I love the Android platform, not only because it makes for a good tablet and mobile operating system, but because it’s as flexible as the OS that it was originally based on — Linux! It truly is a shame that so few users take advantage of that flexibility.

Android also provides users choices when it comes to performance and usability. There’s one launcher in particular (one that I’ve been using on an Android mobile for quite some time) that has finally found it’s way into tablet form. That launcher is ADW Launcher EX.

There are two different versions of ADW Launcher — EX and non EX. However, the only version that is compatible with tablets is the EX version. And wow, is it ever compatible. This tablet “desktop” might just be the closest thing to perfection you will ever experience on a tablet UI. Let’s take a look.

Getting started

Although the standard ADW Launcher is free, the tablet version is not. This one will set you back a whopping $3.32 (USD), but it’s very much worth the price of admission. As with any Android Market purchase, you’ll have to have your Google account authenticated before the purchase can be made.

Once installed, you’ll notice a new window appear when you hit your home button. This window asks what program you would like to use for your home screen. There’s also a check box for Make Default. I highly recommend you play with the new launcher before you check that box. Yes, you will have to choose your launcher every time you hit the home button, but it’ll save you from possibly having to unset the launcher as the default later.

What you need to know about ADW Launcher EX

ADW Launcher has all the features you need for your desktop, but you might need to do a bit of configuring. Here are some of things you will see right out of the box:

  • Main Dockbar — this is where you can add up to five shortcuts
  • Customizable Hidden Dockbar — you can add as many launchers as you like on this doc
  • Notification area — this does not change from the default
  • Configuration Dockbar — this isn’t the official name for this feature, but the doc is at the top right where you gain access to configuration options

Let’s take a closer look at a couple of these features.

Main Dockbar

Before I begin discussing the Main Dockbar, I want folks to know that I actually use the Hidden Dockbar (you can unhide it easily) because:

  • It looks better
  • It holds more launchers

However, for those of you who like the simplicity of a five-launcher, standard Doc, you’ll enjoy the Main Dockbar (see Figure A).
Figure A

You can configure the Main Dockbar to have 0-5 launchers.

To add a launcher to the Main Dockbar, all you have to do is add the launcher to the screen (long press the desktop, and then click Shortcuts) and then drag the launcher to the position on the Dockbar where you want it to live.

Hidden Dockbar

Now, this is where the real coolness comes in. You can reveal the Hidden Dockbar by swiping a finger up over the Main Dockbar. When the Hidden Doc appears (see Figure B), you can add as many launchers as you like.
Figure B

By default, the Dockbar contains no launchers.

It’s also possible to make the Hidden Dockbar your default. To do this, tap the icon in the upper right corner of your desktop, and then tap ADWSettings. From this new window, tap Hidden Dockbar, and then make sure Use as Primary is checked. Once you’ve done this, you won’t have to swipe to bring up the Hidden Dockbar. You can, however, still hide it by swiping your finger down over the Hidden Dockbar to reveal the Main Dockbar.