Rethinking the homescreen with Action Launcher 3 (Monday Makeover)

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. Last week we talked about the popular homescreen theming app Themer. This week we are taking a look at Action Launcher 3.

Getting Action Launcher 3 up and running on your phone is fairly simple. Once downloaded, you can tap your home button and select “Action 3” 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 “Action 3”. After this, you can return to your homescreen to see the default Action Launcher setup.

You are greeted by the welcome screen that gives you two options for setting up your homescreen. You can choose Import which will import the icons and folders that were on your old homescreen and place them on the Action Launcher homescreen. The other option is Start Fresh which will take you directly to the default Action Launcher setup. I am going with Start Fresh because it will give us a clean slate to look at and we can see all of the features of Action Launcher 3. Two of the most useful features in this launcher are covers and shutters so we are going to look at them first.

Covers

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Covers are basically folders with added functionality and a different look. On the default homescreen, you will find examples of both folders and covers. There are two folders named “Google” and “Create.” These look and act like the folders we all know and tapping on them will open them up. There is also a cover which is the App Drawer icon in the bottom middle. You will notice that it does not look like the two folders because it only displays one icon. Also, tapping on it opens the app Screenshot_2015-02-23-14-16-38~2drawer instead of a folder. The way that you can identity this icon as a cover is the small box on the bottom right corner of the icon. All covers will have this symbol on them. In order to open the cover, you have to swipe up from the icon. Now, you can see the contents of the cover. This is what makes covers so useful. Tapping on them will launch the app that’s icon is visible and swiping up from the icon opens up the cover. You can change any folder into a cover in just a few steps. We can try this out with the Google folder on the homescreen. Tap on the folder to open it, and then tap on the three dots in the bottom right. You will see the option to “Make Cover.” Tap this option and the Google folder turns into a cover which will look different and have the small square in the bottom right. Tapping the icon now will launch the Google Search app and swiping up will open the folder. You can change the app that launches when the cover is tapped by opening the cover and moving the desired app to the first position in the cover. Whichever app is placed first in the cover will be the app that is launched and will also change the icon displayed for the cover. Covers can be extremely useful and timesaving if you take time to set them up. One cover that I recommend is one for all of your photography tools. I have mine set up so that my camera app is first and launches when the cover is tapped, and I have placed other apps such a photo editing apps and my gallery into the cover. This way everything is in one folder, but the camera app can still be launched quickly.

Shutters

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Shutters are widgets that are accessed the same way covers are. On the homescreen, the Google Chrome app has a shutter on it. You can tell this by looking for two vertical lines in the bottom right corner of each icon, similar to the squares found for covers. Swiping up from the Chrome app will display the bookmarks widget Screenshot_2015-02-23-14-16-38~3~2so that you can easily access your favorite websites. Tapping on the Chrome app will launch it like normal. You can apply a shutter to any app by holding down on the icon and selecting “Create Shutter.” From here, a list of available widgets will pop up and you can select which one you want to open. Shutters can be useful if you are like me and love the convenience of widgets but do not want a bunch of them cluttering up your homescreen. You can have the widgets you want as shutters so that you can view them when you want to and hide them when you do not. Although they may not be as glanceable as widgets placed directly on the homescreen, shutters are still much faster than having to dive into an app, and you do not have to leave the homescreen.

App Drawer

By now, you may have stumbled upon the fact that there are two ways to access your apps with Action Launcher 3. You can access them the conventional way by tapping on the app drawer icon which will open up the familiar app drawer, or you can swipe in from the left on your homescreen to display Quickdrawer, a scrollable list of your apps. In my opinion, this is the easier (and cooler) way to do it, plus there are some features to Quickdrawer that are not present in the conventional app drawer. On the right side of Quickdrawer is an alphabetical list which you can scroll along to easily access apps that begin which each letter. This can save a lot of time, especially if you have many apps on your phone. Also, you do not have to leave your homescreen to open an app. You can choose either way you want, or you can use both. If you choose to ditch the old app drawer, you can simply delete the icon by dragging it to the top of the screen. You cannot disable Quickdrawer.

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We are going to dive into the settings list, which can be accessed by either swiping up on the homescreen or tapping and holding on the homescreen and selecting Settings. There are not many categories to address, and the first one on the list is Quicktheme.

