Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Launchers

Introduction
On Android, a launcher is basically what you see to interact with the Android ecosystem. Most major manufacturers use their own (i.e. Samsung's TouchWiz, Motorola's Motoblur, HTC's Sense). Although no one is better than another, everyone seems to have their preference.

What to look for
The popular launchers for Android are ADW Launcher, LauncherPro, and GO Launcher. On the surface, all three launchers look the same and seem to offer the same features. The short answer is that they are and they do. The addendum to that is that the free versions offer different features, while the paid versions turn out to have the same thing. So you may not be asking why you would want to use any one over the other. The only answer is that each one performs a little differently on each device so use the one that works the best. Additionally, each one has slightly different levels of customization so also consider which one works to your particular tastes.

Why switch
Although the stock launchers are well done, they offer little in the way of customization. ADW, LauncherPro, and Go Launcher have several notable featres that set them apart. The first is the ability to customize the number of apps on the dock bar. On each, you can pick just a link for just the App Drawer, 3 or 5 icons (in ADW) to a sliding dockbar for 15 shortcuts (in LauncherPro). Second, the number of homescreens can be added and removed on the fly. This makes it easy to re-arrange and reset as needed. These launchers also have the ability to have a transparent App Drawer. Although this is probably the most menial feature, it is there for those of you who love to see your favorite wallpaper. On this note though, most allow the App Drawer to be set to a vertical scroll or horizontal pages. Finally, all of these launchers allow for themes, usually available in the market in free and paid versions, but also available from third party developers. This allows each user to truely make the phone their own.

What I Use
I have a Samsung Captivate which comes with TouchWiz on the stock operating system. Since I run CyanogenMod, I use ADW which I did use instead of TouchWiz when I first got my phone. Although I don't currently use any themes, I have a particular fondness for the blue and green ones.

Should you switch?
That all depends on what you thing of your current launcher. Since ADW, LauncherPro, and GoLauncher are all available for free in the Android Market, it does not hurt to try them out and see if you like what you see.