The Android platform has become a resounding hit for many reasons. One of those reasons is flexibility.
Unlike competitor platforms, you can make Android look and feel exactly how
you want. So, if you don’t like the way the launcher works, you can
install another. Being a professed “launcher junkie,” I’ve gone through nearly
every launcher I could find in the search for the perfect Android home
screen. That search has led me to
examine the best and the worst the Google Play Store has to offer. Included in
the “best” category is Atom Launcher.

Atom Launcher offers some exciting
features:

  • Allows you to create your own theme
  • Copy custom home screens over to other devices running
    Atom Launcher
  • All-in-one Atom bar with Google search, clock, settings
    icons, and more
  • Smart folders
  • Included dock bar
  • Icon customization
  • App hiding
  • All-in-one widgets (Memo, Monthly Calendar, Daily
    Calendar, Quick Settings, Contacts, Search Bar, Digital Clock, and Analog
    Clock)

Atom Launcher is one of the better
home launchers you’ll find for both smartphone and tablet devices. Let’s
install it and take a tour of the main features.

Installation

The installation of Atom Launcher
is quite easy. Just follow these steps:

  1. Open the Google Play Store
  2. Search for Atom Launcher
  3. Tap the entry for Atom Launcher by DLTO
  4. Tap Install
  5. Tap Accept
  6. Allow the installation to complete

Once it’s installed, tap the home button
of your device and select Atom Launcher as your home launcher. You can try it
out by tapping Just Once or set it as the default by tapping Always. If you
decide to go back to the original home launcher, you can do so by going to
Settings | Application Manager | Downloaded | Atom Launcher, and tapping Clear
Data. This will then prompt you to select a new default home launcher.

When you first launch Atom
Launcher, you’ll be prompted to walk through a Welcome tutorial. Swipe
through that (reading as you please), until you find yourself on the
Atom Launcher home screen (Figure A).

Figure A

 

 

Atom Launcher running on a
Verizon-branded Samsung Galaxy Note tablet.

The default theme is nothing
terribly special, but making a quick-change to the theme is simple:

  1. Tap the Free Themes launcher on the home screen
  2. Select one of the free themes
  3. When the Google Play Store opens with that theme, tap
    Install
  4. Tap Accept
  5. Once the theme is installed, tap the home button of
    your device
  6. Long-press a blank spot on your home screen to reveal
    the home screen pop-up menu
  7. Tap Theme Settings in the resulting window
  8. In the Theme Setting window (Figure B), select the newly downloaded theme
  9. Tap Apply
  10. Tap
    the home button on your device, and the new theme should appear

Figure B

 

 

Setting a new theme for Atom
Launcher.

Now, let’s get to work.

Atom Bar

One of the first things you’ll want
to examine is the Atom Bar. This is a quick-access hiding toolbar that resides
at the top of your screen (for smartphones) or the left edge of your screen
(for tablets). The Atom Bar does not replace your notification bar. Instead, it gives you quick access to:

  • Theme settings
  • Add-to home (shortcuts, widgets, Atom Widgets, Atom
    Action, folders, wallpapers)
  • Atom Launcher settings
  • Android settings

Editing the Atom Bar is simple. You
can add/remove items to/from the Atom Bar, add/remove items to/from the All Apps menu
(shown when the app drawer is open), and add/remove items to/from the home screen
popup menu. Here’s how you change the Atom Bar:

Tap the Atom Bar icon to open. The
icon will be either a left-pointing arrow (for smartphones) or a
downward-pointing arrow (for tablets). Once the Atom Bar is open, tap the home
icon with the cog (Figure C). This
will open the Atom Launcher Settings window.

Figure C

 

 

The Atom Bar in action (left side
of the screen).

In the Atom Launcher Settings
window, tap menu from the left navigation. You should now see the options
available for the Atom Bar. Say you want to add an app drawer button to the
Atom Bar. This would make it easy for you to access the app drawer from either
the left or right side of the screen. To do this, follow these steps:

  1. From the Atom Bar Settings window, tap Atom bar menu
  2. In the resulting popup, scroll down to the Screen
    switching section
  3. Tap All Apps screen to enable (Figure D)
  4. Tap OK

Figure D

 

 

Adding an app drawer launcher to
the Atom Bar.

You should now have quick access to
the app drawer from the Atom Bar.

Smart Folders

Creating folders on your home screen
is also simple. But these aren’t just standard folders that group launchers
together. With Atom Launcher Smart Folders, you can resize and turn them into
an interactive launcher. Say, for example, that you want to group all of your
Google-related launchers together, and you want to be able to quickly choose
which app to launch from that collection. Here’s how you do this:

  1. Long-press the home screen
  2. From the home screen pop-up menu, select Folder
  3. From the new window (Figure E), tap to select all of the apps you want to include
  4. Tap OK

Figure E

 

 

Adding launchers to a Smart Folder.

Now, follow these steps to change this from a dumb to a
smart folder:

  1. Long-press the newly created folder
  2. When the resize bars appear, release
  3. Resize the folder until it’s 1 square tall and 2
    squares wide
  4. Tap outside of the folder

What you should see now is a
rectangle containing one larger launcher and a four-square of smaller launchers
(Figure F).

Figure F

 

 

A Smart Folder ready for action.

Swipe to the right or left to
change the active launcher, and tap the launcher to open the app. You can cycle
through all the apps until you find the one you want to open. You can also enlarge
that Smart Folder to be any width you like. The larger the folder, the more
active launchers will be visible.

Atom Launcher has quite a bit more
to offer. I’ll cover other features in future posts. In the meantime, play around with
this wonderful launcher, and see if it doesn’t turn into your new default.

Have you found the ideal home
launcher for Android? If so, which one — and what makes it perfect for you? Let us know in the discussion thread below.