Smartphones

Add direct-dial shortcuts and folders to your Android home screen

Make your Android phone more efficient by creating direct-dial launchers and then sorting those shortcuts into folders. Jack Wallen shows you how in this tutorial.

The Android user interface is incredibly flexible and powerful. With the Android UI, you can create multiple home screens that handle different tasks -- you just have to be careful not to bury your home screen in a deluge of icons and widgets.

One way to make your home screens more efficient is by adding direct-dial launchers for the contacts you call the most. Here are steps you can follow for adding direct-dial launchers and keeping them organized.

How to add a direct-dial launcher

The direct-dial launchers can do one of two things with a single touch:

  • initiate a phone call.
  • open the messaging client so you can quickly type a message to that contact.

Let's take a look at how you create a direct-dial launcher for placing a phone call.

The first step is to either long-press on your home screen or press the Menu button and select Add. (Some Android phones handle this step differently). You should now be able to select what you want to add. Figure A shows this screen from a Samsung Captivate. Figure A

For this task, select Direct Dial; this will open up your contacts. Locate the contact and then select that contact by pressing the entry. When you do, the direct-dial launcher will appear on the screen (Figure B). (To send that contact a direct message, you would simply select Direct Message instead of Direct Dial.) Figure B

You see the AT&T direct-dial launcher and two folders.

How to create folders for your direct-dial launchers

To keep your home screen organized, you can create folders to hold specific direct-dial launchers. Figure B illustrates a Family folder on the home screen. How was that created? It's simple -- you long-press the home screen (or click the Menu button) and select Folders. The next screen will list the types of folders you can add (Figure C). Figure C

To store all of your direct-dial launchers, select New Folder from this list. On your home screen, you will see a folder named Folder; this isn't terribly helpful for organizational purposes. Fortunately, you can rename folders by following these three steps:

1. Press the folder icon to open it.

2. Long-press the title bar of the folder until it changes colors (Figure D).

3. In the new window, enter a name for the folder and press OK.

Figure D

Once your folder is renamed, you can move direct-dial launchers that belong in that folder by long-pressing the launcher and dragging it to the folder (this is the same action you used to remove a launcher from the home screen). Now you can create as many folders as you need for different types of contacts (Work, Home, Family, Friends, Enemies, etc.).

The nice thing about this method is that when you open one of these folders, all of your icons will be listed, so all you have to do is press the direct-dial launcher you want. When you finish with that phone call and you're back at the home screen, that folder will still be open. In order to close that folder, you should click the X in the upper right corner.

Summary

Creating direct-dial launchers is a great way to make your Android phone more efficient. I encourage you to take the extra step and sort those direct-dial launchers into folders because it's a good way to keep your phone from becoming buried in a desktop full of launchers.

How have you made your Android phone more efficient and/or better organized to suit your needs? Share your tips and experiences with your fellow TechRepublic members.

About

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 getjackd.net.

2 comments
dhays
dhays

I'm not sure that is a good idea, as I have combined my home number with my wife's cell numbe under on entry, what happens to the launcher when it comes up on two or more numbers? Many of my call list entries have more than one number.

chrisonline
chrisonline

Each shortcut is for a specific phone number (within the contact's list of numbers). A practical downside is that the label for the shortcut can't be changed, so it will consist of the first few letters of the contact's first name - not always very helpful. Also within folders, the shortcut icons appear in the order they are creaated, NOT in alphabetical order. I haven't discovered any way to change either of these features. A useful app for doing a similar but sleeker job, is Launch-X