So many apps in the world, and so little time! But chances are that as the number of apps installed on your Android is growing, your launcher is increasingly getting cluttered and it may be getting harder to find and launch your frequently used apps.
This post will showcase five terrific free apps that make it easier to access and launch the apps you want when you want them. These are: Shake Gesture Launcher (shake the device to prompt a launcher), SwipePad Hyperspace Launcher (swipe on-screen hotspots to prompt a launcher), Smart Taskbar v2 (trigger a launcher via a semi-transparent hovering icon), FAppster (an idiot-proof app search engine), and Gesture Launcher (probably the best free app launcher via drawing on-screen gestures).
1. Shake Gesture Launcher: shake your device to access your favorite apps
This is such a brilliant idea that works so well that I wanted to list it first. ‘Shake Gesture Launcher’ uses the motion sensor in your device; all you need to do is shake your Android and nine, pre-defined app shortcuts will appear, letting you launch the app you want on-demand when you want it.
PROS: works really well, the sensitivity can be tweaked from the settings (see screenshot above right), can be disabled easily by pressing settings then disable if it pops up when you don’t need it (e.g. if playing motion sensor games), and is totally free without restrictions.
CONS: doesn’t support adding shortcuts, such as a frequently-dialed contact. May not be the very suitable for those who play a lot of motion-controlled games (
2. SwipePad Hyperspace Launcher: swipe on-screen hotspots to activate a launcher
The idea is this: swipe with your finger across a designated on-screen hotspot (and to the middle of your screen), and a launcher appears with all sorts of pre-defined apps and shortcuts.
In theory, a great idea; however, I have always been somewhat ambivalent about swiping hotspots, because so very often instead of activating the hotspot I invariably flip a page on the launcher or activate the nearest app icon or whatever instead. I did discover, however, that creating a hotspot in the above left corner and swiping from that into the middle ALWAYS seems to work, a discovery which has elevated this app to become of the most desirable apps I install on my Android.
PROS: simple and straightforward, customizable hotspot locations, allows apps and shortcuts (such as your frequently dialed contacts) in the launcher, free and ad-free, works really well from the upper corner hotspot.
CONS: it is possible to get frustrated futilely trying to activate hotspots and triggering other on screen events, if you’re not used to them.
3. Smart Taskbar 2: a tiny, hovering icon triggers a sophisticated browser
The concept here is simple: Smart Taskbar 2 placed a small, semi-transparent hovering icon on your screen, that is always there no matter what you are doing or what app you are running. You can move it around at will, and once you need it, simply press the button to access a full-fledged tabbed launcher.
You can see the hovering icon in the screenshot below left (in the upper right corner). The launcher itself can be seen in the screenshot to the right.
PROS: you can create your own ‘tabs’ to the launcher, you can put your favorite apps in the top be, it can be used with one hand, you can add ‘actions’ (aka use shortcuts, such as dial a contact or whatever), you can even trigger widgets, the hovering icon is moveable and semi-transparent, ad free.
CONS: the hovering icon can be a little annoying when playing full-screen games; I would like to change the default tab it opens to, as the ‘all apps’ tab is very busy looking; performing operations on icons is a little unintuitive (long click the icon, iPhone style, then select an action from the context menu; dragging and dropping won’t work).
4. FAppSter: a very fast app search engine
FAppSter is somewhat similar to programs like Find and Run Robot and Launchy on Windows. It is a simple app search engine adapted for mobile use, and is different from the default search in that unavailable keys are greyed as you type, making it very easy to hone in on the app you are seeking (and harder to make mistakes). Unclear on what that means? See the screenshots below.
The screenshot to the left above shows all the apps and keys, ready for action. The screenshot to the right shows the filtering process, whereby all useless keys that don’t actually lead to a successful search are greyed out.
PROS: very unlikely to make mistakes while searching, keyboard alphabetically sorted
CONS: not a con but a wish list item, that you could set the app to override ‘Google’ in the default search button on Android. Also, the option to have a ‘Qwerty’ keyboard layout would have been nice.
5. Gesture Launcher: draw gestures to launch apps
I figured I had to have a gesture launcher in the mix for an article like this one. I chose Gesture launcher for two reasons (1) you can set up an area on screen, whereby if you swipe from left to right (or vice versa), you can activate Gesture Launcher without having to click an icon or widget, (2) you can optionally access ‘Gesture Launcher’ from the notification area, and (3) it is completely free and ad free.
Having said this, I must say that this above mentioned left-to-right action doesn’t always work, and there is little that is more frustrating than a time saving shortcut that might actually end up costing you time. Still, it gets a lot more responsive with practice, and anyway it may be different depending on your device and the launcher you use. In any case you can avoid all this by simply triggering Gesture Launcher via the app icon, widget, or notification area and be done with it.
PROS: ad free, works well, supports launching the app via swiping the screen from utmost left or right, supports launcher the app from the notification area, supports applications and shortcuts both,
CONS: not a con but a wish list item, to support a rectangular shaped widget that can be placed anywhere and the gestures simply drawn directly on top, making the whole process a lot more immediate.
Do you have any other such free apps that you like? Let us know in the comments section below.