to find out why.

New ways to work with widgets

Showr widgets already let you see the information and pictures you want, and with Showr 1.1 they’re more interactive, too. For newly created Showr widgets, the default action when you click on the Showr is to pop up a menu like this one.

This is the new popup menu in Showr 1.1.

The new popup menu in Showr 1.1

  • Settings opens the settings activity for that widget.
  • Visit website opens a browser window on the website you set for that widget in the settings. You can use a Showr as a custom website shortcut this way.
  • View opens a full-screen Gallery window on the current image, so you can see it full-size and zoom and pan it.
  • Share image shares the image just the same way as from the Gallery, Chrome, or any other app. Other apps you’ve installed, such as image editing tools, can show up on this menu too, if they register the right “intent” with the Android system. Now if something funny happens on your favourite webcam, you can share the image with your friends without having to race the next update.

The menu is the default click action for new Showr widgets, and you can add it to an existing Showr in the widget settings.

Showr 1.1 introduces the first setting exclusive to Pro users: you can control how the image fits into the widget’s space. The default option scales the widget to fit inside the space, keeping it the right aspect. If you prefer, you can still keep the right aspect but crop the long ends of the image, to fill up the available space. You could use this if you want to create a Windows Phone-like home screen of tiles.


The web isn’t always reliable on a mobile device. Just as you think you’ve connected, the Wifi cuts out. And then when you find a new connection, the server goes down! With all these possible problems, how can you trust that the information you’re seeing is up to date?"Updated successfully 2 minutes ago, 22:36."

Showr can’t fix the Internet, but it can make it more trustable. For a Showr that updates over the Internet (including the new Stack Exchange flairs), the settings activity now shows you when it last tried to update the widget, and the result. When an update fails, Showr tries to work out what went wrong, and it’ll tell you what you can do about it.

The same information that Showr keeps to help troubleshoot also helps it make smart updating even smarter, reducing network and battery use. The troubleshooting information is still experimental in this release: over the next releases, it’ll learn more about network transfers, how to use them efficiently, and how to fix problems.

If you don’t already have Showr on your Android smartphone or tablet, you can get these features and more by downloading it free from Google Play.