capsule review

LauncherPro

At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder LauncherPro

    PCWorld Rating

A lot of app launchers and home-screen replacements are available for Android--but while some certainly offer glitz and glamor, Launcher Pro is tough to beat in performance, speed, and practical options.

The app has so many customization settings that it can make you dizzy. Luckily, you don't have to monkey with anything for Launcher Pro to be a great launcher--it works really well from the very beginning. I decided to give Launcher Pro a try because my native Android launcher and home screen was starting to get laggy and buggy. I wanted something fast and reliable, and I'd heard that Launcher Pro would suffice. Overall, it does.

At first glance Launcher Pro looks almost identical to the native launcher. However, the dock row containing the app drawer has not just two application shortcuts in it (as it does in Android 2.2), but four. In addition, you can choose whatever shortcuts you want to have in there, so regardless of which home screen you're on, you'll always have quick access to your frequently used apps, contacts, folders...whatever you want. Launcher Pro goes another step further and makes the dock scrollable, too, so you can have up to fourteen shortcuts on it.

What kinds of customization options do you get? For starters, you can have up to seven home screens and select your default screen. You can elect to make the notification bar invisible. If you never use certain icons and they're wasting space, you can hide those apps from the app drawer. You can choose how many columns and rows appear on your home-screen grid, so you can squeeze even more shortcuts onto it (but even tthough this is a cool option to have, it may make your widgets look weird).

In the dock shortcuts, you can choose to display the count of missed calls, unread SMS notes, or unread Gmail messages. You can enable or disable autorotation on the home screen. You can specify custom actions to the home button. You can back up your home-screen layout to your SD Card, too, just in case you ever need to replace your phone.

You'll also find many ways to tweak how the program looks, including enabling 3D scrolling in the app drawer (a beta feature), dock backgrounds, and wallpaper panning. On top of that, you can select your own icons to use for shortcuts, and you can download many for free.

As if that weren't enough, the creator has also made Launcher Pro Plus ($3), which gives you a slew of gorgeous and highly functional widgets: People, Bookmarks, Calendar, Messaging, Twitter, Facebook, and Friends. Several have different looks and sizes to choose from. The Facebook widget, for example, gives you a look at your news feed or your wall; you can update your status from the widget, as well. The Calendar widget offers a monthly-calendar or agenda view, and you can add appointments right from the widget. (I'd like to see a few more options for this one, though, such as the ability to select which calendars to display.) Overall, the widgets are great, and they're scrollable. The Bookmarks widget has definitely found a permanent place on my home screen. I'd say $3 is worth it for the launcher alone. The developer is constantly working on updates, and I advocate supporting him.

Performance-wise, Launcher Pro is fantastic. It's generally faster than the native launcher, and it's at least as fast as Helix Launcher, which in my tests was speedy but crashed too much. That is not to say that Launcher Pro is flawless: Occasionally, when opening the app drawer, it's slow to list the apps, and they come in fits and starts. And sometimes, in returning from an app, the home screen takes a little while to come back to life.

Such bugs are rare, though. Some options are in their experimental phases, and may slow performance down (I usually disable those). Overall, Launcher Pro is one of the best launcher apps on the Market.

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At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder LauncherPro

    PCWorld Rating
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