Quicktheme

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This menu lets you choose how you want your homescreen to look. You can click on “Theme” and select a premade one from the list, or you can customize it yourself. If you want your phone to look like it is running Lollipop, Material Light and Material Dark create a nice look that replicates several design features in Lollipop. You can choose what color you want the status bar to be, or you can leave it transparent. You can also customize the color of the search box, apps background, Quickdrawer background, and folder background.

Layout

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This menu lets you customize the layout of your homescreen and enable or disable some features. “Top control” lets you choose what you want displayed at the top of your homescreen. “Home screens grid” changes the height and width of the grid on your homescreen which can allow you to fit more apps and widgets on each screen. You can enable or disable home screen indicators, as well. “Dock” changes how many icons can be placed on the dock. You can choose from 3 to 12, or you can select to turn the dock off. Quickpage is a separate screen that is accessible by swiping in from the right on your homescreen. You can put apps and widgets on it just like you would a normal homescreen page. We will look more at Quickpage further in the article. You can choose to turn it on or off and its grid size is determined by the grid size of your homescreens. Once you have set up your homescreen just like you want it, you can lock the desktop to prevent apps and widgets from moving around.

Display

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From this menu, you can customize the look of icons and other features. “Icon pack” lets you apply the icon pack of you choice to your phone. This is one way to completely change the look of your phone. If you want some suggestions, you can check out some of our favorite icon packs. “Icon scale” changes the size of the icons on your homescreen and app drawer. “Text labels” lets you decide when you want the name of icons to be displayed. “Cover/Shutter indicators” lets you decide the look of the small squares and bars which are placed on icons when they have covers or shutters applied. You can even turn them off if you want to. If you do not want to use shutters at all, you can choose to disable them completely. “Hidden apps” lets you hide apps from your app list without having to uninstall them. “Open app animation” changes the animation seen when opening up apps. “Screen orientation” lets you choose if you want you homescreen to be locked in portrait, landscape, or change as you rotate your device. You can turn wallpaper scrolling on and off, as well as the shadow displayed at the top and bottom of the homescreen.

Shortcuts

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This menu lets you change how different features are accessed. You can choose to have Google Now launch when you swipe right on your leftmost homescreen. I choose to turn this off because it can interfere with opening the Quickdrawer. You can also choose to enable or disable opening the Quickdrawer by swiping in from the left. “Toggle Quickdrawer” lets you choose if tapping the Home button opens the Quickdrawer. “Notifications” allows you to swipe down from anywhere on your homescreen to expand the notification shade. “Settings” lets you choose if you can access setting by swiping up on the homescreen. “Lock device” gives you the ability to lock your device by double or triple tapping your screen. In order to enable this, you have to set Action Launcher 3 as a device administrator, but it will walk you through those steps. “Open Cover/Shutter” changes how you open covers and shutters from a vertical swipe to double tap or both. “Double tap time” changes the max time between taps to determine if it was a double tap or not.

Backup & Import

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This menu allows you to save you homescreen setup so that you can return to it whenever you want. “Backup” lets you name and save your current setup for later use. “Restore” lets you reapply a backup that you have saved. “Backup location” shows you where your backups are stored in your phones internal memory, but it cannot be changed. “Import” lets you import your setup from a previous launcher which we also saw at the welcome screen. “Restore default layout” will change your entire setup to the default layout we saw when we first installed Action Launcher 3.

Quickpage

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Quickpage is the separate screen that can be enabled in the settings. Once enabled, you can swipe in from the right on your homescreen to have it appear. It looks very similar to the Quickdrawer on the left side of the screen. This feature can be useful to those who do not want a lot of apps and widgets cluttering their homescreen but still need quick access to them. Apps and widgets can be added to Quickpage just like another homescreen. After you select a widget or app, hold down on it and drag it over to the right side of the screen. You will see a tab with a blocky letter “C” in it. Hold the app over this tab and Quickpage will open. Then you can position the app or widget wherever you want it. Covers and shutters work on Quickpage just like on the homescreen.


We have reached the end of another Monday Makeover. We took a look at every feature that Action Launcher 3 has to offer its users. It is a wonderful, speedy, fluid homescreen replacement and has several neat features to save time for you and space on your screen. I would definitely recommend giving Action Launcher 3 a look if you want to take these features for a spin. You can download it for free in the Play Store, but several features are only available in the Plus version which will cost you $4.99. If you are trying Action Launcher 3 out or have used it in the past, go ahead and leave a comment on what you thought about it. While you’re down there, give us some suggestions on apps you would like to see in future Monday Makeovers. Have a great week!

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