Launchers : What are they and how to install a new one?

android-launchersAlthough it is the ‘silly season’ of Xmas and holidays I have been remiss in not writing posts for the blog – I promise to do better ! A recent comment by Brian on my post about the Huawei GR3 phone changed my topic for this post – hopefully it will help others too.

Launchers are a great way to customise your phone or tablet and have been available for Android devices from the very early days of the operating system. There are a large number of launcher apps in the Google store, many free and some paid for so let’s discuss some of the better ones and how to install them. Links to get the ones I mention are at the bottom of the post.

A very popular one is the free Google Now launcher. This one also adds Google Now ‘cards’ which are a handy way to view personal and other information that you can customise to display on cards like current weather, calendar appointments, news etc – even current traffic conditions on routes you have recently travelled on!

As I mentioned in the post about my newish phone, the Huawei, I use the excellent Nova launcher as it suits the way I work and is also very fast and has extensive options so you can set it up just the way you want it. I am a bit of a geek so prefer to be able to fiddle with settings until it is just right, but for many people, my wife included, the Google one is just fine. One thing that really bugs me about the standard one that comes installed on most Huawei phones is that the ‘All apps’  button is missing. Instead, all apps are on multiple screens, so you have to swipe right many times to locate the one you want. The Google Now and Nova launchers both put the all apps button back where it belongs in the middle of the stationary commonly-used icons at the bottom of all home screens.

Ok, so how do you install a new launcher? The process is fairly simple – you just download the launcher like you would any app from the Google Play. Once it has finished downloading and is installed, just tap ‘Open’ while still in the Google Play screen. This will start the launcher setup screen – try using the default options initially to try it out before you change settings. Then – and this is common to all launcher apps that I have used so far – you will see a screen that says something like ‘Set – – – – – – launcher as default Home screen’  – substitute name of the launcher for the dashes. If you don’t see this straightaway, when you next tap the Home button it should ask you then.

Either way, once done you won’t need to alter anything if you are happy with the result. However, if the launcher doesn’t suit you – reverting back to the previous one is easy. Go to Settings – Home (it should be called this on newer Android versions, but may be under Default Applications – Home Screen on Samsung phones for instance. Edit: On Android 7.1.1 the home setting is hidden, it is under Apps and then touch the settings icon at top of screen, thanks Jim!

In there you will see all launchers installed on your device, just tap the one you want then tap Home and you will switch back to it. Note that whatever widgets or icons you have on your current launcher will only display when that launcher is in use, so you may have to put your favourite ones back again on the new launcher screens. They are all saved though, so you can switch between launchers and not lose the way you have set up your devices screens.

To access the Google Now screen if you decide to try the Google Now launcher, tap Home then swipe right. In other words, see what’s to the left of the home screen. You can tap the three bar menu at top left to customise it or select settings for other options to change to suit you. In particular, explore Settings – Your feed to turn on the feed, notifications etc. There are plenty of things in there to change and fiddle with – crikey maybe I’ll go back to the Google one? No I haven’t got time, too many jobs to do around the house!

I’ve put another popular launcher to try in the download area below too, but just search for ‘launcher’ in Google Play to find more and read the comments from people who have tried them.

Hopefully that has ‘de-mystified’ the process a little. If you are complete beginner can I suggest you look through all the tutorials on this blog? Just tap or click the ‘Tutorials’ link in the ‘Find a post by tags’ area on every page. Give it a try if you are tired of the way your phone displays your apps and home screens and let us know your favourite launcher in the comments below.



Google Now Launcher
Price : FREE
Needs : 4.1+

Google Now Launcher Android app review

Nova Launcher
Price : FREE
Needs : varies with device

Nova Launcher Android app review

Apex Launcher
Price : FREE
Needs : 4.0.3

Apex Launcher Android app review


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About the Author : Andy describes himself as "an older geek" and has been assisting seniors with understanding technology for many years. He is involved with his local seniors computer club and believes that seniors appreciate assistance from those of a similar age group.

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Thanks, Andy

2 Comments on Launchers : What are they and how to install a new one?

Andy said : administrator Report 3 years ago

Great info, thanks Jim. My phone and tablet are on 5 and 6 so wasn't aware the Home setting had moved. I'll have to try the TeslaUnread count badges, what a great idea!

Jim said : Guest Report 3 years ago

On Android 7.1.1 the home setting is hidden, it is under Apps and then touch the settings icon at top of screen. I use Nova and find it great. A good choice. I recommend adding TeslaUnread for Nova too. That way you can see any unread emails, messages etc. at a glance. However I used to use Apex but changed as it isn't supported anymore. The last update was 18 months ago and the developer isn't responding.

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