Android Guide: How To Use Launcher Pro Like a Pro
This article was written by self-confessed gadget junkie and android user TonyP. You can find out more by following his twitter account @TonyP_UK.
There's a lot of questions being asked about using LauncherPro, so here's my LauncherPro FAQ that I hope provides most of your answers.
Android is the operating system (OS) on your phone, yet what most people see on their screen isn’t actually Android – it’s a User Interface (UI, often called a ‘launcher’ or 'home replacement app') that sits between the OS and you and presents the OS in a better looking, user friendly and customisable way. HTC Sence is a UI, so is Motorola’s Blur and Sony Ericsson’s Timescape, for example.
One of the best things about Android is how easy it is to customise just about every aspect of your phone, and replacing the UI is probably the most significant change most people can make. There are a couple of replacement UI’s available on the Market, and this Guide is for one of the most popular, LauncherPro, and is based on using it on a Desire with HTC Sense.
What’s the difference between the standard version and the Plus version?
LauncherPro and LauncherPro Plus are basically the same except that the Plus version includes widgets for People, Bookmarks, Calendar, SMS Messaging, Twitter, Facebook and Friends. They’re generally good widgets and are similar to the widgets from HTC Sense.
The Plus version also gives you the option to resize any widget - not actually resize as such, but you can for example make a 2x1 widget sit centrally inside a 3x2 box. It's a useful feature if you need to adjust widget positions outside the standard Homescreen grid layout.
What phones will work with LauncherPro?
LauncherPro works with any phone with Android 2.0 and above, and with custom ROMS too. Earlier versions are not supported and may encounter problems if you try and install it.
When I install LauncherPro, will HTC Sense (or my stock launcher) be deleted?
No. When you install LauncherPro, you don’t lose your existing launcher – nothing is deleted, you’re just using a different launcher to move around the phone and do stuff. You can go back to your old launcher at any time, and it’s easy to switch between different launchers while you’re working out which one you like best.
I’ve installed LauncherPro, how do I switch between LP and HTC Sense (my stock launcher)?
There’s a couple of options here, and option 1 below is what I used:
Download and install Home Switcher from the Market. Open the app and it gives you a list of the available launchers on your phone, including LauncherPro and HTC Sense (or your stock launcher). You have the option to set or unset each launcher as default, or you can simply start the launcher of your choice. After setting a default, your phone will use your chosen launcher on boot up and when pressing the Home button.
Without Home Switcher installed, pressing the Home button gives you the choice of which launcher you want to use. Select HTC Sense for HTC Sense (blur for motoblur, etc), and ditto for LauncherPro. If the “Set as default” box is unchecked, you’ll get these options every time you press Home. Checking the default box will return you to your chosen launcher when you press the Home button.
I set LauncherPro as default and I want to switch to HTC Sense for a while, how do I do that?
You can open the Home Switcher app if you have it installed, uncheck the default box and start HTC Sense. If you haven’t got Home Switcher then you can do it this way:
Menu > Settings > Applications > Manage Applications > Running/Downloaded.
Look for LauncherPro and select it, and tap “Clear default”. Then exit your settings menu, press the Home button and select HTC Sense.
What happens to HTC Sense when I install LauncherPro?
Nothing, it’s still there on your phone. The problem is that any widgets and apps that are running, syncing and refreshing on your HTC Sense Homescreens will continue to run in the background while you use LauncherPro, and will use the same data, processor time and battery as when Sense is running as your launcher. So, the solution is to remove all the active stuff from Sense before using LauncherPro long term.
Menu > Scenes > Clean slate
This clears your Homescreens and means there’s nothing running in the background after you switch to LauncherPro, except the apps and widgets that you add to your LauncherPro Homescreen setup.
Right, I’ve started LauncherPro. What’s the first things I should do?
Upgrade to the Plus version! (market link at the end of this article) Seriously, if you like the software and will continue using it, the upgrade is worthwhile and supporting developers of excellent apps like LauncherPro with a teeny tiny donation is always a good thing.
How do I change settings in LauncherPro?
