Launch Android apps and shortcuts quickly, with these FIVE excellent FREE apps

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.

Shake Gesture Launcher screenshot1Shake Gesture Launcher screenshot2

 

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.

Swipepad Screenshot1Swipepad Screenshot2

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.

Smart Taskbar 2 Screenshot1Smart Taskbar 2 Screenshot2

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.

FAppSter Screenshot1FAppSter Screenshot2

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.

Gesture Launcher Screenshot1Gesture Launcher Screenshot2

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.


 
 
 
Samer Kurdi

Samer Kurdi

Has been reviewing software since 2006 when he started Freewaregenius.com
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  • Sachin Jain

    I use Quickly on my Galaxy Nexus and it is also amazing. Give it a try -

    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.in.spd.quickly.activity

    • SamerKurdi

      Thanks for the tip. Will try it out!

  • http://www.greggdeselms.com/ Gregg L. DesElms

    With the newest 4.x Android OS versions and the ability to create folders even in their app drawer; plus the ability to create folders on the homescreens, even back in 2.3.x versions; plus the ability to search for apps using the basic Google Search that comes on the phone, the need for third-party apps to simply find and launch apps is reduced. The truth is that if a person is willing to just bother to figure-out how to best leverage what comes right on the phone, s/he may often be able to first organize, and then quickly access apps a log quicker than s/he might realize.

    For starters, just throwing into an app drawer folder all the apps — the bloatware — that came with the phone, and which can’t be uninstalled unless the phone is rooted, and which aren’t used because better third-party apps for their purposes have been installed, can vastly clean-up the app drawer. And since one can’t remove (unless the phone is rooted) the “Apps” icon from the dock, one could (might as well, in fact) use the app drawer as one’s app launcher; all one would have to do is organize it by a combination of putting certain apps on certain pages of it, and also use app drawer folders.

    Of course one could do the same on the homescreens, though a bit less real estate is typically available for that since there are usually a limited number of homescreens, but an unlimited number of app drawer screens. Also, many people put widgets on the homescreens, thereby using-up even more homescreen real estate. But, still, with judicious use of folders on the homescreens, to organize things, and by devoting certain homescreens to certain kinds of app icons (or folders), one can well-leverage the launcher that came with the phone — TW Launcher, in the case of Samsung phones, like mine — to do pretty much anything one wants.

    I often wonder why people go to such pains to get third-party launchers to replace at least TW Launcher, since it is actually quite capable if one just bothers to understand it. That said, yes, of course I understand the desire to change the whole look and feel of the phone, and so if one wants to do that, then of course I understand why they’d want to add a whole new launcher.

    Of course, what Samer’s talking about, here, are really just app organizer/menu type things, not entire launcher systems of the sort that could, on a Samsung phone, for example, entirely replace TW Launcher. And if a person absolutely insists on using a tool like that, there are almost literally gabazillions of them out there… most of them unmitigated crap, frankly. There are, however, at least a few with some genuine promise; and, of course, as usual, Samer found and shared with us five good ones, here…

    …and it’s difficult not to… well… I don’t know if “recommend” is the right word, but at least call the reader’s attention this one…

    Auto App Organizer Free
    http://bit.ly/14KNxAF

    …or this one…

    Apps Organizer
    http://bit.ly/14KNGUV

    …but the problem with both of those is that their devs offer a paid version of some kind and so either have banner ads in them, or leave out the most rich features. In the cae of the second one, the dev’s far, far better product is…

    Folder Organizer Lite
    http://bit.ly/14KNYLw

    …but people are writing about that app, now, I notice, that the dev has disabled just enough things in it that one must purchase the full version to really and truly get the best that that app has to offer. And let me tell you that the full version is amazing… albeit a bit of an odd approach and learnin curve. Once mastered, though, my, oh, my. But, of course, this is a website about freeware, so… well… there you go. And it’s as shame that the dev apparently got greedy and so disabled the lite version that it’s not really as useful as it used to be. Pity.

    Same with this one…

    Application Folder
    http://bit.ly/14KOCZc

    …which is also offered as a paid version, and so the user is nagged by ads in the free one. It’s a good app, otherwise, though.

