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Activator: a free and extremely powerful jailbreak app launcher for iPhone [Jailbreak Apps]

The power of Ryan Petrich’s Activator (free on Cydia) dawned on me only this weekend. Activator is used in the excellent Overboard and ProSwitcher apps to launch them with gestures, status bar taps, and hardware button presses. I had heard that these options should soon be applicable to BigBoss’s SBSettings panel, but that hasn’t happened yet.

What has happened, though, is even better: you can now choose to launch any of your installed applications using any of the gestures and actions that Activator supports. There are also a number of system shortcuts (respring, reset, turn off, lock, etc.) that you can control as well. You can set these actions to perform any time you use a gesture or command, or you can set them only to occur on the Springboard, or while within an application.
There are lots of ways to customize Activator to launch apps or system actions:
Home Button, Sleep Button, Status Bar – double tap, short hold
Motion – shake and bake 🙂
Slide in Gesture (from the bottom of the screen) – bottom-left, bottom, bottom-right
Volume Buttons – display tap, down and then up, up and then down

The system actions available within Activator are:
Home button press
Power down
Safe Mode
Sleep Button

It’s easy to get a little too Gung-ho with Activator when you first realize how powerful it is. I had set up all three Slide in Gestures at first, but I found myself accidentally activating things when all I meant to do was simply type on the iPhone keyboard. My favourite launching gestures are still the slide-in, home button hold, and volume button display tap. The first two are pretty self explanatory, but the display tap can sound a little confusing at first. It involves pressing either of the volume buttons and then tapping on the volume pop-up on screen. My favourite jailbreak SMS app, iRealQuickSMS, used this same function to launch, and I’m now using display tap to activate my  Contacts app.

The rest of my controls are pretty simple: a short hold of the home button to activate Overboard, a swipe from the bottom to activate ProSwitcher, and a swipe on the bottom-right to activate Simplenote. How about you folks? How have you tricked out your Activator settings?

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  • n00neimp0rtant

    I wish he'd put it "slide down from top."

    • @n00neimp0rtant: That gesture is there. It's just a hidden setting right now. BigBoss asked him to hide it for now because it was conflicting with SBSettings. You can manually edit the plist to unhide it.

      @Thomas: Ya this really is badass. Really makes you wonder why Apple isn't adding things like this themselves.

      • yukiseaside

        how to edit the plist?

    • Hack.

      it exists, but it's a hidden feature. I have no clue why he did that, though. If you know how to edit files in your iphone it's simple to enable.

  • TMAN

    I have not been able to get the Activator Slide In Gestures to work reliably with QuickDo enabled. It seemed to work fine before I updated to one of the latest Activator The sad part is, I only use QuickDo for the Lock Screen app shortcuts so I can't use this functionality if I want to use the Slide In Gestures.

    I have a combination of Kirikae, ProSwitcher, and QuickDo.
    Here is my task switching setup:
    -ProSwitcher – Task switching via Slide In Gesture
    -Kirikae – Favorites and task switching by double tapping Home Button
    -QuickDo – Lock Screen shortcuts

    • I don't have QuickDo installed anymore, but I remember settings that should help fix this. Try dragging the QuickDo bar to the top of the screen instead of the bottom, then there was another QuickDo setting to have it hide behind the status bar or something. That way it shouldn't interfere with either the slide in gestures or SBSettings.

  • Damnskippy

    Man, this installed with SBSettings I guess so I never even thought to look at it until I read this. I had been wanting something just like this and was actually going to go hunting for it soon. Now I don't have to mess with that and can skip straight to playing! Great post Thomas

    • cheers, damnskippy 😀

      as noted above – don't think it'll work with sbsettings by default. You'll still have to launch sbsettings with a swipe or tap on the status bar, but at least you've got other launching options for other apps now.


    The latest activator is garbage, conflicts with mquickdo and sbsetting. Whenever i try calling up a gesture for mquickdo, it would pop up sbsettings. The older version of activator worked well, the latest is garbage. I had to revert to the older version of Activator.