Press the Menu button and you’ll see a slight change. “Preferences” has been added to the menu options, and this is where your LauncherPro settings are found. The existing phone “Settings” menu is there at the right of the screen.
Will you tell me every last detail about every single menu option available?
No, that would take me a month and I got work to do! But I will hit the highlights and point out the most useful and most commonly used features.
Can LauncherPro help tidy up my app drawer?
Menu > Preferences > General Settings > Hidden Apps
Tick the apps you want to hide. They won’t be deleted or uninstalled, they just won’t appear in your app drawer until you untick them.
How many Homescreens can I have?
Menu > Preferences > Homescreen Settings > Number of screens
You can choose any number between 1 and 7
Menu > Preferences > Homescreen Settings > Default screen
This sets the default Homescreen – the screen you jump to when you press Home. Screens are numbered starting with 1 at the far left.
I’m too lazy to scroll back from screen 7 to screen 1, surely there’s an easier way?
Menu > Preferences > Homescreen Settings > Enable virtual looping
This lets you scroll past the last Homescreen and takes you back to the first one.
What about columns and rows on Homescreens, can they be customised?
Menu > Preferences > Homescreen Settings > Number of rows / columns
The default number of rows and columns is 4 up and 4 across. These settings let you change either to any number between 1 and 10. But be warned, 5 rows works well, but going to extremes can make widgets appear incorrectly, so trial and error recommended.
What is a “Dock”?
The dock is the strip along the bottom of the screen that has your most commonly used shortcuts, and the dock is displayed at all times even when you scroll through different Homescreens.
So what can I do to the Dock in LauncherPro?
Lots of things! A custom dock gives your phone a completely unique look and feel and separates it from the crowd. Here’s what you can do and how to do it:
Menu > Preferences > Dock Settings > Number of docks
The standard dock has 5 spaces for shortcuts on it, but you may want to have more dock shortcuts. Setting the number of docks to 2 or 3 gives you an extra 5 shortcuts each, so that’s either 5, 10 or 15 dock icons available. You scroll left or right to the additional docks by swiping, just as you do with Homescreens.
Menu > Preferences > Dock Settings > Enable loop scrolling
Lets you scroll through the docks in an endless loop.
Menu > Preferences > Dock Settings > Unread SMS count
Ever changed the icon for your SMS app using FolderOrganizer and was disappointed to find that custom icons don’t show the unread message number? If your SMS app is added to the dock in LauncherPro, enabling this feature will show the unread count no matter what icon you choose.
Menu > Preferences > Dock Settings > Missed call count / Unread Gmail count
Same function is the SMS count above, but with the Gmail and phone apps.
How do I change Dock icons?
Long press any dock icon and you get a menu with the following options:
1) Change Shortcut – assign a new shortcut to that dock position (to apps, bookmarks, etc)
2) Change Icon – lets you select a different LauncherPro Icon or you can select something stored on SD card.
3) Swipe gesture Action – this feature effectively gives you double the number of shortcuts on your dock. Normally you tap an icon and an app opens. With the swipe gesture, you swipe across the icon and it does something completely different.
For example, tapping my “Email” dock icon opens my K-9 Mail app, while swiping the same icon opens my Touchdown Exchange email app for work. Also, tapping my “Apps” icon opens the app drawer, and swiping it hides or shows the Status Bar at the top of the screen. There’s lots you can do.
Where can I get dock icons?
Believe it or not, there's a great website called LauncherPro Icons that have a LONG list of icons for just about every app and setting on your phone.
What about changing the dock background?
Just like wallpaper, you can change the dock background (or remove it completely). There’s a small selection of dock backgrounds included in LauncherPro, or you can download some from the web and put them in a folder on the root of your SD card and select them from there. Dock backgrounds can be anything as long as they are 480x84 pixels.
To change the dock background:
Menu > Preferences > Appearance Settings > Dock background
Select either “None” or one of the LauncherPro options from the list, or select “Custom” to open the Gallery and choose an image from SD card.
Are there any dock backgrounds on the web?
Yes, the LauncherPro Icons site has dock backgrounds too. Copy the image file to a folder on your SD card and the Gallery will find them.
Can I make my own dock backgrounds?
