Android

Smart Launcher provides a near-Nirvana Android user interface

If you prefer a more minimalist-yet-functional approach to your launcher, check out Smart Launcher, which will work with all your Android devices.

 

Smart Launcher
 

For the longest time, Nova Launcher Prime has been my go-to Android launcher. But another launcher, called Smart Launcher, is vying for that top spot. With a minimalist take on the Android launcher, Smart Launcher is a dream come true for those looking to find the near-perfect combination of spartan design and high functionality. A simple "dial" of icons on the launcher allows you to quickly gain access to your most-often used applications. Adding and removing those icons is just a long-press away.

Features

The Smart Launcher feature list includes:

  • Main screen with Quick Start
  • Application drawer organized by categories
  • Ready to use "out-of-the-box"
  • Live Wallpaper Support
  • Supports every screen and device
  • Widget support (Pro version)
  • Change a single icon in the drawer
  • Hide apps from sight
  • Quick search
  • Dozens of global themes (found in the Google Play Store)
  • Designed to be used comfortably in both landscape and portrait mode
  • Option to hide the status bar
  • Optimized for both smartphones and tablets

I have used Smart Launcher on both smartphones and tablets and can easily say that it's one of the best launchers for both devices. Let's walk through the installation and some of the features of this impressive option.

Installation

The installation is simple. Just follow these steps:

  1. Open the Google Play Store
  2. Search for "smart launcher" (no quotes)
  3. Tap the entry for Smart Launcher
  4. Tap Install
  5. Tap Accept
  6. Allow the installation to complete

When you tap the home button, you'll be prompted to select the application to complete the action (Figure A). Tap Smart Launcher.

Figure A

Figure A
Selecting the launcher on a Verizon-branded Samsung Galaxy S4.

When Smart Launcher opens for the first time, you'll be walked through the process of selecting all of your "default" apps. These "defaults" are specific to this launcher, and it will create the icon set on the home screen to be used to launch those applications (Figure B).

Figure B

Figure B
The Smart Launcher home screen.

By default, Smart Launcher provides the following launchers:

  • Dialer
  • Email
  • Gallery
  • Music
  • Web browser
  • Messaging
  • Camera

However, adding a new launcher is simple. Just follow these steps (also shown in Video A):

  1. Long-press one of the launchers
  2. When the plus sign [+] appears, tap it
  3. Select Other activity
  4. Scroll through the list of applications until you find one you want to add, then tap it

Video A

The new launcher should now appear. You can rearrange the launchers by long-pressing one of the launchers and then, when the plus sign [+] appears, tap and drag the launchers to your desired order.

Smart Launcher also has its own app drawer. Instead of the standard Android app drawer, Smart Launcher organizes the drawer into tabs. You will find a tab for:

  • Communication
  • Internet
  • Games
  • Media
  • Utility
  • Settings

To open the Smart Launcher app drawer, either swipe the screen from the left edge inward or tap the "four square" button in the bottom left corner of the home screen.

You can set the category listing to reside on either the left or right side of the screen. To change that setting, do the following:

  1. Open the Smart Launcher app drawer
  2. Tap the "three dot" menu button in the upper right corner
  3. Tap Preferences
  4. Tap Global Settings
  5. Tap Left-handed

Now, the app drawer will be opened by swiping the screen from the right edge inward.

Smart Launcher also has built-in gesture support. You can set up Gestures through Smart Launcher's Preferences window. Locate and tap the Gestures entry. Once you're in the Gestures settings window (Figure C), tap Enable gestures and then tap one of the four available gestures (the Pro version includes double-finger gestures):

  • Swype Up
  • Swype Down
  • Swype Right
  • Swype Left

Figure C

Figure C
The Smart Launcher Gestures Settings.

You can apply either a Smart Launcher action (such as Show apps grid, Show widgets, Show statusbar, etc) or you can set the gesture for Other activity. Other activity includes any of the installed apps on the phone.

Another nice feature is the ability to hide applications. You can hide any of the installed apps by following these steps (also shown in the Video B). 

  1. Open the Smart Launcher app drawer
  2. Locate and long-press the app you want to hide
  3. Tap the "three dot" menu button in the upper right corner
  4. Tap Set as hidden

Video B

To view all of your hidden apps (you can hide as many as you like), do the following:

  1. Open the Smart Launcher app drawer
  2. Tap the "three dot" menu in the upper right corner
  3. Tap Show hidden apps

This will reveal all of your hidden apps. As soon as you tap on another category or open an app, the hidden apps will disappear from sight.

Of course, you can also theme Smart Launcher. If you open the Smart Launcher settings window and tap Theme, you can then tap the Market tab (Figure D).

Figure D

Figure D
Installing new themes through Smart Launcher.

Search through the themes, and tap one that you like. Next, tap Install and then Continue to finalize the theme's installation. Upon installation, the new theme is not selected. You must go back to the Installed tab (under Preferences | Theme), and then tap the newly installed theme. When you do this, you'll be prompted for the theme options you want to have applied. The available options are:

  • Global theme
  • Icon pack
  • Wallpaper

Select what you want to apply, and then tap Set. Your new theme is now set.

I've only barely scratched the surface as to what Smart Launcher can do. This might well become my go-to launcher for all Android devices. Give Smart Launcher a try, and see if it doesn't win your heart over immediately as well.

What is your favorite Android launcher? Share your opinion in the discussion thread below.

 

 

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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