If you get frustrated with your phone because you’re constantly hunting for the app you want, and you can’t find it because your apps are sprawled across all five screens in no particular order, it’s time to try a launcher. Basically, a launcher is an interface you install on top of your phone’s interface to help you organize your content. It can have a ton of features, or just a few. A good launcher can really enhance your phone and make it a joy to use. But with over 250 launchers listed in the Google Play store, how do you choose?
One highly-praised launcher that released in beta in 2013 is Everything Home. It uses a couple of key features to keep the information and apps you want at your fingertips. It’s well-designed and easy to use… and it’s free!
Wrangle your apps with smart folders
When you first launch Everything Home, it organizes all apps into categories, like Movies, TV, Games, etc. The folders contain (1) apps you already have installed; (2) suggested websites; and (3) suggested apps, which you don’t yet have installed but might find useful. For example, the Movies folder included the IMDB, Flixster, AMC Theaters apps (already installed), and suggested the Total Film website and Fandango Tickets app (not installed). For apps you don’t have installed, when you tap the icon it takes you to a page where you can download it. The suggested apps feature is nice, like a friend letting you know their favorite app for a certain task. With hundreds of thousands of apps available, these targeted recommendations really help.
In addition to straightforward smart folder categories like Movies and TV, there’s a folder called Around Me that contains apps that use GPS, like maps, weather, and navigator apps, as well as travel-related and movie theater apps. Very handy. And, if you feel like some of your favorite apps don’t have a home among the default smart folders, you can create your own folders.
The contents of the folders are customizable. If you don’t agree that IMDB belongs in the Movies folder, you can remove it. Conversely, if for some reason you’re convinced that your workout app belongs in Movies, you can add it to the folder. You can arrange the app icons how you like; they don’t have to be in alphabetical order. The screen backgrounds are customizable too. This combination of automation and customization is great: the initial sorting puts most apps where they should logically go, and then tweaking the folder contents lets you adjust according to the quirks of the way your particular mind works. Result: all your apps are filed in the exact places that are logical to you, easy to find and not cluttering up all your screens.
Find everything … fast!
If Everything Home’s only feature was smart folders, it would already have earned its keep. But the Find feature is where Everything Home really shines. Located at the top of the home screen, it’s a search box that allows you to find everything - wherever (on your phone and on the web) and whatever (contacts, websites and apps) it is. For example, typing in S would bring up your contacts with an “s” in the word, (Susan, Dr. Smith), apps (Scan, Shopper) and websites (Slate). Like the smart folders, the search results include both apps you already have installed and also suggested items. Type in another couple of letters and you refine the selection, leading to more exact results. For example, type in “sushi” and you’ll get a lot of restaurant apps (Yelp, GrubHub, OpenTable, etc.) Tap an icon, and it opens the app with the search term already filled in and executes the search, so you get the search results for “sushi” right away.
And, if you don’t feel like typing, you can just tap the microphone and speak the word. Saying “sushi” brings up all the same results as typing it. The voice recognition is pretty good if you speak distinctly, and the voice search is especially handy for bringing up up contacts. If you want to see the Find feature in action, here’s a short video. Super cool.
Dynamic mini-launcher learns your habits
At the bottom of the home screen is the Dynamic Home widget, which shows the four apps that the launcher thinks you’re most likely to be reaching for at that moment. It bases its guess on your most frequently-used apps at that time of day. So, for example, in the morning when you’re starting work, the widget might have your calendar, e-mail, and traffic apps, as well as any apps you use specifically for work, like Yammer. You can train it, too, by telling it to never display a certain app in that space. This feature is neat, but if it doesn’t float your boat, you can remove it.
Intuitive and smooth
Out of the universe of possible launcher features, Everything Home carefully chooses a few key features and does them very well. This creates a smooth, elegant experience that allows you to find what you’re looking for very quickly, without adding a lot of bells and whistles that take time to learn without really enhancing function. It’s easy to learn, and if you forget, you can watch the introductory video again. If you’re really stuck, you can ask the staff; a question recently sent to the Everything staff was quickly answered. For an app that passed its million-download mark last year, that’s impressive.
Bottom line: if you want to make your smartphone smarter, give Everything Home a try. Available free on the Google Play store.