Every Android handset has a very different user interface, which can be frustrating for users and customer support. If you have an HTC, you have Sense; if you have a Motorola, you have MotoBlur; if you have Samsung, you have the Samsung UI. There are good and bad things about each of these UIs.
Fortunately, Android users are not locked down to one interface. With a little effort, you can install a different UI and have it running on your Android device — and the phone doesn't have to be rooted. The Android interface that I think is the cleanest and the most configurable is ADWLauncher. Let's get this baby up and running.
First, go to the Android Market and search for "adw launcher" (no quotes). You'll find hundreds of listings (most of which are themes), but the top two results should be ADWLauncher and ADWLauncher EX. The standard free version is outstanding, though the EX version (which costs $3.99) come with more options, which include:
- 5 app drawer styles.
- 3D Nexus One like app drawer.
- 2 plain vertical drawer styles.
- 2 iPhone like horizontal app drawers.
- Different desktop transitions.
- New icon configurations, look, and feel.
- New fast presets mode allows you to quickly change the entire desktop with 1 click.
- Editable desktop icons.
- Code improvement.
Even if these options appeal to you, I recommend installing the free version first, trying it for a while, and then adding the paid version.After the ADWLauncher application is installed, hit your phone's Home button, and you'll be prompted to select a program to use for your home screen (Figure A). Until you set one of your launchers (after installation of ADW, you'll most likely only have your built-in default and AWD installed), you'll see this screen every time you hit your phone's Home button. Once you're sure you want to use ADW as your default launcher (make sure you try ADW before making it your default), select the Use By Default For This Action button. Figure A
The default desktop can also house as many launchers as you can fit on your screen. To add launchers, you long-press the desktop and select what you would like to add (launcher, shortcut, widget, folder, etc).
Configuration is where ADW shines above most other Android desktops, but getting to the configuration might trip you up. When you tap the Menu button, you have to tap the More button and then select ADW Settings. From there, you can configure the following:
- Screen Preferences: Screen layout, Status bar settings, Wallpaper scrolling, etc.
- Drawer Settings: Drawer style, catalogs navigation, number of columns/rows in the drawer, animation settings, app label settings, etc.
- General Behavior: Sense previews, show notification, font size for notifications, home button binding, swipe actions, etc.
- System preferences: Wallpaper hack, scrolling cache, default Home orientation.
- UI Settings: Dock style, desktop dots, Action Button settings, Dock icons tinting, hidden dockbar settings, Icon highlight settings, Screen indicator settings, Trash can settings, etc.
- Themes Preferences: Theme selection, Icon settings
- Backup and restore: Backup and restore your ADW settings.
I like to create as clean a desktop as possible, so I'll go into General Behavior and set the following:
- Home Button Binding: Show/Hide statusbar.
- Swipe Down Action: Open/close notifications.
- Swipe Up Action: Open/close App drawer.
Next I go into the UI Settings and set the following:
- Main Dock Style: None.
- Autohide Desktop Indicator: Set to On.
Then I'll create the default home screen with no launchers and then add my launchers/widgets on screens other than the default. Once this is complete, I have a default home screen with nothing but my wallpaper. To launch applications, I either slide to a different home screen or open the Application drawer. This suits my needs, but you should go through the configuration options to find what suits you.
Although some users might complain about how different handset companies are fracturing Android, it's good to know there are options available that allow you to get exactly what you want and need from your Android device.
I prefer ADWLauncher for my Android desktop configurations. What Android UI app do you like? Post your comment in the discussion.
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.