LauncherPro became one of the most popular homescreen replacements for Android in just a matter of weeks after its initial release in May 2010. It currently has an average rating of 4.69 in the Market based on almost 100 000 reviews. It’s easy to see why: the app is fast, powerful, very customizable and foremost – it offers features other launchers simply don’t have that let you use your Android more efficiently.
LauncherPro’s developer Federico Carnales, the Yoda of Android homescreens who likely eat widgets for breakfast and think in Java code, has released impressive updates on almost a weekly basis. He’s by some people considered to be a rock star in the world of Android coding, and for good reason. Google or HTC ought to hire him, but it would likely just hold him back since the type of functionality and innovation he brings would be considered too advanced for average users.
I’ve personally used LauncherPro non-stop since it came out, it’s my favorite Android app, and I won’t go back to the HTC launcher any time soon. Here are 17 reasons to use LauncherPro – a LauncherPro tutorial, if you will, that hopefully can help some people get the most out of the app. I wrote a similar post on Androinica back in August, but I wanted to expand it and share the topic on TechCredo as well. The screen shots in this tutorial are of my HTC Desire running a MIUI/LauncherPro Plus setup. For a tutorial on customizing LauncherPro, check out this post.
1. Shortcut labels can be removed
This is a nice little detail that actually makes your homescreen look much more clean and stylish. You can remove the icon labels from Preferences > Appearance Settings > Hide icon labels, but then you obviously have to be able to recognize shortcuts by their icons alone, which usually isn’t a problem.
2. Drop to uninstall functionality
A feature that I’ve wanted ever since I got my first Android device is drop to uninstall. It’s an incredibly convenient timesaver, and it should be a feature of any OS, really. LauncherPro has it, and this is how drop to uninstall works:
- Longpress a shortcut or a widget and just drag it to the trashcan at the bottom of the screen and hold it there for second.
- A pop-up saying “Drop to uninstall” will appear: let go of it and the app will be uninstalled.
3. You can fit more apps and widgets on each screen
Most launchers have too much white space, and don’t take advantage of the full screen estate. This is especially noticeable on devices with huge displays such as the HTC Evo: you can’t fit more shortcuts on the homescreen of the 4.3” Evo than you can on the 3.2” HTC Hero. With LauncherPro, however, you may customize the number of homescreen columns and rows. I use 5 columns and 5 rows: plenty of extra space for shortcuts and widgets, but it still doesn’t look crowded.
You can activate this option from Preferences > Homescreen Settings > Number of columns/Number of rows. If you use this feature, you may want to enable the Stretch 4-row widgets option as well from Preferences > Advanced Settings > 5 Icon rows in homescreen.
4. Additional columns in the app drawer
With extra app drawer columns, you don’t have to scroll as far to reach the app you’re looking for since more icons can be displayed simultaneously. Set the number of drawer columns from Preferences > Advanced Settings > Drawer columns portrait / landscape. A value of 5 in portrait mode and 8 in landscape mode is what work best for me.
5. Dock swipe gestures
LauncherPro lets you assign an action to upward or downward swipe gestures over any of the shortcuts in the dock at the bottom of the screen. For instance, you can tell LauncherPro to add a new contact when you swipe over the Contacts icon, take you to the screen where you keep your bookmarks widget when you swipe over the Browser icon, or call a certain number when you swipe over the Phone icon. LauncherPro can also display dock pop-ups (missed calls, unread SMS, bookmarks) when you swipe over an icon, open notifications, show/hide the status bar, etc.
I personally think it’s too inconvenient to pinch the screen to bring up homescreen previews since it requires an extra hand (it’s hard to do it with the same hand you’re holding your phone with). Swipe gestures, however, lets you access homescreen previews super quick with your thumb. Swipe gestures are also great to use for quickly bringing up LauncherPro’s and Android’s settings screens.
Set a swipe gesture for a shortcut by longpressing it and selecting Swipe gesture action from the pop-up menu.
6. The dock background can be customized
The dock background can be changed or removed completely from Preferences > Appearance Settings > Dock background. Any custom image may be used, and there are sites dedicated to LP dock backgrounds such as LauncherPro Icons, that also has as an app: LauncherPro Icons and Docks.
