The home launcher forms the backbone of our devices and is quite possibly the single most important application when it comes to usability. It not only defines how we interact with our phone but also invariably determines the look and feel of it. Our devices obviously come preloaded with the phone manufacturer’s favored launcher application but with Android being the platform of alternatives, the Play Store offers a plethora of replacement apps that work just as well and in fact, enhance usability in most cases.
Nova, Apex, Go Launcher and ADW are some of the more popular ones around and while all of these applications and many others offer numerous customizations, options and tweaks aiming to make our phones more intuitive and easier to use, they aren’t really too different from each other and are built up from the same design base. This is the precise reason why Action Launcher Pro, which offers a completely new and refreshing take on Android home launchers, is an important and welcome innovation.
The first thing that you will notice when you launch Action Launcher is the absence of a traditional app drawer button at the bottom of your home screen, something that has traditionally been part of home launcher apps since the very beginning of Android. However, don’t let this trick you into thinking that Action Launcher does away with the app drawer. It’s still there and is in fact, just a swipe away. From the right edge of your device’s home screen, a swipe opens up the app drawer with separate tabs for apps and widgets, all neatly arranged alphabetically.
There is an alphabet index on the right hand side of the app drawer and tapping on a certain letter immediately skips you to all the apps beginning with the selected letter, thereby eliminating the need for swiping through various pages of the app drawer to find a certain application. In my experience of using Action Launcher, this is a much faster way to launch an application, especially if you have a huge number of apps installed in your device. While this in itself is a pretty handy feature, it’s not the only bit of innovation present in Action Launcher.
Folders are an essential part of a home screen as they not only allow us to organize our applications better but also save precious space on our screen. For example, I personally like to group my applications based on their type. So, all my communication apps are in one folder and games in another. Almost every launcher application on the Play Store allows us to create folders and dump application shortcuts into them.
Action Launcher too allows us to create folders, albeit with a slight twist. Folders are called ‘covers’ here and that comes from the concept of a cover application. What this means is that there is a cover app that is displayed on your screen and this same application shortcut acts as an icon for a folder housing various other applications. Clicking on the shortcut launches the application whereas swiping upwards or double tapping on it opens up the folder.
To understand the usage, think of putting the dialer app shortcut on your home screen that will also act as the icon for a folder full of direct dial shortcuts to all your favorite contacts. So, you bring up the phone dialer on clicking the dialer shortcut and you can directly call all your favorite contacts on swiping upwards on it. Nifty, isn’t it?
Shutters, for me, is the hallmark of Action Launcher and quite possibly its most innovative feature. Very simply put, Shutters are collapsible widgets that can be activated by swiping upwards on any widget-enabled application shortcut. So, while tapping the Twitter icon on your home screen will launch the Twitter application, a simple upward swipe on it will open up its corresponding widget allowing you to check your timeline, mentions or Direct messages right from the comfort of your home screen.
The beauty of Shutters is that they completely eliminate the need for adding loads of widgets on our home screens and save valuable screen space. Ideally, with Shutters enabled, you would never need to launch many applications at all and be done with all your work from the home screen itself. Taking it a step forward, Shutters can be enabled inside Covers. So, have a cover for all your communication apps and from inside the folder, swipe up on the application shortcuts to launch their respective widgets.
That, I’m pretty sure is as quick as it gets.
Quick Search Bar
The final bit of magic in Action Launcher involves the quick search bar at the top of our home screen. The search bar here is an improved version of the default Google search bar and typing a query not only pulls in results from Google Now but also brings access to apps, contacts, media and shortcuts. All of this is presented in a scrollable list with one touch immediate access.
The quick search bar also sports a shortcut to the Play Store and a quick drawer button that pulls up the sliding app drawer and can be toggled to show up or disappear by clicking on any empty area of your home screen which helps in keeping your screen clutter-free.
Alongside all the above, Action Launcher also allows you basic tweaks such as hiding specific apps from the app drawer, adjusting the number of home screen pages and dock bar shortcuts, changing the screen grid size and using alternate icon packs. However, the customization options are not as extensive as the more popular Android launchers.
Action Launcher Pro redefines and completely re-imagines the way we use the homescreen of our devices. While cutting down on more fancy options such as themes and transition animations, it focuses on making our job easier and more importantly, smoother. Lightweight and fast, Action Launcher is not for everyone though. But for those of us who give more importance to speed and ease of usage rather than beautiful and neat looking home screens, it is almost perfect.