One of the best features that Android provides to the users is customization. Since it’s inception, Android has provided the capability to customize the UI to the hardware manufacturers as well as app developers. Often called “Home Screen Replacements” or “Launchers”, there exists a large number of apps available that can provide a high level of customization by just installing the application. Go Launcher EX is one of those such apps. Created by the GO Dev Team, the Go Launcher is extremely popular and has a growing list of features and users. As of this post, it has a 4.5 out of 5 star rating on the Android Market with over 209,000 reviews and this app is free.
Let’s start with the details of the application and the methods for testing and reviewing. The app weighs in at 4.0MB which isn’t terribly high, but definitely higher than ADWLauncher EX at 1.6MB and Launcher Pro at 2.1MB. This application is free off the Android Market, which makes a nice easy decision if you want to try it out. No worries about later regretting a purchase. I have it installed on a stock Motorola Atrix 4G, simply running in place of the Motoblur home screen app. I have used it now for over 4 weeks and feel I’ve tried nearly every feature and setting available. During that time Go Launcher EX has updated with minor additions and fixes several times. Each time the update was smooth with no adverse affects. I consider that a good thing, the devs are actively working on any problems as well as adding additional features.
Per the description found on the Android Market:
GO Launcher Ex, the extended version of GO Launcher, is the most popular home app in Android Market. It supports customizable home makeover, themes, smooth operation experience as well as various practical utilities. It brings you a fresh and extraordinary mobile operation experience.
- Thousands of personalized theme (Free downloads)
- Featured widgets, such as GO Calendar, GO Task Manager and GO Clock
- Extremely fancy home screen transition
- Smooth flipping experience
- User-defined folder to easily categorize apps
- Set icon sorting, hide app icon and uninstall apps
Like most popular launchers on the market, Go Launcher EX (GLE) provides a few additional UI features not found on the stock launcher applications on most Android phones such as theming. Themes have become a big market and a number of themes, both free and paid, exist for the GLE. The Go Dev Team has created a small GO community of apps that include several widgets, the launcher, a store and a lock screen replacement app. All of these are tightly integrated so that the user can easily control and access each through each other. You don’t need to install any GO widgets to take advantage of GLE, but if you want to, you can do so easily through the Go Store or the settings menu of the GLE.
All the additional features and settings for GLE can be accessed by pressing the MENU button while on your home screen. GLE adds a few extra options in the MENU, including a direct link to Themes, the GO Store, Edit and Preferences to name a few. Preferences carries all the system wide adjustments and settings found in GLE. The main settings are broken down into groups; Character Settings – changes to Icon sizes and fonts, Screen Settings – which is your desktop settings including icon arrangement, wallpaper mode and scroll transitions, App Drawer settings – similar to the screen settings but specific to the app drawer, Effects settings – all the fancy transitions, Operation Settings – physical swipe features, and Advanced settings – for those settings not falling into the first groups. I’m not going to go through each feature, but I’ll highlight some of the unique or interesting features in this review.
The UI interface changes aren’t just graphical either. The user can make many adjustments such as transitions. There are 17 different desktop transitions available for when you are swiping from one home screen to another. I personally leave it at “Default”, but there are many to try and make it your own. In the app drawer, GLE provides different styles, from the standard vertical scroll, to a more iOS like horizontal multi-screen setup. Of course, should you choose the later, the same type of transition effects exist for changing each screen of your app drawer that exist for the desktop screens. Additionally, in your app drawer, you can group apps into folders. For the entire launcher, home screen and app drawer, GLE adds a long press quick menu. You can uninstall apps from this quick menu, rename, change the icon, etc. It makes for a fast way to change and customize without digging through many menu levels.
