ADWLauncher EX is the higher-functioning bigger sibling of ADW.Launcher. It comes with a smattering of extra features and is arguably the most customisable alternative launcher available on Android.

Personally, I came to use ADWLauncher EX very late indeed; after being smitten with LauncherPro for a while, but disappointed when the development on that launcher ceased, I went looking for something else and found ADWLauncher EX. I remain completely open to new launchers and persist in trying new ones out. However, time and time again I always return to ADWLauncher EX. Why do I do this? Why keep coming back? Read on for more…

Customisability, Customisability, Customisability

What I love most about ADWLauncher EX is that you can customise it pretty much however you like. One of the biggest draws of Android for most people is the abiltity to change the way the device looks and feels, and it’s something we’ve discussed a great deal before. Want your device to look like an iPhone? Like the look of HTC Sense but do not have a HTC device? No worries! There are hundreds and hundreds of ADW themes available – most for free – so chances are you’ll find one that matches what you want. And even if no such theme yet exists, ADWLauncher EX provides the ideal framework to mod your very own desired theme and look.

Theme-changing interface

Theme-changing interface

When it comes to Android customisation I’ve been a bit of a fidget. I really liked the basic look of the Nexus S, pure Gingerbread. In no time at all I was able to download a Gingerbread theme with all the correct icons; add a live wallpaper and a few other elements and it was complete. I went with a pure Ice Cream Sandwich look for a while too and now, after reading about Ubuntu for Android and using Ubuntu on my laptop, I now have a sleek and superb-looking Ubuntu theme.

The joy of ADWLauncher EX is that, like a blank canvas, you can pretty much do whatever you like with it. It will always perform well and there are myriads of tweaks and preference settings.

Ice Cream Sandwich theme

Ice Cream Sandwich theme

Under the Hood

Beneath the veneer of your stunningly-themed home screens, ADWLauncher EX offers a whole lot more. For example, there are currently 13 different screen transition effects, controlling how your home screens look when you scroll from side to side. From a Cube or Wheel effect to the Zoom effect that I prefer, it’s very cool indeed. You can adjust the speed at which these screens flick and even adjust the slight ‘bounce’ between screens.

Each of these Settings tabs lead to various sub-menus and options.

Settings. Each of these tabs leads to various sub-menus and other options.

Even the icons can be edited. Pressing and holding a particular shortcut icon gives you options to Remove, Edit, Manage or Share. Remove removes it from your home screen while Manage will take you directly to the App Management screen. Share ties in with the stock Android Share menu.

Edit is where some very smart things happen. You can change the icon to any contained on your device (these can come from either other themes or dedicated downloadable icon packs), and you can change the name of the shortcut (for example ‘Google Mail’ might look better as ‘Gmail’). If you want to, you could even change the shortcut destination to any other function – a bookmark, a contact, a setting, another app or a folder. For better instructions, check out Ashish Bogawat’s guide.

My current Ubuntu themed homescreen

My current Ubuntu themed homescreen

The dock is a useful and functional part of most homescreens. With ADWLauncher EX you have loads of control over this. You can change the look, the size and the number of spaces available. You can disable it altogether or let it display smart icon reflections.

Another important part of your Android experience is your app drawer. This can also be tweaked in number of ways. Not only can you change how the app list is presented, but you can also increase the number of columns and rows, the background colour, the label text colour and the effects between the home screen and app drawer.

Vertical 4D App Draw style

Vertical 4D App Draw style

Tip of the Iceberg

Existing fans of ADWLauncher EX will know that, even with all this, I’m only really scratching the surface of the level of customisability available here. Not only that, I’m a relatively basic user. Check out Paulo Cardoso’s “One Goal” layout – which uses ADWLauncher EX – for a more advanced application. Perhaps the finest collection of Android homescreens can be found at MyColorScreen, and a great deal of these creations, with additional third party apps, use ADWLauncher EX as their base. It’s slick, useful, stable, feature-rich and massively customisable.

Works great in landscape mode too

Works great in landscape mode too

I could also write at length about widget editing, quick presets, notification bar settings, backup and restoration, opening transitions, gestures, animations and how it works incredibly well with other third party widgets and modifications. It is a Swiss army knife of options and preferences. Perhaps one beauty of it is that even months after use, you will still find out new things about it. There are many, many layers of choice, giving you an almost ultimate control over the look and feel of your Android.

Plenty of Fish in the Sea

There are dozens of launchers in the Google Play Store so there are plenty to choose from. If you value opulence and sheer polish, and are willing to pay for it, TSF Shell Pro and SPB Shell 3D are by far the best-looking. Impeccably rich and luxurious, these launchers have a distinctly next-level feel about them that can make your jaw drop. However, both of these launchers lack the functionality and level of customisation you get with ADWLauncher EX. These ‘straight off the shelf’ productions look great, but are very limited in how you can tweak and change things. Add to this battery concerns, stability issues and lengthy loading times, and I was glad to return to ADW Launcher EX after giving each a good try.

