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Customise Android with ADW.Launcher

Android comes in many different versions with unique user interfaces, and you can also add your own skins that fundamentally change the way you interact with your phone. We take a look at one.

Step 1

Locate ADW.Launcher in the Android Market, then download and install it. When you press the Home button to exit the Market app you’ll be prompted as to which program you want to use as your launcher. Choose ADW to launch this app, and also tick the box to set it as the default app for this job. You can set it back again later if you wish, or uninstalling ADW will see your original launcher (such as the stock Android home screen or HTC Sense) reverted to your default setting.

Step 2

You’ll now find yourself at the home screen, minus the widgets you’d already set up, but with a few common ones added. By default you’ve got five home screen panels as well as a dock at the bottom of the screen that includes shortcuts to your apps tray plus two of your most used programs. The web browser will be included here by default.

Step 3

Press the central button on the dock to open the app tray. All the apps installed on your phone are displayed here, in a series of horizontally scrolling screens rather than the single vertical one that is most common on Android phones. Press the Menu button and select Choose Group followed by New Catalog. Enter the name of a group of apps, such as travel of games and press OK. Now go to Menu again and choose Setup Group. Here you can tick the box next to the apps you want to place in this group – for example, all your games. Be sure to clear the tickboxes of any apps you don’t want in the group. Tap OK.

Step 4

The contents of the group will now be displayed. Press Menu>Choose Group>All to show all the programs, and then repeat the process and select a group to filter your list to select titles. You can use this feature either to group together common apps, or to to hide pre-installed apps that you don’t use but cannot uninstall – in this case select all the apps bar those you don’t want.

Step 5

Now return to the Home screen. Press the Menu button and select ADWSettings. There are countless ways in which you can configure your device to look.

Step 6

Press Screen Preferences and scroll down to the Desktop Columns and Desktop Rows options. Set both to five and then press the back button a couple of times to return to the home screen. You’ll now see that you now have extra space on each home screen panel, allowing room for five rows and columns of icons. Naturally you can choose to make them larger by reducing the number or rows or columns as well.

Step 7

Go back into the settings and select System Preferences. Tap on Swipe Up Actions. Here you can assign an action to be performed every time you swipe your finger from the bottom of the screen upwards, including opening an app. It’s a great way of getting a shortcut to one of your most commonly used apps, such as email or text messaging. Tap Open App and select one from the list.

Step 8

Next go into Drawer Settings. Here you can apply some eye-candy to how the app drawer opens and closes. There are some great effects here, but beware that too many will use more processor power, and battery life in the process. Ticking the Fade App Labels adds a subtle touch to the loading of the app screen, while choosing a background colour is a simple way of personalising your phone. In the Drawer Columns and Rows settings you can choose how many icons you want per row and column, as you did earlier with the home screen panels.

Step 9

You can add widgets to your home screen panels in the usual way. Tap and hold in a space on the screen and choose an option from the list. Note that some manufacturer-specific widgets, such as those from HTC and form a part of the Sense UI will not be available with ADW.Launcher.

Step 10

When adding an item to your home screen ADW gives you an extra option – Custom Shortcut. This enables you to add additional elements to your home screen, such as shortcuts to specific features within applications rather than merely opening the app itself.

Step 11

You’re now done, and have access to a whole new launcher that is infinitely more powerful and customisable than the default one installed on your phone. It is worth experimenting with the masses of settings ADW offers, although remember that some of the more obscure ones are quite technical and might not produce the expected results! Still anything that is likely cause performance issues is flagged as such, and you can undo any changes as quickly as you did them in the first place. Have fun!