Friday, June 1, 2012

Review Nova Launcher Prime

Nova Launcher Prime - breaking the limits.

As we all know Samsung has its own launcher called TouchWiz, at least for official Samsung based ICS ROMs. AOSP based ICS ROMs have their own launcher that CyanogenMod implemented, called Trebuchet. 
Android software developers have not waited too long and made a couple of alternatives, such as Apex Launcher followed with Apex Launcher Pro and Nova Launcher followed with Nova Launcher Prime. Both of them are aimed to expand the limits and bring some new features upon the default launchers.

The Apex Launcher and Apex Launcher Pro have been reviewed before and they do a very good job when it comes to the interface. But today we are going to have a deep look into the Nova Launcher Prime along with mentioning all the differences between Prime (paid) and free version of this launcher.


There are two versions: Nova Launcher, which is free, and Nova Launcher Prime, which is a paid version and costs $4. The latest version at the moment of writing this article is 1.1.4. 
First thing one should do with the new ICS ROM is to put a new launcher on it. The explanation is simple, new launcher will give you more options and functions, if you are not going to use all of them it's fine but you are definitely going to use some of them. The only question you will be left with is whether you need to get a free version or a paid one. Nova Launcher have both that worth to look at.
Both versions have got quite a good user rating - 4.6-4.7 out of 5. But let us see what is the difference between them. Nova Launcher Pro is basically the same Nova Launcher but with a few more options unlocked. As Google Play suggests here they are:
  • Drawer groups
  • Gestures
  • Hide apps
  • Dock swipes
  • Unread counts
  • More scroll effects
So what the Nova Launcher is...


The interface have gotten a few new features that can be seen right away. Firstly, the screen transition is cube now. Secondly, dock is changed and can be swiped left or right. Also a few new shortcuts appeared in the dock: speech recognition, drawer and homescreen thumbnail switcher.
Here is how my homescreen looks after a couple of arrangements.


You can notice the clocks in the dock, they actually show the correct time, means Nova Launcher supports widgets in dock feature. But let us explore it.

Nova Launcher features

If we press home button on the phone we can see homescreen thumbnails appear - 5 thumbnails in total.

Homescreen thumbnails

Drawer has two additional functions that allow to configure the Apps tab and Widgets tab.
Double touch on Apps tab pops up a list of possible options to be displayed: All, My Apps, New, Downloaded and Configure...

Drawer tab menu

Configure... will lead us to the menu where we can hide the apps and reorganize the whole drawer. 

Hidden Apps

Therefore we can set up Tabs and create Folders in the drawer however we wish.

Drawer Groups

Created folder in the drawer

Every shortcut on the homescreen is editable. Dock shortcuts can be set by two parameters: icon and swipe action.

Shortcut menu

On the picture it clearly can be seen that Swipe Action comes only with Prime version of Nova Launcher.

Swipe action choice

Menu and Settings

The menu contains 4 paragraphs: Wallpaper, Manage apps, Nova Settings, System settings (pay attention only the Settings word in "Nova Settings" starts from capital "S" letter, all the rest are small).
Settings are divided into 8 main categories:
  • Desktop
  • Drawer
  • Dock
  • Look and feel
  • Gestures and Buttons
  • Unread Counts
  • Backup
  • Labs


Desktop settings

That contains the following options:
  1. Desktop Grid. From 2x2 to 7x7.
  2. Width Margin: None, Small, Medium, Large.
  3. Height Margin None, Small, Medium, Large.
  4. Persistent Search Bar. Responsible for the search bar with options: Never, Landscape only and Always.
  5. Home Screens. Controls home screens quantity and arrangement.
  6. Scroll Effect: None, Cube, Card Stack, Tablet, Revolving Door, Flip, Flip Vertical, In and Out, Accordion.
  7. Wallpaper scrolling: Off, On, Reverse, Static-only, Delayed.
  8. Infinite scroll.
  9. Label Icons. Option to display the names under the icons (shortcuts).
  10. Resize all widgets. Allows to resize all the widgets on the screen regardless their native size.


Drawer settings

Drawer allows us to set up these settings:
  1. Scroll EffectNone, Cube, Card Stack, Tablet, Revolving Door, Flip, Flip Vertical, In and Out, Accordion.
  2. Background Transparency. Linear range from minimum to maximum.
  3. Drawer Style: Vertical, Horizontal.
  4. Widgets in Drawer
  5. Drawer Groups. Drawer groups have been mentioned earlier and they allow to configure Tabs and Folders in the drawer.
  6. Folders first. This option sets a sorting priority - folders first then apps.
  7. Hide Apps. Have been mentioned earlier on the picture and allow to hide apps from the drawer.


