Friday, November 29, 2013

Android Launchers

Android 4.4 on the Nexus 5 came with a new look and feel. When I got the update to 4.4 on my Nexus 7 (2012) there was no new look. Of course I knew about the new Launcher being exclusive to the Nexus 5 only before updating but still, it felt a bit sad.

Nexus 5 Launcher on swiping left to right to get to Google Now.

As I wanted a new look for my Nexus 7 too, I simply installed an other Launcher.

What is a Launcher?

Basically a Launcher is what determines the look of the devices home screens, how the animation for switching screens looks, the amount of screens, icon packs, folder layout and much more.

Smart Launcher - default layout.

How to change the Launcher?

The good thing with Launchers is that on an android device the Launcher can be switched without any special rights or root requirements. 
Just get a Launcher from Google Play (or any other source you trust) and install it. Simple as that. The next time you press the home button you will be asked which Launcher to use  (once or add default).
After selecting the new Launcher it's done. 

Selecting Launcher after installation by pressing the home button.

Just a tip, after switching the Launcher open the list of active apps and close the old Launcher , that will be listed there and still consumes a lot of resources.

Get rid of the previous used Launcher in your memory to prevent lag.
Of course, the Launchers can be uninstalled again as well, just like any other app too.
After a Launcher is installed, it needs to be set up of course. This includes settings to the Launcher itself as well as the arrangement of apps and widgets.

If you have selected an App (or a Launcher in this case) and set it default when you have been asked to, you can reset this default setting of course. In order to do so, go to the settings > apps and select the App/Launcher you want to remove the default flag. Within the apps detailed information you will find a button to clear default setting. Afterwards you will be asked again the next time a choice can be made (in case of a Launcher the next time you press the home button).

Clear defaults to reset the default choice.

Launchers on KitKat

On Android 4.4 there is a new function to manage Launchers. Once an additional Launcher is installed, there will be a menu entry in the settings available called Home. All installed Launchers will be listed in this menu and can be set active or can be deleted again.

The Home menu only appears when there is an additional Launcher installed.

List of installed Launchers.

Different alternatives

There are lots of Launchers available so the hard part might be to pick the right one for you. Best is to check around Google Play, check out screenshots and read a few comments. Some Launchers are free, others cost money and some at least offer a free "light" version with additional features in the payed version. Just play around with a few and try to find what fits best for you.

When I wanted a new Launcher on my Nexus 7 I did not wanted something complete different but a very light and transparent look, maybe with some additional features. I found what I was looking for in one of the most popular Launchers out there, Nova Launcher. 

Nova Launcher - just an example

The Nova Launcher shall just be an example here as there are so many out there and I have only checked out a few of them (more to test for sure) and Nova Launcher is the one I like most so far.
Nova Launcher already has tons of settings and appearance options available but in the current beta version there are lots of transparent effects similar to KitKat, that gives a very light and fresh feeling.
Some of the features are:
  • different scroll effects
  • different looks for the search bar, the dock, the drawer, the folders, ...
  • gestures and buttons for special actions and controls
  • a dock that can be extended with additional pages (and swiped by its own)
  • and even more ...
Nova Launcher settings.

Like I said, I wanted a fresh transparent look so here are some Screenshots of my current setup on my Nexus 7 (2012).

My main screen.
One of the transition animations available.
How folders look on my setup.
How the app drawer looks on my setup.
All this setup is still subject to change but I think it's what I will stick with, for a while at least.