    • did you try sysrage's solution listed above? Might work. I stopped using QuickDo a little while back because it tended to get buggy all by itself after a little while. Patrick has a few posts about that, too.

      You're right, though, about the possible incompatibilities. However, that's the beauty of Apple's default setup : everything works perfectly in harmony. I think this is one of those things we have to accept about jailbreak: not every component we install will work nicely with all of our other shiny software hacks.

    • TMAN

      How do you downgrade Activator?

      • I don't believe you can unless you find a repository that specifically hosts an older version, and I don't know of any (though I haven't looked)

  • TMAN

    I actually tried the settings described above regarding QuickDo, in the past. I have even tried turning of everything in QuickDo with the exception of the Lock Screen Shortcuts since that is all I use. The latest Activator seems to be the problem at this point. How do you downgrade Activator? Is there another app that will add 5 shortcuts to the lock screen?

    • sorry – didn't get to this Q.

      I don't know of any other apps that function as launchers right on the lock screen either. Closest I've got is Intelliscreen or LockInfo, but they're not launchers.

  • hisstory2002

    is it me or is it that if ativator is running it dreans my battary in no time filt when it on i have to be charging every six hours and when i turn it off in sbsetting -> more -> Mobile Subtrate Addons my battary will last two days almost it that just happing to me

    PS phone will not last all day even with my morphie.

    • I haven’t had any battery problems as a result of having Activator. My battery still lasts all day long with wifi and edge. Could it be another add-on?

  • Jason

    any clues on a source for this app? cheers

    • It's in one of the default Cydia sources.

  • Jim

    Will it be adding the ability to launch the springboard, say with a double press of the home key?

    • You can do that with the current version. Just set the double-tap home button to imitate a single tap of the home butotn.

  • FrankRizzo

    Activator and over board will not work together since the new update to Activator. PLEASE FIX THIS ISSUE

  • acv2PR

    I just download it and my phone turn off and wont turn on… I downloaded from rock… can some one help me!!!!!!

    • Anno

      There was a problem recently with a few updates on Rock that removed essential files for boot. Something about a firmware update and a cmd file i think. Basically if you updated them and then restarted your phone it simple wouldn't get past the boot logo. This may be your problem, try restoring and re-jailbreaking… Pain in the butt, ik 🙂

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  • SnappyLover

    On 3GS, using an application call Snappy (very fast picture taking + use volume buttons for pic snap), set activator (for Lockscreen) *volume down / up* to do Snappy Picture, and set *volume up / down* to Snappy Video…. this lets me take a picture almost as fast as I can pull the iPhone out of my pocket!!! The volume buttons can be clicked while pulling your phone out, and Snappy is so fast its ready to go by the time I'm pointing the phone camera. I can now snap pictures faster then a regular camera now, videos too!!!

  • mag

    Too bad it doesnt work with the ipod touch though snappy…I hope to get an iPhone just for the camera haha.

  • James

    I just got this Activator but now there are apps running in background and I cannot figure how to disable them. Can someone help?

    • ziky

      You need Proswitcher James. Look for it in cydia. I use it all the time in conjunction with backgrouder

  • juan

    I did an update to bachgrounder and something call activator installed in my phone. Well the problem I been having with the activator is that is crashing the spring board and its geting anoyed. Can someone give me any hint please. Thanks an advanvced.

  • rocio

    hi! i have a problem and i hope u guys can help me, me sleep/wake button is broken, it doesnt respond, so i wonder if there is a app that replaces it by touching the screen or something. i dont know what to do my batery is always dead!!

    • JustMe

      use Quicklock from Cydia

  • Robert

    I honestly think this app is awesome. The backgrounder works for me If I need to bounce back & forward between FB, ESPN, or AIM I can keep up with the score and talk trash very quickly LOVE IT. Plus those options for ipod controls and next track very nice. 1 prob so far. I can't get my bluetooth headset to skip the next track (bc the 3g's bluetooth's sucks) and I can't get the headset options to work. Anybody got some ideas?

