If you’re not happy with your Android interface, you don’t have to put up with it, whether you’re using stock Android or a skinned version from a manufacturer like HTC or Samsung. I have said it more than once; An Android device is a blank slate for you to customize however you want, often without even rooting.
All Android smartphones have multiple home screens, but generally you can’t do much more than add app shortcuts and widgets. Instead of dealing with daily frustrations and limitations, you can completely change your interface by downloading a launcher app.
The following instructions should apply no matter who made your Android phone: Samsung, Google, Huawei, Xiaomi, etc.
How to use an android launcher
Launchers allow you to customize and interact with your home screens and app drawer in a variety of ways. Options range from color schemes, fonts, and the shape and size of icons. Some launchers allow you to enable a persistent search bar, manage notifications, and specify when night mode should be enabled.
Some of the best launchers include Nova Launcher Prime (by TeslaCoil Software), Apex Launcher (by Android Does), Action Launcher (by Chris Lacy), and GO Launcher – Theme, Wallpaper (by GO Dev Team @ Android). Yahoo Aviate Launcher (by Yahoo; formerly ThumbsUp Labs) is also highly appreciated. However, its new owner (not surprisingly) added a bunch of Yahoo integrations, so it’s not the best option for those using the Google ecosystem. The advantage Aviate has, however, is that it adjusts based on your activity, so there’s less customization work on your end. Plus, it doesn’t offer any in-app purchases, so it’s truly free, just like Apex and Nova. On the other hand, the Go Launcher (in-app purchases start at 99 cents) lets you pack hundreds of icons per screen and lock specific apps from prying eyes. Please note that while all of these applications are free to download, some of the features mentioned in this document require purchase from the server.
Grid, Dock, and App Drawer Layout Settings
You’ve probably noticed that when you add shortcuts to your home screens, you’re limited to a certain number of rows and columns, and you can’t place the shortcuts wherever you want. With a launcher, you can customize the number of rows and columns on your so-called desktop, so you can have five across and five down, or six across and eight down, or any combination you like. The fewer shortcuts you have, the larger the icons will be. You can also group similar apps into folders, such as Google Apps, photo apps, and music apps. Some apps offer folder covers (the main app) and previews when you tap on it so you can see what’s inside before you dive in. Nova also has a tabs feature that lets you organize your apps, but it’s accessible from a menu at the top of the screen (like browser tabs) and looks a bit more elegant. You do not have to choose between the two options, however, the two can coexist.
Nova Launcher also has a setting called subgrid positioning, which allows you to adjust widgets and icons between grid cells, giving you more flexibility in making everything fit together. Look for a setting that allows you to lock your desktop so it stays just the way you want it.
At the bottom of most Android home screens is a dock, where you can add shortcuts to your favorite apps so you can access them from any screen. This can also be customized by the number of icons, layout and design. Finally, in your application drawer you can access all the applications that, depending on the device, are in alphabetical order or in the order in which they were downloaded. A launcher will let you enhance that view by putting frequently used icons on top, adding a search bar (I love this feature), changing the orientation from portrait to landscape, and adjusting accent colors. Action Launcher (in-app purchases start at $4. 99) even lets you add app shortcuts to the Google search bar, which is great because I find the bar itself a waste of space. Apex and Nova allow you to turn the search bar into an overlay so it doesn’t take up space.
Widgets are one of my favorite Android features, but they also tend to take up valuable real estate market space. Action Launcher has a feature called Shutters (paid add-on) that allows you to essentially embed a widget in an app shortcut that can be accessed with a swipe gesture. pretty cool Some launchers offer their own widgets that are designed to blend in with the overall interface.
Icons and fonts
Launchers also allow you to adjust the size and shape of your icons, add and remove labels, and change the color and other visual elements. You can also often add a preview option. You can also download icon packs from the Google Play store for more options. The best icon packs for you depend on the smartphone you have and the operating system you are using.
Disable or hide unwanted apps
One of Android’s biggest annoyances is the persistence of bloatware, which are apps that are preloaded on your device and often cannot be uninstalled. Launchers offer the option to disable unwanted applications or save them in a folder; Action Launcher, Apex Launcher, GO Launcher and Nova Launcher also have the option to hide unwanted apps. In any case, it’s a way to at least forget they exist if they can’t be completely removed. Here’s hoping that bloatware will at some point become a distant memory.
Gestures and scrolling
Launchers also allow you to control how you interact with your screen. You can set custom actions that occur when you swipe up or down, double-click, zoom in and out, and more. Actions include expanding notifications, showing recent apps, launching Google Now, activating voice search, and more. Think about the activities you do all the time and make your life easier with a simple gesture.
Have you ever felt frustrated scrolling through long lists of apps? The best launchers will offer hover effects and speed adjustments. Action Launcher has a Quickdrawer feature that acts as a sidebar with a list of your apps, which can be sorted by alphabet, frequency of use and date installed. If you opt for alphabetical order, you can jump right to a particular letter, making it easy to find apps if you’re an app hoarder.
Import, export and backup
Lastly, the best launchers will allow you to backup and export your settings and import them from other launchers. This includes apps you’ve downloaded, as well as built-in launchers, like Samsung’s TouchWiz. Even if you don’t plan to switch launchers, it’s always a good idea to make backups in case your device is compromised.
As always, it’s a great idea to try more than one launch app before committing to (or paying for) one. Think about the type of user you are; you may like screens full of icons or just the basics. Maybe you want to have full control of the interface or just make some adjustments. Also note that you can enhance any of these launchers with additional downloads of icon packs, themes, and wallpapers. Each of these launchers has so many features and settings that it’s worth spending a few days getting to grips with one and playing around with its options. You can use a particular launch app for weeks and still not scratch the surface.