If you're looking for a new Android home screen launcher, there are plenty to choose from. Some offer a wide variety of features, while other offer more form over function. Every once in a while, however, you come across a home screen launcher that offers just the right combination of form and function — one that doesn't try to reinvent the wheel as much as it seeks to improve that same wheel.
Such is the case with Apex Launcher. It's just enough of what you already know with an added touch of, possibly, something fresh and new. Let's install and kick the tires of this particular take on the Android home screen launcher.
- Customizable home screen grid size
- Up to nine home screens
- Scrollable dock (up to seven icons per page and up to five pages)
- Infinite and elastic scrolling for the home screen, drawer, and dock
- Fancy transition effects
- Hide elements such as search bar, status bar, or dock
- Customizable icons and labels (for shortcuts and folders)
- Different folder preview styles and background (even transparency)
- Multiple drawer styles
- Drawer apps sorting
- Hide apps from the drawer
- Home screen lock (to prevent accidental changes)
- Home screen gestures
- Advanced theme engine
- Backup/restore settings and data
The Pro version adds the following:
- Drawer customizations
- Unread count notifications
- Dock swipe actions
- Two-finger gesture options
- Additional transition effects
- Additional theme options
- Batch add and merge folder options
- Add widgets to dock
Installing Apex is simple. Let's install the free version. If you like it, then you can drop the coin for the Pro edition. Here are the steps:
- Open the Google Play Store on your Android device
- Search for Apex Launcher
- Locate and tap the entry for Apex Launcher by Android Does
- Tap Install
- Read through the permissions listing
- If the permissions listing is acceptable, tap Accept
- Allow the installation to complete
Once you've installed the app, tap the home button. You'll then be asked what application you want to use for the action. Make sure to select Apex, check the box for Use as default app, and then tap OK to launch Apex Launcher.
You should now see the Apex Launcher ready for action (Figure A).
Apex Launcher running on a Verizon-branded LG G3.
Clearly, the first thing you'll want to do is configure Apex to better suit your aesthetic and practical needs. Let's change the look of the home screen launcher and then configure the gestures to behave exactly how we want them to act.
To change the theme of Apex, tap the Apex setting button (conveniently placed on the home screen) and then tap Theme settings. At the bottom of this window (Figure B), tap the GET MORE THEMES button. This will prompt you to select an application to use for the action. Tap Google Play Store to view all of the available themes for Apex. Locate a theme you like, tap on it, and then tap Install (followed by Accept).
Adding new themes to Apex Launcher.
Once the new theme is installed, you must then go back to the Theme settings, and tap the new theme. In the resulting window (Figure C), you can opt to include any combination of the themes icon pack, skin, wallpaper, and font. If you don't like the theme's font, uncheck the box, and the font will not be included in the theme.
Selecting elements of a theme to apply.
Click Apply to set the selected theme options.
Now, let's move on to gestures. Tap the Apex settings button on the home screen. From there, tap Behavior settings, and then scroll down to the Gestures section. You'll find five gestures ready to configure (Figure D):
- Pinch in
- Swipe up
- Swipe down
- Desktop double tap
- Desktop long press
Configuring gestures to suit your needs.
All you have to do to configure a gesture is tap the gesture in question and then associate an action with the gesture (Figure E).
Associating an action with a gesture.
One gesture I always configure is toggling the dock. With a hidden dock, you gain more screen real estate and get a cleaner home screen.
Another really great feature of Apex is the ability to sort apps in your app drawer. With this, you can sort by:
- Install date (most recent first)
- Install date (most recent last)
- Mostly used
To configure this option, do the following:
- Tap the Apex settings button on the home screen
- Tap Drawer settings
- Tap Drawer apps sorting
- Select the type of sorting you want to use (Figure F)
Configuring the sort order in the app drawer.
There are plenty of other handy features in Apex Launcher that give it an edge over other, similar launchers. If you're looking for something to give your Android device a bit of a boost, without having to relearn how to use said device, give Apex a try.
How many home screen launchers have you tried? In your quest for the perfect launcher, have you found one that best suits your needs? If not, what are they missing? Share your experience in the discussion thread below.
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.