7. LauncherPro has three docks
The shortcut dock is scrollable in both directions, and LauncherPro lets you add two additional docks that can be filled with shortcuts to your favorite apps. This is a great way to free up space on your homescreen. Activate this feature from Preferences > Dock Settings > Number of docks, and make sure to use the Loop scrolling option as well.
8. Dock notifications for calls, texts and emails
If you have a missed call, a new text message or email, LauncherPro can let you know of this via notifications in the dock. When you press the notification, you’ll be taken to the message or missed call. You can access this feature from Preferences > Dock Settings > Dock notifications.
9. Widget resizing
Unlike other launchers, LauncherPro Plus lets you resize any widget as you see fit:
- Longpress the widget you want to resize and release it.
- The widget will then get a gray border: grab the bottom-right corner, and drag it around to alter the size.
- When you’re done resizing, press the hardware Back button to trigger the change.
This is a superb method to fit more stuff on your homescreen; it gives you additional control and lets you customize your layout even further.
10. Scrollable widgets
Most of the HTC widgets have scrollable contents, but scrolling is not supported for regular widgets. LauncherPro on the other hand supports scrollable widgets, such as Pure Messenger and LauncherPro’s own built-in widgets. It’s very convenient. This option is activated from Preferences > General Settings > Enable scrollable widgets.
11. LauncherPro widgets
One of the most requested LauncherPro features was support for the HTC widgets, and a reason Carnales started developing his app in the first place was to get a launcher similar to the Sense experience. However, the HTC widgets are stored within Sense and cannot be used elsewhere, so Carnales decided to make his own versions of them. There are currently five widgets for Plus users: Bookmarks, Calendar, Messaging, Twitter, Facebook and Friends.
12. Candy for the eyes
You can turn on a 3D look for LauncherPro’s app drawer from Preferences > Advanced Settings > Use 3D drawer. The 3D drawer gives you sweet eye candy, but it uses more memory than the regular version. You may also control the speed of LauncherPro’s visual effects from Preferences > Advanced Settings > Opening speed. Update: You can now select a new screen transition as well from Preferences > Homescreen Settings > Transition effect.
13. Custom icons for any shortcut
LauncherPro lets you assign a custom icon for any shortcut. This is particularly useful if you want a unique and personalized look for your dock bar, but you can also change the icon for shortcuts you add to the homescreen.
To change the icon for one of the shortcuts in the dock, longpress the shortcut you want to alter and select Change icon from the pop-up menu. To add a shortcut with a custom icon to the homescreen, longpress an empty space on the screen, select Shortcuts > Applications, tap the app you want to add, and from the resulting screen, press its icon to change it.
14. Additional customization options
LauncherPro features settings that the stock Android launcher and the HTC launcher don’t have, that lets you hide the entire notification bar (can be shown again with a swipe gesture action), remove the home button in the app drawer, disable wallpaper scrolling and change the highlight style when tapping shortcut icons (all from Preferences > Appearance Settings). There is also a feature for backing up and restoring your current LauncherPro layout.
15. You can hide apps that suck (bloatware, etc)
Did your Android phone come with bloatware that you can’t uninstall? Hide unwanted apps in the app drawer from Preferences > General Settings > Hidden Apps.
16. Landscape mode
Whether or not your native launcher app supports landscape mode (the HTC Desire doesn’t, for example), you can get it with LauncherPro from Preferences > Behavior Settings > Enable Auto-rotation.
17. With LauncherPro, you can link to anything
LauncherPro lets you link to activities, such as specific screens within apps, but the LP Shortcuts feature takes this one step further. Certain screens within apps require extra info to be passed, and this is where the LP Shortcuts come in handy. They provide more flexibility, since you can create a shortcut that opens X and continues to do Y. Thus, they basically let you link to anything on your Android, at least in theory. Since LP Shortcuts are actual files, they can also be stored and shared.
To create LP Shortcuts you have to use the web-based LauncherPro Shortcut Creator tool, and they should be stored in a folder in the root of your memory card called lpshortcuts. This thread in the LauncherPro forum is dedicated to LP Shortcuts, and here are a couple of shortcuts to get you started.
A few shortcut examples:
Go to the Facebook Wall (official app):
Add a new contact:
Compose new Gmail:
Switch to a particular LauncherPro homescreen:
Package name: com.fede.launcher
Class name: com.fede.launcher.Launcher
Add an Extra:
Value: the number of the screen to switch to
Do you know of any more ways to take advantage of LauncherPro? Drop a comment and let me know!