Android

Terrain Home is a best of breed home screen launcher for Android

Jack Wallen takes a look at one of the more effective home screen replacements for Android devices that help to power your busy day.

Terrain

I've tried numerous home screen launchers for the Android platform. Every once in a while, I land on a home screen that really takes me by surprise. Terrain Home is one such home screen launcher. This particular take on the Android home screen is a blending of some of the best parts of other launchers, without bloating the launcher to the point of confusion or bogging down. Terrain is intuitive, clean, and offers a Google Cards-like sidebar that gets you in touch with everything you frequently need/want with a quick swipe.

Terrain's feature list includes:

  • Fully customizable
  • Zero battery impact
  • Privacy focused (does not read your email, texts, or send data to a server)
  • Supports all standard Android features
  • Sidebar contains information like favorite contacts, toolbox, apps, calendar, weather, facebook, news, and more
  • Phone search allows you to limit a search to the device only, and search history is stored locally
  • New streamlined app drawer to make it easy to find the app you want

Terrain is currently in beta, and it's only compatible with Android 4.1 and up. If you have a compatible release, this is one home screen launcher I highly recommend. Let's install it and take a look at some of the customizations.

Installation

Installing Terrain is simple. Just follow these steps:

  1. Open the Google Play Store on your supported Android device
  2. Search for Terrain Home
  3. Locate and tap the entry by Terrainhome
  4. Tap Install
  5. Read through the permissions listing
  6. If the permissions are acceptable, tap Accept

After the installation is complete, tap the device home button. You'll be prompted to select a home app. Tap Terrain, and then tap Just once (you can set this as the default later). At this point, you'll walk through a welcome wizard. Tap START to begin. Glance at each page of the welcome wizard, and tap NEXT until you are finally (once again) prompted to select Terrain as your default home screen. Go ahead and select Terrain, and tap Always this time (Figure A). You can change the default if you end up not liking Terrain).

Figure A

Figure A

Selecting Terrain as the default home screen launcher on a Verizon-branded HTC M8.

Usage

The first thing you need to know about Terrain is that there are two ways to get to each feature:

  • Sidebar: Swipe to the right or tap the sidebar icon (three horizontal bars, as shown in Figure B)
  • Phone search: Swipe up or tap the phone search icon (center icon)
  • App drawer: Swipe to the left or tap the app drawer icon (far right icon)

Figure B

Figure B

The Terrain home screen launcher ready for action.

Now, let's break down the individual pieces.

Sidebar

The Sidebar is probably the most important piece of Terrain, because it's the most customizable and will get you to the data you want faster. The Sidebar holds Google Now-like cards that you can customize. Open the Sidebar to see the Welcome screen and the default cards created by Terrain (Figure C).

Figure C

Figure C

The Terrain Sidebar.

Tap the EDIT YOUR SIDEBAR button to get to the Edit Cards screen (Figure D). This is where you can quickly delete or add a card from or to the Sidebar by tapping the X to delete or the plus sign [+] to add.

Figure D

Figure D

Editing the content of the Sidebar.

From within the edit window, you can also rearrange the order of the cards by long-pressing and dragging a card up or down. If a card has a gear icon, that means you can customize that card. If you scroll all the way to the bottom, you can even add more cards by tapping ADD CARDS. When you tap that, you'll be taken to a new window (Figure E) where you can select from a number of different cards.

Figure E

Figure E

Adding new cards to the Terrain Sidebar.

Phone search

With the Phone search, you can search:

  • Contacts
  • Apps
  • The web

All you do is swipe up, and as you type, the results will start to appear (Figure F). If Terrain finds results on the phone, they'll appear first — otherwise, the search will allow you to select from various remote locations.

Figure F

Figure F

Searching for TechRepublic with Terrain.

App drawer

The Terrain take on the app drawer will be a breath of fresh air for many users. When you open the app drawer, you'll find it laid out like the Contact app. Apps are organized alphabetically and can be easily searched by letter or name (Figure G).

Figure G

Figure G

The Terrain app drawer.

Many users will take to this style of app drawer and wonder how they lived with any other.

If you're looking for a home screen launcher that will make your busy life a bit easier, give Terrain Home a go and see if it doesn't offer some assistance.

Can a home screen make a huge difference in the level of efficiency you enjoy with your Android device — or is this just all about personal preference and customization? Share your thoughts in the discussion thread below.

About Jack Wallen

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.

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