GLE includes a few operational features as well. Located here the user can setup a screen orientation lock or unlock as well as three other settings. The first is how you want GLE to react to a HOME button press. There are 10 options including “Do Nothing” if you wish. The other two are glide (swipe) up and down. These two gestures feature the same 10 options. Also available, but not found in the settings page, is the ability to assign gestures to the dock icons (the bottom row of icons). You can assign a specific action for a swipe that initiates from each of the dock icons. For instance, I have assigned a gesture so that if I start at my App Drawer icon and swipe up, it will Show/Hide my notification bar.
I’ve already covered quite a bit of what is available on the home screen (desktop). Like many launchers, GLE offers the standard features such as the ability to add or remove home screens and change the default screen. Changes to the number of home screens can be accessed many ways, but the easiest is by pinching any of the home screen. Here you can add a screen by tapping the empty screen with the Plus sign, remove a screen by tapping the X in the top right of that screen or assign the default screen by tapping the HOME icon in the lower middle area of a screen. Also, you can simply jump to any screen by tapping it in the middle. In the “Screen Settings” section of the GLE preferences menu, you are able to make adjustments to the home screen. Features include the ability to show/hide application lables, show/hide the notification bar (also assignable to a gesture as mentioned above), change the grid layout of icons, adjust the transitions and change settings for the dock. One nice feature of the dock is the ability to independently swipe to up to three different dock icon sets, for up to 15 docked icons and available gestures for each.
Once in the app drawer, you can assign a horizontal or vertical orientation of your apps, adjust the grid size of the icons and the transition effects of the app drawer should you choose a horizontal orientation. Also available is the ability to show/hide a tab section and a search feature. The tab section has three tabs; one for all apps, one for recent apps and one for running apps. It’s a nice way to organize the apps but does take up space. It’s nice you can turn it on or off. The search bar will help you find your apps quickly, if you have such a large number, scrolling through them all is difficult. I don’t use either of these two features, but they are there and available.
You can organize apps into folders as well, but be warned that once in a folder it doesn’t show up in the rest of the app list. This can be confusing if you forgot where you put an app, so organize wisely. One great bonus is the ability to hide an application from your drawer. Have some of those pesky carrier installed apps that you cannot uninstall? Hide it and don’t be bothered with that app icon again. It’s not as nice as completely uninstalling it, but sure makes for a cleaner app drawer. You can also re-organize how apps are listed; Alphabetical, latest installed first and earliest installed first. Finally, if that is not enough, long pressing an app in the app drawer begins a iOS like App wiggle dance. From here you can uninstall an app if it can be uninstalled by tapping a red x on that app, or rearrange your apps by dragging them into a new position.
A theme will basically assign special icons for your applications and an associated wallpaper. There are many custom themes available but another nice feature is the ability to assign a custom icon to any application on the home screen individually. I actually made a set of icons for myself, and assigned them to apps I had on my home screen. This and a custom wallpaper makes for my own theme without downloading and installing one from the market. This makes for a very nice set of customization features. Themes can be found by search for GO Launcher EX Theme on the Android Market as well as selecting Theme from the MENU. In the themes menu, all your downloaded themes will be available as well as a few featured themes. Selecting more provides to option to search the Android Market or Go Store for more themes.
The Go Store provides a little interface that is specific to the GO universe. It includes lists for GO Themes, Go Locker themes, other GO apps and Go widgets. It is more of a quick reference than anything else, as it actually points you back to the Android Market once you select an app for additional information. It’s nice, but not necessary and I’d like to have seen it as an optional install rather than bundled with Go Launcher EX.
Overall, I felt the GLE to be as fast as any other launcher I’ve tried. Transitions were without any lag, the app drawer would open quickly and scrolling through apps went smoothly. I even have a live wallpaper running and still feel no lag in screen transitions.
I have tried and used many different launchers, even paid for a few, including ADWLauncher EX and Launcher Pro. However, of all of them, I’ve stuck with Go Launcher EX the longest. I find it fast, easy to customize and I like the fact the developers seem to be actively trying to improve it and provide fixes for problems. I have not personally ever run into a problem with GLE, but it’s nice to know they are there to help.
Tags: , , , , ,