Not happy with the default home screens on your Android phone? If so, you can tweak the design, layout, and other elements of your phone with an Android launcher. Through such launchers, you can customize the screens to better match how you want to use your phone. And if you already work with certain Microsoft apps such as Office, Edge, and Cortana, the free Microsoft Launcher is especially useful.

With the Microsoft Launcher, you can:

  • Revamp the built-in home screens with your favorite wallpaper, colors, icons, and widgets;
  • Set up quick access to your calendar, contacts, and news feeds; and
  • Assign gestures to specific actions.

SEE: Job description: Android developer (Tech Pro Research)

How to set up, customize, and use Microsoft Launcher

To get started, download and install the Microsoft Launcher from Google Play. Tap the Home button. You’re asked if you want to use the existing default launcher (which varies based on your device) or the Microsoft Launcher. Tap the option for Microsoft Launcher. That action takes you to the Welcome to Microsoft Launcher screen. Tap Get Started (Figure A).

Figure A

The specific screens and the order in which they appear differ from one Android phone to another, but the basic process should be consistent. At the next screen to Choose Your Look, select whether you want to keep your current wallpaper or grab a Bing wallpaper with a new image each day. You may now be asked (if not already asked) to give Microsoft Launcher access to your contacts, notifications, phone call logs, SMS messages, and other data on your device. To get the full experience, allow permission for each type of content (Figure B).

Figure B

Next, you’ll likely be prompted to sign in with your Microsoft Account. Enter your account credentials. You may be asked if you want to import the apps on your home screen to your new Microsoft Launcher layout; if so, select the import. Your screens now take on the new look and layout generated by the launcher (Figure C).

Figure C

The next thing you might want to do is open the Microsoft folder and download any Microsoft apps that you want to use, such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Edge, OneDrive, Skype, and LinkedIn. You can then drag the icons for any frequently used Microsoft apps to your Home screen.

Next, swipe to the right and then swipe down your new Microsoft feed screen. You’ll find sections or cards for specific Microsoft apps and services, including Calendar, News, Cortana, Recent activities, Documents, and People. You may need to enable certain apps and features, such as Calendar and People, to see the specific data. To change any elements, tap the Customize Feed button at the bottom of the screen and choose which cards to hide and which ones to show (Figure D).

Figure D

From here, you can also add widgets to your Microsoft feed, both for Microsoft apps and for other apps. Tap the link to Add Widget. Tap any widget you want to add. After you grant the necessary permission, the widget pops up in the feed.

Finally, review all the settings for the Microsoft Launcher to see if you want to make any further adjustments. Tap the icon for Microsoft Launcher. At the Settings screen, you can change the wallpaper, back up your launcher settings, personalize the various elements, customize the feed, create gestures, control your default search engine, and customize Cortana (Figure E).

Figure E

For example, tap the entry for Personalization–you can adjust the wallpaper, theme, app folders, Home screen, Dock, App Drawer, and more. Here’s another example: Tap the entry for Gestures–you can assign gestures to specific actions to set what happens when you tap the Home button, swipe up, swipe down, double tap, pinch in, and pinch out.