There is a plethora of apps out there that allow you to customize just about every single thing on your android smartphone without even rooting. That is why we have started the weekly series “Monday Makeover.” Each week we will take one of these customization apps and talk about setting it up, discuss the features of it, and show you how you can make your android device truly one of a kind. This week we are taking a look at the popular homescreen replacement Nova Launcher.
Getting Nova Launch up and running on your phone is fairly simple. Once downloaded, you can tap your home button and select Nova Launcher from the menu. If you are not presented with this menu after tapping the home button, you can open your settings menu and go to the “Home” tab. Here you will see your options for your homescreen and you can select Nova Launcher. After this, you can return to your homescreen to see the default Nova Launcher setup.
You will be presented with the basic Nova Launcher set up: a search bar at the top, two selections for backup and restore (we will talk about that later), a folder, and a few icons. From here, you can basically change anything that you want. I would recommend deleting the blue and red squares from your homescreen by holding and dragging them to the “X” at the top of the screen. We will not be messing with these now.
The first thing we are going to dive into are Nova Settings which is where most of the setup will happen. You can enter this by tapping the Nova Settings icon or long pressing the homescreen and selecting the wrench in the top right corner of the popup. We will be looking at the “Desktop” section of the menu first.
Under the Desktop menu, you will see a plethora of options to choose from and we are going to take a look at the most important ones. Desktop Grid allows you to change the height and width of the invisible grid on your homescreen. If you have a larger screen, increasing the size of the grid will allow you to fit more icons on the homescreen and vice versa for a smaller screen. While you can make the grid large, making it too large on a small screen may cause your icons to be cut off since they each fit into one square. You can also add a search bar and change the quantity of homescreens from this section.
Under the Scroll section, you will find the options to choose the animation when scrolling between screens. There is also the option to make the wallpaper scroll with the screens. Infinite Scroll makes it to where scrolling past the last homescreen will bring you back to the first homescreen.
Under Icons and Widgets, you will the option to put labels under the app icons as well as what color the labels are and if they have shadows. When using your stock launcher, you may have noticed that some widgets cannot be made larger than a certain size. Checking the “Resize all widgets” box will allow you to change the size of all your widgets which is useful when setting up your homescreen.
Under the Advanced label, you can allow widgets to overlap each other. One of the most useful options under this section is “Lock Desktop” which keeps your icons, widgets, and shortcuts from moving when on. Also, you can choose to display a shadow at the top and bottom of your screen which can add a nice effect.
Under the Drawer menu in Nova Settings, you will find all the options you have to change the appearance and behavior of your app drawer. Just like on the desktop, you can adjust the size of the grid in your drawer so you can decide how many icons are on each page.
Checking “Show Pages as Cards” will give your phone the appearance of stock Android Lollipop by making the app drawer appear to be on separate cards instead of a separate screen. It can make for a very cool effect. Background changes the color and transparency in the background of the app drawer.
Similar to the desktop, Scroll Effect changes the animation when scrolling between pages of apps. Transition Animation is different than Scroll Effect because it changes the animation of opening the app drawer (NOTE: If “Show Pages as Cards” is checked, the Transition Animation must be set as Circle). Drawer Style lets you choose between scrolling between pages horizontally or vertically.
Tab Style changes the appearance of the tabs at the top of the app drawer. Menu Actions lets you choose what is available in the app drawer menu. Checking “Label Icons” will display the name of the app below its icon. Under the Drawer Groups section, you can change and add tabs at the top of the app drawer. This is also where you add folders. (Drawer Groups are only available with Nova Prime) The most useful setting in here is Hide Apps (only available with Nova Prime) which allows you to choose which apps are displayed in the app drawer.
Under Advanced, you can isolate tabs so you cannot swipe between two tabs. You can also choose to have the app drawer close after selecting an app and for the app drawer to remain in the same position after being closed.
The dock is the row of icons at the very bottom of your phone screen. Under this menu, you can turn the dock on or off and determine its appearance. Under Style, you can change how the dock looks. Dock Pages allows you to add pages to the dock which can be swiped through like homescreens.
Dock Icons changes the amount of icons on each page of the dock. You can also change the dock margins and how high the dock is. Small Icons shrinks the size of the icons placed in the dock to conserve space. The divider separates the dock from the rest of the screen and can be turned on and off with Show Divider. Label Icons shows the name of the app under its icon but will take up more room.
Under Advanced, you can select Dock as Overlay if you want the dock to be on top of your homescreens. Selecting this also lets you select Automatically Close which will close the dock after a few seconds. These features can be useful when using gestures to bring up the dock, which we will talk about soon.
Under the Folders menu, you can change the appearance of folders on your homescreen and in your app drawer. You can change the way the icon looks by changing the options under the Icon section. Under the Window section, you can change the appearance of how folders look when opened. Transition Animation changes the animation of opening a folder and Background changes the color and transparency in the folder. You can also add name labels under each icon and change the color of the labels.
