I love a good user interface. Even
better, I love a good minimalistic interface that offers a clean home screen
with quick, easy access to apps. To get such an interface, depending on the
launcher you use, a dock may be necessary. You’d be surprised to find out there
aren’t a plethora of viable docks in the Google Play Store. I’ve tracked down
the dock apps that I believe are solid enough for everyday usage. Each offers a
different take on the venerable dock. And although your current launcher may
already offer a full-featured dock, you may find one of these superior.

Let’s take a look at the gems that I’ve
uncovered.

1. Dock4Droid

The Dock4Droid app is actually a dock and a task
manager all in one — and, wow, is it awesome. This dock/task manager combo
means you get immediate access to currently running apps, plus the ability
to stick apps to the dock for quick launch (Figure A).

Figure A

 

 

Dock4Droid running on a
Verizon-branded Motorola Moto X.

Dock4Droid also features a handy
quick-dial feature that allows you to add quick-dial contacts. With just a tap
of a dock icon, you can call a contact. There are special “actions” that can be
added to Dock4Droid (close icon, app info, home, back, etc). You can even
configure the action to launch the apps from Dock4Droid (finger up, single
tap, double tap). 

There are two versions of this app: Lite (Dock4Droid) and paid (Dock4Droid Unlock). The Lite version is free and fully
functional, while the paid version, which costs $1.99 (USD), adds extra functionality.

The pseudo-3D design of Dock4Droid
should appeal to most Android users. The one element some might find a turn off
is the lack of themes. In the paid version, you can adjust some of the
appearance settings, but not much. This, of course, doesn’t detract from how
efficient and useful Dock4Droid is.

2. Ubuntu Launcher

Ubuntu Launcher will give you the look of a
Ubuntu Unity desktop. What Unity fanboy or fangirl wouldn’t want that? I will
warn you, this is beta software that was created to simply mimic the look of
Ubuntu desktop. It works very well (more so than most beta software),
but it isn’t the most flexible app that you’ll ever use. With this app, you can add
launchers to the “dash” (Figure B), and get quick access to your app drawer, by tapping the Ubuntu icon in the top
left corner.

Figure B

 

 

The Ubuntu Launcher ready for
action.

The Ubuntu Launcher is limited in
features — and again, it’s really just a home screen that serves to resemble the Unity
desktop. Be warned, this is not a dock you can add to your favorite launcher —
Ubuntu Launcher is a launcher, in and of itself, that happens to add a dash-like
dock for the Android platform. If you’re a fan of Ubuntu Unity and want the
look and (sort of) feel of your favorite desktop, this might be the one (until
you get your Ubuntu Phone).

3. Action Launcher

Action Launcher will be getting a bit more
coverage here at TechRepublic, because it’s one of the
most impressive launchers you’ll find. It also offers
one of the best docks for Android. What is unique to this Action Launcher is
that it gives you two docks for the price of one — one for quick access to
apps and one called the “Quick Page.” The latter is a slide out dock that’s actually a full-featured home screen (Figure
C
) that can be customized to fit your needs.

Figure C

 

 

The Action Launcher Quick Page.

The left edge dock of Action
Launcher is really just a slide out version of the app drawer and nothing more.
If you purchase Action Launcher Pro for $3.99 (USD), you get access
to a number of features that turn this into a stand-alone dock (which can be run even
when Action Launcher isn’t running), and you can even hide apps from the dock app drawer.
The paid version also gives you the ability to change the look and
feel of the both the dock and the Quick Page.

Well, did one of these apps rock
your socks, or were you disappointed by the offerings? Are docks even the most
efficient way to launch apps and interact with your smartphone or tablet? If
not, what have you found to be the best interface for the Android platform? Share your thoughts in the discussion thread below.