From 1.6 to 2.0 to 2.1 to 2.2 to 2.3 … What a ride its been Cupcake to FroYo to Gingerbread and more to come … While each update significantly changes and improves upon almost all aspects of the OS, the one area which is neglected is the Launcher or the Home screen. My first experience with Android was on my Spica running 1.6 and the home screen was at best marginally ok. This got me searching, and pretty soon i ran across some of these Launchers like LauncherPro, ADW etc. These standalone Home Replacement/Launchers were a Godsend! Some of the features they had the the stock lacked include, Sense UI-like scrolling, Screen Rotation, Screen Previews, more no of screens (most stock android phones had only 3) etc etc.
Here are some of my Favourite Launchers/Home Replacement Apps in no particular order.
UPDATE 09 April, 2012 – There’s a new 2 part post on Android Launchers: Android Launchers & Home Replacement Apps – Part I
– LauncherPro [Market Link] is personally my favourite from among the various launchers. The first thing I noticed was the speed – this launcher is blazing fast and smooth. Everything from sliding through the screens to pulling up the app drawer is much faster than stock.
LauncherPro lets you have three, five or seven home screens, and also lets you choose which one out of the seven will be your default home. To adjust the screen settings, simply hit menu and go to preferences where you can adjust it to your liking. Another useful feature this launcher has is when you hit the “home” key at your default home screen, a thumbnail view of all your screens pops up, basically a preview of all your screens.
The app drawer produces a very slick “fly-in” effect and you’ll notice that the scrolling is very responsive and produces virtually zero lag. LauncherPro lets you choose how many apps shortcuts you can fit in each row for the app drawer. You can choose to organize apps in five shortcut rows on the home screen and that’s as far as it goes. If you’d like to, you can also hide icon labels, so you only see icons on the home screen and not the names of the apps below them. Another useful feature of LauncherPro is the ability to remove/hide apps from the app drawer so that your app drawer doesn’t get all cluttered up.
LauncherPro does not have the theme capability of ADW Launcher but it does offer a tiny bit of themeability to the dock. The dock here is scrollable with 3 docks, features 5 shortcuts along the bottom and lets you scroll through a total of 15 shortcuts!
LauncherPro also features many enhancements, like auto-rotation, assigning an action for the home key, and hiding the notification bar. In addition, it also has the option to display the number of unread mails, missed calls or unread messages if the corresponding shortcut is present on the dock. Another awesome feature lets you swype up or down on a shortcut in the dock which triggers an action that you can set!
LauncherPro now has a plus version which costs $2.99 and comes with some really useful widgets. You can read more about it Here
2. ADW Launcher
The ADWLauncher is a 3rd party open source home replacement app, that is highly customizable. It is also probably the most popular launcher out there, and is the default launcher of the very popular CyanogenMod custom ROM. AnderWeb has incorporated some of the finest features that you would find on certain high end devices, and with this latest release, AnderWeb has included the new FroYo launcher look.
ADW offers up to 7 screens, which is pretty standard for a custom launcher, but if you need to fit even more shortcuts, ADWLauncher offers the ability to choose how many rows and columns of apps you want on your home screen—up to eight each which is pretty unique, so that you can squeeze in as many shortcuts as possible. You can also do the same with the app drawer, remove/hide labels and set the background colour.
ADW, like LauncherPro has the option of setting a custom action to the home button like hiding the notification bar or showing a home-screen preview. It also has a few built in gestures like swiping up or down to show or hide the notification bar.
One of the biggest attractions of ADWLauncher is its themeability. It’s pretty simple, you download the theme from the market and select it in ADW’s preferences. Applying a new theme changes everything from the wallpaper to the icons.
Some other features include the Nexus One screen dots, the horizontal app drawer that is found on the Samsung Galaxy S, Sense UI home-screen previews, and a invisible “secret dock,” that gives you the option to add six more icons.
While many people swear by ADW and claim to have flawless performance I along with many others feel that this app can at times become extremely slow and sluggish and even Force Close. Try it out and let us know what you think.
3. Zeam Launcher
Zeam [Market Link] is a lightweight launcher alternative available for free on the Android Market.
According to the Market description, Zeam is still “Work in progress, but is a pretty good Launcher/Home Replacement app anyway. Zeam is listed on the Android market as being only 268kb in size, so it’s much lighter than some of the other home replacement apps, I’d say the lightest!
Some of the features are – Provides up to 9 screens, Designate a default screen, User-selected animation for the app drawer, Remembers the last scrolled position of the app drawer, Provides a doc bar at the bottom of the screen, Supports all of the default widgets, Allows the user to hide desktop icon labels, Can be set to run full-screen, hiding the notification bar etc ..
4. Helix Launcher
Helix Launcher is an excellent home screen replacement and replacement launcher.
Helix Launcher works pretty smooth and is lightning quick and works just as smoothly in landscape mode as in portrait mode. Upon a double-tap, an index of thumbnails is displayed showing all your screens. Even with 7 screens, any screen is only a double-tap and a touch away.
Features – Standalone Launcher, 3 to 7 screens (swipe scrolling between pages), Double tap action for screens preview, Rotation enabled, Android 2.0 , compatible, Full-screen app menu (with notification bar still), Quick Shortcuts, Drag & Drop and shortcuts to the QuickBar .
5.Tag Home (Launcher)
Available on the market as 3 different files for 1.6, 2.1 and 2.2.
Tag Home(Launcher) [Market Link]is a heavily customizable home screen and launcher replacement for your Android device. Tag Home allows the user to assign “tags” that appear at the bottom of the launcher tray to any application they have in their menu. Users can also create their own custom tags and assign those as well. Some of the tags that come pre-installed with the app are All, Google, Communicate, Multimedia, Games, etc. When you click on these tags they filter the apps out of your entire app collection that fall into these categories. You can assign any application in your launcher tray to any tag that you have available.
Tag Home also allows you to organize your apps based on a user defined priority. So, instead of opting for the standard alphabetical sort option of your apps in the launcher, you can assign each app a weight from 0 to 100. The higher the weight the app has, the higher it goes in the order of your launcher. Another nifty option is going into the “edit mode” of your launcher and tapping “Tag to Folder” which puts the current tag you have open on your home screen as a folder.
This is an app for power users with loads of apps and the need for tags and level functionality. Definitely an app for the advanced user.