  • clueless in BC

    activator installed w SBSettings, which i loaded so that i could change root password and mobile user password for security reasons…

    not knowing what i was doing i started messing around w it and now when i go back to springboard i've lost 3 out of 4 system apps that were on the dock

    they were my primary apps so i would like to get them back (mail, safari, phone)

    i've tried resetting to default in activator, as well as uninstalling activator, but my apps are still missing . not only from dock in springboard, but missing from springboard all together.

    the only way i can find them is if i doulble click the home button (which according to my activator setting isn't assigned to anything… (that i could spot anyway) even after uninstalling activator through cydia

    any clues would be greatly appreciated

    are there instructions anywhere for cydia apps in general, i find i'm often diddling around for quite a while trying to figure them out


  • Milk3nji3

    doesn't anyone have this problem??

  • Ty

    sry about ressurecting and old topic but i was wondering if anyone new how to use activator to open a webclip? (you know, the internet bookmarks that you turn into icons on the springboard in safari)

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  • Hi, I was aondering if there´s a way to set up activator, to answer calls by pressing the home button, not sure if this has been answered above.

  • Nope – Activator can’t be set up to answer calls, sorry.

  • adam

    i have the idea of using the proximitry sensor (not including during phone calls) with the idea that when you put your phone inot your pocket, it automatically locks. and when you take it out, it unlocks. would love to make this but only 14 and not a clue how 🙂

    • cool idea, but I think that might require too much battery power to work, since the proximity sensor (or camera) would have to be active at all times. It might also activate during a particularly involved game of Angry Birds 😛

  • jun

    gesture mode doesn’t work in full screen game, except those physical button and shaking the device is working.
    is there any way to assign activator in full game that work by touching the screen ?

  • Can you make your own activator options? Like tilting the device to landscape will open SMS?

    What about adding sounds to play when you press both volume buttons? You could combine that with take a picture?

    Shoot me an email: nicholas.l.aranda@gmail.com
    or a tweet: @NicholasLAranda

    • Nope, sorry. It’s @rpetrich who develops new features.

  • Kelly

    Is activator still available through the app store? I can’t find it on my Iphone 3G

  • @Kelly

    Activator was never available through the App Store. It’s a mobile-substrate extension which requires your iPhone to be jailbroken. If that sounds complicated, know that all you need to do is check for a free guide on iClarified.com to jailbreak your iphone 3G, follow it to the letter, and then use the resulting Cydia app on your iPhone to search for “Activator”.

    Note that jailbreaks are reversible by simply using iTunes to “restore” your iPhone. They don’t kill your warranty and are legal, but you’ll want to restore your iPhone before bringing it back to the Apple Store. However, since you’re on a 3G, I’m guessing your warranty has long since expired so that’s not really an issue.

  • offelia

    How can I set up Activator to have another button or gesture perform the same as the Home Button? I can’t find that choice. My Home Button on my crappy old 3G hardly works at all… very annoying.

  • @Offelia
    Head into settings -> Activator -> Anywhere and choose a gesture like “slide in from screen bottom”. Then scroll down to the System Actions section of actions and you should see an option to have that gesture mimic a “Home Button Press”.

  • Edwin

    I have an underwater case for my iphone that does NOT have access to the volume or sleep buttons, ONLY the home button. Right now I have the home button set up on a short hold to open and close camera, but I would love to have the single press option to take a picture underwater, because underwater the touch screen does not work. Sorry for buying a stupid case… ha ha

    any way to modify the plist to do this? @rpetrich are you able to add this feature? I know that this might be dangerous for people….if they forget to mark the home button for the close camera acton as well…. ha ha maybe a failsafe could be added? one option only, with two functions?

    camera option: when app is open, single press to take picture, short hold to close camera app

    or if I could edit the plist to do this myself?

    please shoot me a mail if you have an answer to this problem.



  • Michael C. Herrera

    Is it just me, or does Activator break the ability to double press the sleep button to ignore a phone call. I’ve looked everywhere I can think to look and I can’t find any other way to send a call directly to voicemail. I’m not looking for an iBlacklist type app to block calls from a certain number. I just want the ability to ignore various calls at random when it isn’t convenient for me to take the call or let it ring.