Yes, you can use any image or artwork as a dock background, as long as the image size is 480x84 pixels.
There’s a new Wallpaper option when I press the Menu button…..
Shortcut to your Wallpaper files, either on the phone or stored on SD card. The best thing about having the option to change dock background as well as Wallpaper is that you can choose images that complement each other and get that full screen personal look.
Can LauncherPro let me change the functions of the buttons on my Desire?
Yes. There are a few things you can change:
Menu > Preferences > Homescreen Settings > Enable trackball scrolling
This turns on or off the ability to scroll through Homepages using the trackpad.
Menu > Preferences > Behaviour Settings > Home key action
Change what happens when you press the Home button. Options are:
1) Do Nothing
2) Open/Close Screen Previews
3) Open/Close App Drawer
4) Open/Close Notification – same as dragging the bar down the screen
5) Show/Hide Status Bar
How can I tell which Homescreen I’m on?
Menu > Preferences > Appearance Settings > Show screen indicator
This puts a thin indicatior on the Homescreen, just above the dock, that appears when you touch the screen. It highlights which Homescreen you are on and moves as you swipe between screens, fading out after a few seconds.
Can I hide the text labels under the Homescreen icons?
Menu > Preferences > Appearance Settings > Hide icon labels
FolderOrganizer lets you change app icons and edit the text label, but LauncherPro gives you the option to remove the label completely leaving just the icon on the screen.
I use really cool wallpaper and a custom dock background but the Notifications bar at the top of the screen looks ugly. Can I remove it?
Yes. As mentioned above, you can show or hide the notifications bar by changing the function of the Home button, or by adding the Show/Hide Status Bar function to a dock icon swipe gesture. If you want to hide it completely:
Menu > Preferences > Appearance Settings > Hide notification bar
How do I stop the wallpaper moving when I swipe through my Homescreens?
Menu > Preferences > Appearance Settings > Disable wallpaper scrolling
Good feature if you have a cool portrait wallpaper image. Also handy if you have widgets and icons positioned around part of the wallpaper image and the look would be spoiled if the wallpaper moves.
I want to try some new LauncherPro styles but I really like what I have, can I back up my current theme?
Yes. Menu > Preferences > Backup homescreens & settings
This does exactly what it says, creates a backup of your current LauncherPro theme on SD card. The only thing it can’t backup is any widgets on your Homescreens. If you ever restore the backup, everything will be restored but you’ll have placeholders where widgets used to be. It’s not really a problem – adding the widgets again is easy, and the placeholders tell you what widget is supposed to be there.
But LauncherPro can only make one backup! What if I want to save two or more different themes?
It can be done, with a little work. Your LauncherPro backup is stored on SD card as /sdcard/launcherprobackup. Connect to a PC and copy the file to your hard drive and give it a name you remember. The file on your phone will be replaced with your next backup and it will be called the same thing. If you have a few theme backups on your PC, delete the backup on your phone, rename the backup you want to restore “launcherprobackup” and put it back on your SD card. Then to restore it press
Menu > Preferences > Restore backup.
So, you rename it after putting it on your PC, and rename again before putting it back on your SD card to restore.
My Homescreen is behaving strange, I think LauncherPro is crashing, what do I do!?
Menu > Preferences > Restart LauncherPro
Glitches can happen in all apps, so try this first if you have any problems.
What is "Elastic Scrolling"?
Menu > Preferences > Advanced Settings > Elastic scrolling
This adds a slight 'wobble' animation when you swipe between Homescreens, most people like it because the movement seems more 'real'.
What are Transition Effects?
These are cool transition animations when moving between Homescreens.
Menu > Preferences > Homescreen Settings > Transition effect
1) None - same swipe effect as the standard launcher
2) Scale - screen reduces in size then springs up again on the next screen (very slick!)
3) Rotate - screen rolls along sideways, like it's pinned at the top left
4) Flip - screens flip like you're inside a cube
5) Cube - like the screens are displayed on a cube that spins when you swipe
Try the transitions with Elastic Scrolling turned off (Menu > Preferences > Advanced Settings) if the animation feels laggy, that will speeds things up and make transitions smoother.