A few years ago I bemoaned to a friend that I hated how the folders worked on my iPhone. The ridged 3 x 3 grid was a bore, and the fact that it auto filled holes in the layout meant that I really struggled to find a balance between the right number of folders on the home screen and the right number of categories for my applications. The idea that they were all there on the front screen to be used immediately meant that, in theory, everything was ready for me when I needed it, but of course with choice paralysis a real thing, and that memory for a list of things is obviously very small (your memory can only hold somewhere between five to seven things at a time, which is why most good user interface guidelines suggest having more than that a bad idea) the layout was inflexible and at worst unusable.
After moving to Android I made great use of modifying my home screens to how I exactly wanted them. No more messing around with the grid – I’d set it up exactly I wanted Thanks to Nova Launcher and it’s customisation options, I now have a wonderful home screen that has three “levels” to it, each with their own functionality, and in this post I am going to explain them out.
The “Lock Screen”
My Lock Screen is boring. It is the only part of my set up that is fixed by the phone. Thanks to using an HTC handset not on “Pure” Android like my earlier Nexus 4, I am stuck having those four icons on the bottom. I can change them, but the position, size and look of them are fixed. I rarely use them, with maybe the only one being used is the camera short cut.
I have my notifications on the Lock Screen, but otherwise it’s pretty much a waste of sorts. And I actually like it that way. The background is a Boards of Canada graphic I found online.
The “Home Screen”
This is the first screen you’ll come to when unlocking the phone. This is the one that has the most customisation of all my screens, and it is in my view a user interface dream. And there are a few little tricks here too. The main thing I want you to take away is the fact that it is complete simplicity. Utterly stripped bare of flashiness and it’s minimal and sparse.
There are three “Slides” to my home screen, and it will always open to the first one that you see here. Swipe to the left and there is a full screen weather forcast. Swipe right and you’ll find some widgets for my music applications, like BeyondPod, Google Music and Spotify. But on the front page – nothing but five icons and the time.
The time is written out using Clockr, a brilliant wee app. But the key function is those five icons. Left to right they are Spotify, WhatsApp, the Drawer (which we will come to), the Camera and Google Play Music. Tap each of these and you’ll be taken to the application as you’d expect to be. The icons are an icon pack called “Flatro” that I adore, and I’ve flirted with others. Nothing matches the style and spread of icons. They are just great.
I’ll talk about the Drawer now – the drawer, represented by the Nexus “X” icon, is a folder. It is where I keep the rest of the applications that I like to use that aren’t in the top four applications that I have on the bottom row. The Drawer opens up, as you can see, into a 5 x 5 grid of icons. These are loosely organised into a selection of applications, with the most used at the bottom and nearest my finger.
The icons might not be the easiest to explain, so here’s the list of the applications.
Top – Google Authenticator, Stopwatch, Google Keep, Gallery app, BeyondPod
2nd – Timehop, Google Maps, Google Drive, Sleep as Android, uTorrent
3rd – VLC, YouTube, Plex, Dropbox, Messeger (for texts)
4th – Carousel, ES Flie Explorer, Pocket, Strava, Gmail
5th – Chrome, Twitter, Instagram, Phone, Settings
The folder has been tweaked over months and months to feel the best for me, and I can now select an application without really needing to look at it. The third layer is the App Drawer, and we’ll come to that shortly. But first, I have a few hidden tricks.
Now, I mentioned that I wanted tricks and customisation and Nova Launcher gives it to me. However… have you noticed that I don’t have a massive list of apps? Where are all my other apps? I mean, I don’t just use the 25 on the grid and the four on the dock – there are loads of others that I use daily, but don’t fit into the flow I have gotten used to.
There is a hidden feature on Nova icons that allow you to assign a swipe action to each one. What this means is that there are two ways to activate an icon – tap, as per usual, and swipe. Swipe can do a load of things, from opening other applications or even specific actions in specific apps. When I discovered this it was a revelation and now I 100% couldn’t live without it. Almost every icon has two actions, and it suddenly gives me so much more freedom.
Take my five icons in the “dock” as it can be called. Tap to open brings up the four apps as previously mentioned and the Drawer. But with the swipe, I have the following.
Spotify – doesn’t do anything.
WhatsApp – swiping calls home. Quick access to a phone call home.
The “X” Icon – swiping opens up the entire app drawer.
Camera – swiping opens the camera but defaults to taking a video. The tap opens the camera automatically to taking a photo.
Google Play Music – the swipe opens another audio app, BeyondPod, for my podcasts
In the drawer the swiping does a few other cool features.
Twitter – swiping on the Twitter icon opens the actual Twitter app. Tapping it opens Tweedle, my preferred twitter client.
Phone – tapping opens the phone app, but if you swipe it opens the Contacts application
The Settings icon – tapping opens the device settings, but swiping opens the Nova Settings.
So there you have it - this is why I can’t ever leave Android. Ever. And the best thing – the set up is back up to my Dropbox and I can take it to any phone that supports Nova Launcher.
This isn’t the most boring post I’ve ever done.