Mobility

Nova Launcher gets material design upgrade for Android Lollipop

Nova Launcher has just released a full-on material design iteration, and Jack Wallen is here to show you why you might want to upgrade.

Nova Launcher

I've been using a Verizon-branded Nexus 6 for a while now. It's a stellar device with the purest tasting Lollipop you'll find on the market. But there are times when I miss the good old Nova Launcher. I'd left it behind in favor of the material design aspect of Lollipop. However, with the newly released Nova Launcher 4.0, that's all a thing of the past. That's right, Nova now is rife with material design, so anyone who prefers a more homogenous look and feel throughout their platform, Nova Launcher now offers that for anyone running Android 5.0.

The list of updates to Nova is really impressive. Here are several:

  • Full material design
  • Google search (from search bar) now shows as an overlay
  • Edit Shortcut dialog, and quick menu, tinted based on colors of the icon
  • Individual icon layout settings in Desktop, Drawer, Dock, Folder
  • Max icon size boosted to 150%
  • Widget search
  • Circular app animations
  • Pull down to search in app drawer
  • Widgets given their own drawer, removed from app drawer
  • Drawer Tab bar optional
  • Unlimited desktop pages
  • Added shadows to unread badges
  • Unread Badge size scales with icon size
  • Improve handling of apps installed to SD card

As usual, with Nova Launcher, there are no nits to pick... it's just another solid upgrade from one of the best home screen launchers on the market. Let's take a look at some of the cooler features.

App drawer search

Outside of the full material design support, one of the coolest features of Nova Launcher 4.0 is the ability to more easily search within the app drawer (previous versions were limited to searching installed apps and required you to open the menu, tap Search, and search). With this new take on the feature, you can search for installed apps or the Google Play Store. Using the app drawer search is simple:

  1. Open the app drawer
  2. Swipe downwards
  3. Type your search (Figure A)
  4. Tap either the installed app or the Play Store icon

Figure A

Figure A

Nova 4.0 running on a Verizon-branded HTC M8.

When you start typing in the search, you'll see related installed apps pop up. If you see nothing in the results, you can tap the Google Play icon and search there for the app in question.

Get rid of the Tab bar

If you prefer a much cleaner app drawer, you can now get rid of the Tab bar. This will not interfere with your ability to search (just pull down to open the search overlay). To hide the Tab bar, do the following:

  1. Open the app drawer
  2. Tap the menu button
  3. Tap Nova Settings
  4. Tap App & widget drawers
  5. Scroll down and tap to disable the Tab bar

There is one caveat to disabling the Tab bar. How do you get to Nova Settings? Here's a simple solution: Long-press a blank spot on your home screen, and tap the Settings icon (Figure B). So, if you prefer to give more real estate to the app drawer, you don't have to worry about losing features.

Figure B

Figure B

Getting to the Nova Settings from the home screen.

Dealing with widgets

If you prefer to keep the Tab bar, did you know you can add to it? By default, if you open up the app drawer, you'll see only the App tab. If you want to add, say, a Widgets tab (or Productivity tab, etc), you can do that with these steps:

  1. Open the app drawer
  2. Tap the menu button (three dots in upper right corner)
  3. Tap Nova Settings
  4. Tap App & widget drawers
  5. Scroll down and tap Drawer groups
  6. Tap the plus sign [+]
  7. Enter Widget for the title
  8. Tap to enable Keep apps in main app tab
  9. Tap ADD (Figure C)

Figure C

Figure C

Adding the Widget tab.

Now, you'll find an empty tap for Widgets. It's time to add the widgets to that tab. To do this, go back to App & widget drawers | Drawer groups (in Nova Settings), and then tap the edit button for Widgets. Tap the SELECT APPS button (Figure D), and then go through your full list of apps, adding only widgets to this group. This will only allow you to add widgets installed from the Google Play Store (or widgets that were installed alongside regular apps). The built-in widgets cannot be added to this (or any) tab.

Figure D

Figure D

Adding widgets to the new tab.

If you've been using Nova Launcher, most of the changes will not stump you. In fact, the developers have done an outstanding job of making every upgrade as seamless as possible. From 3 to 4 is no exception. And even if the addition of new features doesn't seem like enough to pull you in, the full-on material design (Video A) should make any fan of Lollipop want to give Nova Launcher a go.

Video A

I highly recommend updating to Nova 4. To do this, follow these steps:

  1. On your device, open the Google Play Store
  2. Swipe right from the left edge of the screen
  3. Tap My Apps
  4. Locate Nova Launcher
  5. Tap UPDATE
  6. Allow the update to finish

Once you've updated, you can now enjoy a material design-infused Nova Launcher.

Is Nova Launcher your go-to home screen launcher for Android? If not, what launcher do you prefer?

Also see

About Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.

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