Dock settings

Dock has got a few options to tackle with as well:

  1. Enable Dock
  2. Dock Pages. Up to 5 swipeable docks.
  3. Dock Icons. Up to 7 icons in the Dock.
  4. Width Margin: None, Small, Medium, Large.
  5. Show Scroll Indicator. The same indicator for both - Dock and Desktop.
  6. Show Divider. Means to be between the dock and desktop.
  7. Infinite Scroll. Scrolling without limits.
  8. Show Shadow. "Shadow at top and bottom of screen, most noticeable on light wallpapers.
  9. Dock as Overlay. Appears always on top, the best to use it in pair with dock toggle gesture.

Look and feel

Look and feel settings

  1. Screen Orientation: Default, Auto-rotate, Force Portrait, Force Landscape.
  2. Scroll Speed. There are 5 kinds of speed: Relaxed (gives more space to animation), Stock (the same as in stock launcher), Nova (speed and animation are well-balanced), Fast (more speed and less animation), Faster than light (almost no animation but speed). At this point I found Relaxed and Nova scroll speeds to be the best.
  3. Animation Speed. Goes the same as for scroll speed but relates to transition animation.
  4. Show Notification Bar. Simply disables or enable the notification bar.
  5. Folder Preview. Contains 3 views: Stack, Grid and Fan. 
  6. Folder Background. None, Circle, Square, Platform, Custom

Gestures and buttons

Gestures settings

  1. Home Button. Home button can be assigned to execute a certain action or to run a certain app.
  2. Only on Default Screen. Let the Home Button  work only when you are on default screen.
  3. Long-press Menu. Has the same options as Home Button.  
  4. Pinch in. The same set of options as for Home Button.
  5. Pinch out The same set of options as for Home Button.
  6. Swipe up.  The same set of options as for Home Button.
  7. Swipe down.  The same set of options as for Home Button.
  8. Double tap.  The same set of options as for Home Button.
  9. Swipe up (Two fingers).  The same set of options as for Home Button.
  10. Swipe down (Two fingers).  The same set of options as for Home Button.
  11. Rotate counter-clockwise.  The same set of options as for Home Button.
  12. Rotate clockwise.  The same set of options as for Home Button.

Unread Counts 

This function is responsible for sms and email counts and must be installed separately as a plugin. Counts SMS, missed calls and Gmail letters. Also can count Google Talk conversations. And even more functionality with paid Missed it! plugin.

Unread Uncounts settings

  1. Badge Style: Holo and Classic. The difference is in colours.
  2. Badge Position: Top-left, Top-right, Bottom-left, Bottom-right.
  3. Gmail. Allows to count Gmail unread messages.
  4. Provider. Available just two: TeslaUnread (free) and Missed it (paid)! Missed it! is very configurable and can be used with any lockscreen without a need to unlock your phone. 


Backup settings

  1. Backup
  2. Restore
  3. File Location. Sets up the location of backup files.
  4. Restore Widgets Faster. Allows to restore widgets one by one.


Labs settings

  1. Private Beta. Only for beta testers.
  2. Big Grid Size Options. Expands the Desktop grid size option to 16x16.
  3. Any size Widget in Dock. With this function (not completely finished) we are allowed to place the bigger widgets in the Dock. I've managed to put an Apollo player widget sized 4x1 there and it worked fine.
  4. Upside down screen. Basically forces upside down orientation.
  5. Debug. Related to Broken Wallpaper Scrolling that manages some zooming issues and works only on certain devices (Samsung Galaxy S2 doesn't need this function).
Going through the settings you can clearly see what comes with Prime version. All the Prime version options are marked with a blue ribbon. So if you just installed Nova Launcher free version it is easier to decide for yourself whether you need the Prime version and what you will pay for exactly.

Desktop and Drawer scroll effects

Scroll effects is the vast area where you can see the difference between paid and free versions of Nova Launcher. Paid version have gotten 6 more effects. Here is a short video showing all of them in action:

The logical conclusion

Using this launcher for a couple of weeks I did not encounter any force closes. That means the Nova Launcher Prime is stable. Launcher runs very smooth with no lags. Should I mention the ROM it was running on: CM9 20120524 powered by kernel Siyah 3.2.4.
A lot of useful functions and options. Almost anything is flexible and can be changed up to your needs. 
Another important point that Nova Launcher is under heavy development and constantly get more and more new features. Therefore the updates are quite frequent. 
The only launcher that goes on par with Nova Launcher is Apex Launcher and can be considered as a rival.

Here is a short video of Nova Launcher Prime in action:


  1. Please help...
    How can i Move folder from App-Drawer to Homescreen???
    i have tried everything...!

  2. Good day Anonymous,
    unfortunately they have not released this function yet. Probably it will be available soon. You can move the shortcuts directly from the folder though.

  3. TouchWiz is not the default ICS launcher, it's Samsung's launcher.

  4. I'm having problem with notifications, on lock screen missed calls or SMS are visible but in home screen there is no trace of that.. using galaxy s3

    1. Hi Anonymous!
      Have you tried everything that can be related to this Launcher? For example have you tried to restart it or to clear data or maybe to re-install it?

  5. I can't load png file when I change shorcut icon .... what should i do to make it work ...

    1. That is not OK. Try to reinstall the Nova. It should work afterwords.

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