Roll-Your-Own Gestures

Not for the faint-hearted!

This is a brief overview of how you can add your own gestures to the Contact Lookup applications.

It assumes that you have some technical capability and are ‘savvy’ enough to read between the lines, as this isn’t a tutorial. I’m happy to answer questions, but most of what I will document here is ‘not my stuff’, it’s just a guide to helping you roll-your-own. Please bear that in mind 🙂

Firstly, make sure that you have the latest versions of Contact Lookup (v2.04+). All Contact Lookup applications support rolling-your-own from this version onwards.

Tools you will need
To build your own gestures, you need to use the free application ‘Gesture Tool’ by davemac, This extends Google’s sample Gesture Builder application and allows you to test your gestures too!

To move files around you can either connect your device to your PC as a disk-drive and use the PC’s file utilities, or you can use the free ‘File Manager’ by the Adao Team.

Gestures file

At this point you can either start from scratch, or you can extend the built-in gestures from Contact Lookup.

If you want to extend built in gestures, then you need to copy the built in ‘gestures’ file to your SD card. The ‘gestures’ file can be downloaded from here. You need to copy this to the root of your SD card. Specifically “/mnt/sdcard/gestures”. You can do this in numerous ways, but mounting your SD card is probably the easiest when compared to the convoluted process of emailing+downloading on the device itself.

Note, if you’ve mounted the SD card to your PC, then “/mnt/sdcard/” is the root of the SD card, i.e. “/” in Unix/Mac or “\” in windows.

Creating gestures

If you’ve copied the gestures file to the correct place, then when you start Gesture Tool it should load the gestures. If you don’t see these, then something is wrong (unless you’re starting from scratch).

Play around with the tool, it’s fairly straightforward. You can long-click existing gestures to delete or rename them.

The advantage of this tool is that you can test your gestures. DO IT! DO IT AGAIN AND AGAIN!! It’s surprising what gestures you think will be easily recognised are confused with something else. If it’s not recognising your gesture every time, then change it, otherwise it will just annoy you when you try to use the gesture with Contact Lookup and it gets it wrong.

What gestures should your create?

As can be seen from the gestures post, Contact Lookup uses the numbers 1-9 and a-z as inputs. These are the minimum gestures you need, otherwise how else are you going to lookup names 😉

However, it doesn’t have to be single characters. You could, for example, create a heart gesture and associate this with your partner’s full name. You could draw two-fingers and associate this with your organisation’s name. Whatever gesture you draw, the accompanying text is appended to the current contents of the Contact Lookup input field.

You can have multiple gestures for the same character, so you can create an ‘a’ and ‘A’ equivalent or even two versions of ‘a’. I’m not too sure of the performance implications of creating multiple gestures, but you can probably assume that the more you create the longer it will take to recognise the gesture.

One caveat is that there are three command gestures; SPACE, DELETE and CLEAR. You can change these gestures, but the associated name must remain exactly the same if you want them to function as Clear, Delete and Space.

Gestures complete, what next?

You now need to copy the gestures file to “/mnt/sdcard/data/contactlookupgestures” (“/data/contactlookupgestures” or “\data\contactlookupgestures” from a PC mounted drive) . This is the file that Contact Lookup will attempt to read to find it’s gestures. All variants of Contact Lookup will use this file first.

That’s it – job done! Start Contact Lookup and it should begin to recognise your newly rolled gestures.


Feel free to comment below if you’ve some useful suggestions.

Technical questions can be emailed to ‘gestures at’.

Happy Gesturing.


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