When you’re trying to launch an application on an Android phone, the last thing you probably want to do is scroll through several screens of tiny icons until you finally find the app you’re looking for (that is, if you even remember its name).
Let’s look at a few of the best ways to quickly find and launch those apps you want, starting from the very basic one, and moving on to more advanced ways.
Put The App On Your Home Screen
I know, duh, right? But you know what? This is something iPhone users simply can’t do (or actually, with the iPhone, everything is on the home screen all the time). Being an Android user, you get to choose what you want to put on the home screen, and what you want to tuck away into the app drawer. It’s very easy to go overboard with this method – I find it best to have under ten icons or so.
So that’s the built-in way, and it’s very simple. But what about some other, cooler ways?
Swipe In From The Side Of The Screen
What you see above is what happens when I swipe my finger “inwards” from the right side of the screen. A grid of icons pops up – some are for applications, others are for widgets. This grid is courtesy of SwipePad, an awesome quick-launch tool. My phone lacks a dedicated camera button, so I set the top-right square to launch Vignette, my camera app of choice.
The basic version of SwipePad is free, and you can buy add-ons for it that increase its capabilities (making it possible to place widgets on the grid, for example).
Tilt Your Phone & Wave Your Hand
If you’re into Harry Potter or magic in general, you might like Prox. Prox doesn’t work on all devices, only those that have a dedicated proximity sensor. It lets you tilt your phone at a certain angle (away from you, towards you, off to one side, etc.) and then wave your hand over it to launch an application.
It’s not a good way to launch dozens of different applications, but if you have one or two favorite apps (say, Gmail), you could easily launch them with Prox. It does have quite a bit of pizzazz, and looks like magic when it works.
Doodle A Part Of Its Name
Meet Gesture Search. This is an application by Google, but it doesn’t come built-in with Android (that’s too bad, really). Gesture Search lets you simply draw out a part of the name for an application, a setting, or a contact person. You can control what it indexes:
As you can see, I use Gesture Search only for settings and apps – but that’s really a matter of personal choice. It works amazingly well. There is also a special motion, called Double Flip, that lets you activate the app. Here’s a quick video showing how the motion is done.
Gesture Search works best when you know the name of the app you’re trying to run, and can’t be bothered scrolling through lengthy menus. So for my absolute top apps, I use either home screen shortcuts or SwipePad. For those I run somewhat less frequently, Gesture Search does the trick beautifully.
Use Smart Folders
The folder you see above contains those apps I’ve installed in the last week, and it’s automatically updated. That’s thanks to an amazing app called Auto App Organizer. As I install every app on my phone, Auto App Organizer intercepts the installation (much like an anti-virus would) and then categorizes the app into one of several automatic categories:
The auto-categorization is surprisingly accurate, and saves loads of time. One feature I really like is the Unused tab. This shows apps you didn’t use for a while (30 days for me, but that’s configurable). This way you can easily spot those apps that just idly sit forgotten on your phone, taking up precious space.
For each of these categories, you can create a shortcut on your home screen. So, for example, I can access all of my games with just one single tap:
I can also control the volume a game will be launched at, using the slider above the games. One of the handiest apps on my device, without a doubt.
Do It Your Own Way
This is the part where you get to tell me what your favorite way of finding and running apps on your device is. How do you do it? Did I miss an important app or way?