Screen transition effect settings

Screen transition effect settings

As mentioned before, LauncherPro was my launcher of choice for quite a while. It also has themes and, unlike the ADW launchers, comes with widgets. However, it stopped being developed in May 2011 and felt dated after a while. There was promise of a massive overhaul but this never came to any fruition and I think many users just moved to pastures new. It never came close to the levels of configuration you get with ADWLauncher EX, but it was a solid option for beginners looking for a neat alternative to their native device launchers.

I consider GO Launcher EX to be the closest rival to ADWLauncher EX. It also comes with myriads of themes and the GO Launcher Team have produced a number of widgets that work pretty well. It too can provide a clean canvas for keen modders and is generally quite slick and easy to use. However I personally still prefer ADWLauncher EX on the basis that it just feels that bit sharper, more customisable, and closer to a pure Android experience.

Smart folders included on your homescreen, comes with a variety of options

Smart folders on your home screen come with a variety of options

We are of course deep within Froyo/Gingerbread territory with all of these launchers and, while I’ve played with the likes of Nova Launcher and Apex Launcher for Ice Cream Sandwich, these are still at a relatively early level in development and only available to the very small minority of Android users who have Ice Cream Sandwich. As such they also lack the same levels of customisability and community interest which you get with ADWLauncher EX.

Cyanogenmod homage theme

Cyanogenmod homage theme

In Conclusion

I keep coming back to ADWLauncher EX because it offers, in my opinion, the perfect Android experience: it’s stable, customisable, feature-rich and provides various enhancements which truly alter the look and feel of Android for the better. It might not be as breathtaking as some launchers, or as simple as others, but it works perfectly and lets me do whatever I like with my device. It regularly gets updated and there are hundreds of themes available – most of which are completely free in the Google Play Store.

ADWLauncher EX has been around for a while now and I’m sure you’ve probably already heard of it, but I would recommend to anyone to give it a go. Obviously try the free ADW.Launcher out first, as it’s a great demo of the real thing. Maybe you think I’ve got it wrong, or even missed a crucial element of ADWLauncher EX that should have been highlighted. Be sure to let me know what you think below…


Summary

A sublime and highly customisable replacement home screen for Android devices. ADW Launcher EX is slick to use and provides a feature-rich canvas to develop your own personalised Android experience.

10
  • http://abhimanyughoshal.com Abhimanyu Ghoshal

    Ah, a fellow ADW fan! I really love this launcher. One of my favorite features is the dock at the bottom that you can add a large number of icons to, resize and scroll through them as well. The transitions are great too. Great review!

  • http://bundlesite.com JD

    I also moved to ADWLauncher EX after it appeared Launcher Pro development stalled.

    It’s provides a ridiculous amount of customization. Almost to the point of making it too difficult to find the settings you need. For example, where does a guy turn off the icon label backgrounds for the home screen?

    • http://www.ritaelkhoury.com/ Rita El Khoury

      Agreed, some options aren’t well organized.
      If you need to turn off labels for specific icons, u can simply click and hold to edit, as if you’re changing the icon, then delete the name from the text box.
      If you need to turn off all labels, it’s in UI Settings / Screen Preferences / Advanced Settings / Hide Icon Labels

  • Asad Salman

    Great review!

    I use ADW Ex Too.

    On day one I installed LauncherPro, but the widget resizing being a pro-only feature really put me down. I mean its sorta like a need, not a privilege. So I went to ADW next. And it turning out to be an awesome launcher really encouraged me to be ADW Ex.

    But I really didn’t like the last update. One because they removed the hidden dock bar. Secondly because they removed the ‘down’ gesture. And a couple of other minor reasons. So, I went back to 1.3.3.0

    And again, great piece!

    • http://michaeljameswilliams.com/ Michael James Williams

      They got rid of the hidden dock bar? That was my favourite feature!

  • http://www.ritaelkhoury.com/ Rita El Khoury

    Thanks for the review Paul. I often find a lot of people gush over GO or LPP, and I’m always amazed as to why no one is really passionate about ADW when it’s been my favorite ever since I installed CM7 on my phone, many months ago. It’s full of options, responsive, and I got the EX version during Google’s 10cents deal days. Purrfect :)
    Also, my favorite feature is when you delete an icon from the homescreen, if you hold it over the bin a bit longer, u can uninstall the app. No more dwindling down the settings!

  • Paul Wilks

    I love trying new launchers out, but ADW EX does everything I want and more. Thanks for all the comments :)

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