Look and Feel
Options under the Look and Feel menu can create the biggest visual change to your phone. Color Theme lets you change the overall color of Nova Launcher. You probably will not notice huge changes with this setting but it does show up here and there.
Icon Theme is something that can immediately change your phones look. Here you can choose what icon pack you want to use. You can stick with the stock pack, download some from the Play Store, or even make your own. You can check out some of our icon pack recommendations here. You can also change the size of your icons from 70% to 130% (only available with Nova Prime).
Icon Font changes the font of the names displayed below app icons. Screen Orientation gives you the ability to have your entire homescreen rotate. This can be useful for large screens and tablets, but can look strange on smaller screens and may mess up widgets.
Scroll Speed and Animation Speed can make you phone seem faster by speeding up the scrolling between apps and the animation when opening an app. App Animation lets you choose how apps open when pressed. Under the Notification Bar Menu, you can choose to hide the notification bar, and if your Android version supports it, you can make the notification bar transparent.
Gestures and Buttons
Under this menu, you can add gestures that will open apps or complete actions. Home Button allows you to click the home button to open an app, complete a Nova Action, or open a shortcut. This only works on the homescreen.
Gestures (only available with Nova Prime) can make using your phone easier and more intuitive if you spend the time to set it up. If you have a phone with a large screen, I recommend setting the “Swipe down” gesture to “Expand Notification.” This way, you can view your notifications by just swiping down anywhere on the homescreen instead of having to using a separate hand or juggling your phone so you can reach the top. There are endless possibilities with gestures and I recommend spending some time in this menu to see what everything can do.
Even though you are not using the Google Now Launcher, you still have the option to say “Ok Google” and launch the Google Now voice search. Under the Ok Google menu, you can find the setup for this.
Unread counts (only available with Nova Prime) allow icons to display a number whenever there is an unread notification. This can be useful for missed calls, text messages, and emails. You will have to download a separate app, but the apps are both free and accessible from the Unread Counts menu. You can choose the placement, size, shape, and color of the unread badges.
Under this menu, you can choose to have new apps automatically added to the homescreen or simply put into the app drawer. If you have “Auto-add widgets” selected in your Play Store settings, it will override this option. So if you do not want apps automatically placed on the homescreen, make sure both of those settings are not selected.
Backup and Restore
This menu will be useful if you like to constantly change the look of your homescreen. When you get a setup you like, you can back it up to your phone’s memory and then save it other places if you want to. You can create as many backups as you want. Then you can change your homescreen to something completely different. When you want to return to your original homescreen, all you need to do is select “Restore or Manage Backups” and select your backup.
You can also delete unneeded backups from this menu. There are many sites that will show you how to create certain looks on your homescreen. Many will give you the option to download a backup which you can apply from this menu and it will have the homescreen already set up.
Apps, Shortcuts, Widgets, and Wallpapers
When you long-press on your homescreen, a menu will pop up with several options on it. Nova Actions gives you access to several icons that can make navigating your phone. You can put icons on your homescreen that will open your recent apps, turn the dock on and off, and even start a voice search. Apps allows you to add apps to your homescreen, although I am not sure if it is any faster than dragging them from your app drawer to your homescreen. Shortcuts can be useful for repetitive actions.
If you constantly find yourself going to the same settings option, you can create a shortcut that will automatically open that settings page. You can also create a shortcut that will create a navigation route to a specified place. Widgets is where you can find a list of widgets to add to your homescreen. Wallpapers allows you to change your wallpaper, but it will probably look different from the normal option. You will have several options to choose from so you may want to know where the photo you want is before going here.
With Nova Launcher, you are given the ability to individually edit every icon on your phone. Tapping and holding the icons on your homescreen will bring up a small menu. Clicking “Edit” will bring up another menu. Tapping the icon will allow you to change it to whatever you want. You can also rename each icon to your preferred word.
“Swipe Action” allows you to launch an app, shortcut, or Nova Action by swiping up from that icon. One example for this is having a phone app and setting the swipe action to open up contacts or call a specific contact. This menu can also create another level of usability for your phone.
There you have it. An extensive look at the majority of the options you can find when using Nova Launcher and Nova Launcher Prime. This is one of the most popular and well liked launchers in the Play Store with over 10 million downloads and a 4.6 star rating.
With Nova Launcher, you are able to make your phone completely yours. You can go download Nova Launcher for free in the Play Store and you can unlock all features by purchasing Nova Launcher Prime for $4.99. If you enjoy Nova Launcher, I recommend springing for Prime because it add several useful features. Leave a comment down below on what you think about Nova Launcher and what app you want to see in next week’s Monday Makeover!