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[GUIDE] Action Launcher - Updated for 1.9.0
Whenever I get a new device, Action Launcher is one of the very first things I install. It is my go-to home screen and app drawer interface. It brings some new ideas and features to the table that I find invaluable. In this guide, I’d like to explain the features, how they work and how to set it up so you can use your device more efficiently.
Let’s get started! Go to the Play Store, search for Action Launcher and install. The first time you run it, you’ll be prompted to import settings from your old launcher. For the purposes of explaining in detail, I’m going with a clean slate and no imports. This does work really well, and will import your dock icons and any compatible widgets right to your new launcher. Also, for now, tap “Just Once” when returning home so you can reference your old home screen for setup if you like.
The first thing you’ll notice is the app drawer button. This button is found on just about every other launcher out there, but Action Launcher has a better solution. Your app drawer is integrated right into your home screen! This gives you a seamless transition from home to apps, rather than two separate experiences.
You access the new app drawer by sliding it out from the left side. The list is alphabetical, and tapping on the alphabet displayed vertically along the side of the drawer jumps to the apps that start with that letter. This is handy for users of many apps.
Tapping and holding on an app from the drawer allows you to drag it out to the home screen or dock. While dragging, you can uninstall (if available) or go to app info by dragging it to the appropriate area on the top. Folders may be made by dragging an app on top of another app. Tapping on the “unnamed folder” text will allow you to name the folder.
Available widgets can be accessed from the app drawer by flicking to the left. Tap and hold to drag them over to the home screen. Please note, some widgets are unavailable for use within Action Launcher. Any HTC Sense widgets, for example, are not compatible with the launcher and may not be used.
Removing any placed element of the home screen works like most other launchers. Tap and hold on the item until the remove area appears at the top of the screen. Drag it up to the area and release and the shortcut is removed.
Another standout feature of this home screen replacement is shutters. Shutters are on-demand widgets. They appear when you invoke them, and go away when you’re done with them. It should be noted, the widget pops over your homescreen and never becomes a part of it or alters it in any way. No more big ugly widget on your homescreen.
If you have a shortcut with an available shutter, the icon will have three lines in the lower right corner. To invoke the shutter, swipe up or down on the icon and watch your one time widget come to life. Tap off the widget and it’s gone until you need it again. The vertical swipe action is the default setting for invoking shutters. You can change it to vertical swipe, double tap or both in the Action Launcher settings.
Covers are one of my favorite innovations in this app. You may use covers to quickly launch apps without making your home screen look ugly. To show the versatility of covers, I’m going to demonstrate using direct dial widgets.
To start, lets make a folder out of direct dial widgets and the phone dialer shortcut. Keeping the dialer as the first icon in the folder is important, as once we’re done that will be all you see. After all the contacts you want to reach quickly are in there, tap the folder, then the three dot overflow button. Tap on Make Cover and we’re done.
As you can see, you now just have a phone dialer icon with a translucent square in the lower right corner. If you tap on the icon, you launch right into the dialer as any shortcut would do. When you vertical swipe (or double tap, depending on your taste) you now have a folder full of those direct dial contacts. Tap on one of your contacts to initiate the call. Covers are powerful tools to increase efficient use of your home screen. Rather than tap dialer, swipe to contacts and dig through them to call, this functionality is simplified in a rather straightforward manner.
At the top of your home screen is the action bar. There’s a link to take you right into the Play Store nested between a search bar and the settings button. The search bar is set to quick search by default. Quick search is unified search of your device. You can find apps, people, music or video by searching in this bar. This functionality, along with visibility of the bar itself, can be changed in the settings.
Let’s dig into the settings. Tap the overflow button and you’re presented with four options. Lock Desktop locks the desktop. This prevents icons from being rearranged, etc. System settings launches the phone’s native settings menu. Manage apps puts you into settings/apps/all, so you can uninstall apps that way and keep tabs on your storage. Settings is the settings for the app, and that’s where the rest of this guide is going.
I’m going to go line by line down the entire settings menu. We’ll start with Display settings.
The display settings allow you to tweak visual aspects of Action Launcher. Icon pack allows you to use a third party icon pack or stock OS icons. Pretty much anything I’ve tried from the Play Store has worked well, though I like the stock icon pack the best. With the 1.9.0 update, you can now change icons on a per-app basis. Tapping and holding on the shortcut icon, then releasing will give you the option to change the icon for that one shortcut. Enabling shutters allows you to use them. I keep this enabled as it’s a key feature of the launcher. If you choose not to use them, you can disable them.