    Here are three very simple app selectors/organizers from devs who don’t sell paid versions, and so are worth at least considering:

    Appicker
    http://bit.ly/12AstOE

    Faster Drawer
    http://bit.ly/12AsClg

    Organized Drawer
    http://bit.ly/12AsMt0

    And this one at least CLAIMS to take the best of those, and make them better:

    App Drawer (MIUI App Drawer)
    http://bit.ly/12AsQsP

    Personally, I like, from the above…

    Organized Drawer
    http://bit.ly/12AsMt0

    …even though I can see why the MIUI one could be better in some ways. With its vertical sliding and all, it’s just so simple, and reminiscent of the naked Android app drawer, before any carrier or phone maker goofs with things. But it’s surprisingly configurable, with folders that can be put either at the beginning or end of the list, and icons and labels you can control. By setting the number of rows and columns to “Auto,” it will squeeze as many as it can across (horizontally) the scree; and that turns out to be very cool with the Galaxy Note II (SGH-i 317) because even though its screen is MORE than wide enough to handle 5 icons across, as its Galaxy Note (SGH-i717) predecessor did right in the native TW Launcher, the new Note II forces only four across. Some people say it’s because the screen’s only 720 pixels wide, where the original Note’s screen was 800 pixels. But that’s not it. The reason it’s forced back to four across with the new Note II is because so many widgets out there are pre-sized to four-across that they look funny on a five-across layout. Organized drawer shows five across on my Note II!

    The dev for Organized Drawer is VERY nice and responsive. He worked with me a while back to wrap icon labels to a second line so that they’d be more like they are in the phone’s native app drawer, and not the way they are on a homescreen (where, on the latter, there’s no wrapping to a second line, and so lots of things get cut off).

    All that sad, the other ones I’ve herein recommended are worth a look, too. Every user will have his/her own preferences.

    Thanks, Samer, for five excellent-as-usual others!

    Gregg L. DesElms
    Napa, California USA
    gregg at greggdeselms dot com

    • SamerKurdi

      Thanks Gregg, for these. I generally don’t like apps that try to auto-organize apps, but some of these look great and I think I will try them out!

  • http://makanja.com/ Makanja Bagus

    Wow thanks, that’s really helpful..

  • p2r

    SwipePad is very useful !
    It’s fast and accessible from anywhere.
    It’s so convenient !

    • SamerKurdi

      I agree. Its shaping up to be my favorite of the bunch, really.

  • http://cyber-d.blogspot.com dariovolaric

    You forgot Smart Widget. It’s a widget that you can resize to any size and learns your most used apps. No need to manually add and arrange apps. All your frequently used apps on your home screen sorted by most to least used.

  • alby bach

    Folder options is very useful app for grouping apps in a folder on the home screen, such as a folder for gps folder for ebook readers, folder for internet apps, click on the folder to bring up short cuts for the apps in the folder. Has paid and free versions.

    • SamerKurdi

      Can’t find it by searching Google Play. Is there a link? Thanks!

  • wicuy

    I dont see why these apps help, launching is as easy as tapping the icon

  • Vasanth

    You should also try Popup Widget.

  • Kai

    How about:

    Sub Launcher ~https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.kosajun.sublauncher
    Overlay Launcher ~https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=jp.jskt.overlaylauncher

  • inwebX0

    Hey, Samer, thank you for your review of FAppSter :)

    Your wishlist is implemented now.

    FAppSter 1.3.0 is already uploaded to Google Play and will be available als update today.

    • SamerKurdi

      Thanks for the updates and for a great app. I love FAppSter. Is there any way to have it launch via the search button, though?

      • inwebX0

        Yes, Samer, I’ve inserted this feature in 1.3.0 (Android 4.1 or above needed)

        I do it on my Galaxy Note with a long hold of the middle hardware button and then click on the “search” button in the bottom middle position (then select fappster)

        On the hw-buttonless phones you can do it e.g. from lock screen (tested in emulator). Maybe there are some other possibilities for this, unfortunately I cannot test it very good without a buttonless device

  • MDW

    Check out Quickly (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.decad3nce.quickly). Quick swipe and click and you’re off – also, most launchers now have the option to have either custom custom or category folders in the dock, which makes things even more convenient.