When you are talking about an Android ROM, you are really talking of a group of programs, including the Android base system, that are put together to work with your phone and that once installed are what you see and use when you start your phone without installing any app from anywhere else.
You can imagine that the ROM is the operating system of your phone plus the “default applications” that come with it.
The thing with Android is that is open source, so come people have managed to build systems configured to offer the user some things the original manufacturers of the phones don’t offer. This is the case of CM7 (CyanogenMod 7).
If I install Gingerbread, is that a ROM like CM7 is?
Gingerbread is the codename of a version of Android, the 2.3, to be exact.
- Andorid 2.1 --> Eclair
- Android 2.2 --> Froyo
- Android 2.3 --> Gingerbread
- Android 3.x --> Honeycomb (only for tablets)
- Android 4.0 --> Ice Cream Sandwich
- Android 4.1 --> Jelly Bean
CM7 is a ROM that uses as base system the Android 2.3 system, so you can say that CM7 is a ROM based on Gingerbread.
Confused as to what exactly to do after a root, can I install Gingerbread without rooting?
That depends. If HTC offers an official ROM upgrade to Gingerbread (version 2.3 of Android), you can. If HTC doesn’t offer this update, then you can only install an unofficial ROM (like CM7).
If I want to install HTC Sense, is that a ROM?
HTC Sense is a pack of applications developed by HTC to customize their phones and make themselves unique.
HTC Sense is not a ROM, but you can find ROMs for your phone that are based on the official ROM with Sense and some of the other parts of the system changed.
Rooting a phone is the process to gain full permissions. It is the equivalent of being the administrator of the system. Once you are root you have full access to the system, so you can change it.