Wallpaper scrolling works as advertised. It may be checked in the image, however I don’t actually use this feature as I’m a one home screen guy.
Invisible action bar will present a more unified experience on the home screen. If you prefer the action bar to have a background, untick the box. If you haven’t noticed, I’m all about unification of experiences.
The edge shadow feature adds some subtle shading around your wallpaper of choice. It works in the same vein as applying a filter to a photo using Snapseed. If you don’t like the fading, shut it off here.
Quickdrawer settings toggle the unified app drawer experience. The hidden apps menu allows you to hide apps from appearing in the quickdrawer at all. As an example, I hide the Play Store from the list, as there’s a button in the action bar for this.
The tabs options allow you to alter the visual representation for tabs. I keep my tabs hidden, but if you want to see tabs for widgets and apps, you can choose between thin and default sizes as well.
Changing the background of the quickdrawer allows you to see your wallpaper through it, or you can choose between holo dark and black. Tinted looks cool and works well with edge shadow.
Home screens options are toggles for number and dimensions of the home screen(s). Grid dimensions will let you set how many icons you can have per screen. You can also choose the scale of the icons and whether or not they display text labels. Home screen page count and default home screen allow you to set multiple home screens and choose the one to use as the home button screen. It should be noted, if you have a home screen that is not screen 1 set as your default, you’ll have to scroll all the way left to be able to access your quickdrawer. I entirely recommend using screen 1 as your default home screen if you choose to have more than one.
The next group of settings are for the dock. You can entirely disable the dock with the topmost option. Width will allow you to have more or less icons in the dock. Dock seperator and page indicator add or remove visual cues from your home screen.
Adjusting the items in the shortcuts menu gives you a bevy of quick ways to achieve functionality. Open cover/shutter actions are in here, as I discussed earlier. If you choose to double tap you’ll be able to set the time between double taps as well. You can change the default search behaviour of the action bar from quicksearch to google now/google search or even voice search. Toggling the quickdrawer with the home button is possible, as well as toggling show/hide the action bar with a tap to an empty space on the screen. The last two checkboxes allow you to open your notifications with a swipe down, or recent apps with a swipe up.
Backup and import allows you to save your setup for use later. This is useful for the folks who have to flash every rom to their phone. Even though there’s a huge red scary box saying it might not work properly, I have never encountered an issue here. You can backup, restore and set the path where your backups will go in here.
The labs settings enable you to turn on experimental features. These could work improperly for your device, so I’m not going to go nuts describing them. New in 1.9 is a Show notification bar checkbox. If you uncheck it, the notification bar with your alerts, clock, signal strength etc. will be hidden while on home screens. Feel free to play around, test and report to the dev your experiences with these.
Help will let you view the tutorial again, read the changelog and report things to the developer. Chris Lacy is a cool guy and very responsive, so don’t be shy to report something not working as expected. You can also restart the app here, see a picture of Chris in the Credits section, view the licenses and donate extra money. I’ll note here that there’s no free version of this launcher and there shouldn’t be. It’s worth every penny imo and I’ve donated more to the developer. If you like it as much as I do, please donate and support Chris. The man needs to eat.
The final two settings are Say thanks! and Version. Version isn’t a setting, it just lets you know what version of the app you’re running. Say thanks will link you to the Play Store to give a review of the app.
If anyone has further questions or specific issues, feel free to post them here. You can also contact me if you have something additional to add or ask. Thanks for reading, and enjoy your new launcher!
Edit: Chris just pushed out an update to version 1.9. Changelog posted and explained:
NEW: A wealth of bug fixes, optimizations and usability improvements. - Self explanatory, this makes the app run much better than before.
NEW: Upgraded base launcher code to Android 4.3. - This base upgrade will allow AL to run better on newer devices. This should make redraws almost nonexistent and the whole experience smoother as a whole.
NEW: Change an individual icon. - You can change ONE icon, rather than having to use an entire icon pack. If you like the G+ icon in one icon pack, and the GMail icon in a second, this is possible now.
Also, users of Samsung's Galaxy S4 can have a transparent status bar. As I don't own one a S4, I cannot test this or even see the setting. Let us know how well that works!