How To Install an Android Launcher and Customize Your UI

Whether your phone is made of unibody aluminum or cheap plastic, you'll care a lot more about what appears on-screen that the chassis around it. If you don't like the look of your icons, app drawer and desktop or you find that they're sluggish, a third party app launcher can give your smartphone a whole new interface. There are at least half a dozen popular app launchers with names such as Lightning Launcher, Go Launcher Ex and Apex, each of which provides a bevy of customization options that let you control everything from how screen transitions animate to whether the notification bar is hidden or visible.

There are also dozens of themes for each launcher that contain their own icon sets, wallpapers and other visual elements. Even better, some of these launchers are even faster than the one that came with your phone, making your trips to the home screen that much snappier.

To set up a third party app launcher:

  1. Download and install your launcher from Google Play.

  2. Tap the home button. A list of possible launchers appears.

  3. Select the new launcher and tap Always. The launcher will now take over your home screen and app drawers.

  4. Navigate to the launcher's settings menu. On many launchers, including Nova Launcher, you can get to the custom settings menu by long pressing on the desktop. On others, you can access settings by hitting the menu button when you're viewing the desktop.

  5. Use the settings menu to customize the launcher. The options and menu structure will vary based on which launcher you use. On Nova Launcher, for example, you have submenus for the desktop, app drawer, dock and custom gestures, among others. In many launchers, you can configure the desktop and app menus to rotate along with the phone, something most Android phones don't do by default.

  6. Download themes from Google Play for your launcher. Some themes will work on multiple launchers.

If you want to switch launchers, you can either uninstall the current one or navigate to the apps menu in settings, select the current launcher and tap Clear Defaults. Android will prompt you to choose a new launcher next time you tap home.

Follow Avram Piltch @Geekinchief and on Google+.  Follow us @TomsGuide, on Facebook and on Google+.

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