  • Teledible

    I have activator too but I have problem using the ‘Ipod Controls’ at lock screen. Regardless of my settings, it will not activate. However when someone calls me, it will suddenly ‘work'(only while the phone is ringing) if anyone have any clue of what’s going on pls help. I am on an iPhone 4 and I am using the smartscreen feature which override the usual apple double tap on home button to activate iPod control feature. Also I’m on 4.2.1

  • PixelRogue

    Anyone have issues with Activator and LockInfo?
    Once Activator is with LockInfo, phone will keep crashing.

  • im using Activator and it works fine on ios 4.3.1 but now i have a little icon with a lock and a arrow on the top right of my screen how do i remove this icon please help me.

  • Genesis

    I can’t find the activator app in the app store.

    • it’s not in the App Store. You have to jailbreak your phone first and get it from the Cydia Store.

  • Mike Santos

    I’m having the same issue.
    I can no longer mute or decline calls

    “Is it just me, or does Activator break the ability to double press the sleep button to ignore a phone call. I’ve looked everywhere I can think to look and I can’t find any other way to send a call directly to voicemail. I’m not looking for an iBlacklist type app to block calls from a certain number. I just want the ability to ignore various calls at random when it isn’t convenient for me to take the call or let it ring.”

  • junglebird31

    Hi! I have installed this awesome tweaks and apps from cydia (Graviboard and androidlock XT to name a few) but I am having a hard time activating them. I have installed already the Activator, but the problem was it does not show on my Settings app. Do i have other way to activate the said tweaks or addons by not only using the Activator? I am currently using an itouch running on iOS 4.3.3. Any help and advice is highly appreciated.

  • Jan De Meester

    My home button is broken on my iPhone 3G (4.3.4). I already tried to make a hardware replacement but this failed.

    Can I use Activator to overcome this problem ? And if so, can I jailbreak and install Activator without using my home button during the installation process ? Do you know of any other software solutions to my hardware problem.

    Tnx for any help

  • I have a jailbroken iPhone 3GS running the latest version of Activator. My headset button is able to pause and resume music but that’s it. Double tapping it doesn’t go to the next track, triple tapping doesn’t reverse the track, and then pressing the button once won’t pick up calls or hang up existing calls. This started happening after an upgrade I think. It definitely used to work with Activator but doesn’t anymore. Any guesses?

  • Chris

    I am having a problem with activator. I set the volume buttons up down and down up to change the tracks and have been using this configuration since iOS 4.3.3 came out. Now after upgrading iTunes lastnight and plugging in my iPhone 4 I can nolonger change tracks with volume buttons and when I hold down either button it does the activator setting and the volume up or down where it used to just do short presses to change volume. What might be going on and does any one know how to fix this? Thank you.

  • Tom Scott

    Im trying to use the activator app to toggle my silent mode on and of because the volumne button and silent switch panel is broken. cant work it out, any help?

  • Chuck

    iPod Touch 2G
    Jailbroke to 4.2.1
    FLAC Player for playing FLACs

    I want the iPod to function like my car CD player. Power off: the FLAC Player pauses and goes to sleep. Power on: iPod comes back to the FLAC Player screen and starts playing music from where it left off. Can someone tell me how to accomplish this?

  • alex

    Does the activator work on iphone 3g jailbrake 4.1?

  • Ashik

    I’m using iPhone 4 and my home button is not working. I need a exact software application to install it and shake the device go to home screen.
    Can any body help me on this matter?

  • lea

    I have installed activator on iphone 3g because power button is broken so I can’t turn it off/on. Can somebody tell me is there any option for solving this problem with activator? I saw many options in this app, but I’m not sure if I can change the power button for some other.
    Thank you!

  • Jj

    Great man u just helped me big time… I was using these gesture controls in iPad and wanted them on iPhone for free ….thanks for sharing…sorry about stars there’s something wrong with them I wanted to raise them but keep dropping on taps :(( 10 stars for u 😉