There's a lot to love in Nova Launcher.

Nova Launcher has a lot of great settings for you to explore, and plenty of potential for awesome themes and customizable layouts. First things first, though, you have to actually download the launcher and get yourself used to it. Now, there is a learning curve to every launcher out there, but we have a few simple tips to help make your transition as smooth as possible.

Import your layout

You do not want to have to put everything back the way you had it on your old launcher, and Nova gets that. That's why before you go futzing with element styles and shaders, you should import your old launcher's layout so that you're starting out from what you had rather than scratch.

  1. Open Nova Settings.
  2. Tap Backup & import settings.
  3. Tap Import.

  4. Read the warning that comes up and tap OK.
  5. Tap the launcher you wish to import from.
  6. If the data summary from what Nova Launcher found looks correct, tap Import.

Now, given the limitations on how launchers read and share widget data, you might have to re-create a few of your widgets on your newly imported home screen, but if you're lucky, the placeholders will be the same size. Starting from the layout you had means that instead of fussing with getting back to speed, you can hit the ground running in Nova and start experimenting.

Desktop grid size (and subgrid positioning)

When screens were four inches, a 4x4 grid made sense. Screens are not four inches anymore. Home screens do not need to be confined to such a small grid. They waste space. They significantly limit the amount you can fit on a single screen. Here's how to change that.

  1. Open Nova Settings.
  2. Tap Desktop.
  3. Tap Desktop Grid.

  4. Slide the row and column numbers to the size you want.
  5. Tap Done.

While 5x5 will allow your icons to better line up with your dock, don't be afraid to try out even bigger grid sizes — I use a 8x6 grid on my HTC 10 and it's worked out quite well for me. Also, did you notice the setting hiding in the Desktop Grid screen?

Subgrid-positioning allows you to place things between the regular grid spaces, helping you better resize widgets and line things up to your desires. You might not want it on right this second, but once you turn it on, placing elements on your home screen gets a whole lot easier.

Icons

Icons on Android have always been kind of a mess — that's how it is when you don't force everyone to be the same rounded rectangle. That doesn't mean we have to settle with the mishmash of icon styles that inevitably happens between your various apps. No, we have these wonderful things called icon packs to replace your boring old icons with something new, beautiful, and consistent.

Icon packs are awesome, you should have several.

Before you set an icon pack, though, you need to go download one. There's a lot of great icon packs out there, but these five are tops in my books:

  • Whicons (Free): This is the icon pack that goes with everything. I've used it in dozens of themes on and off this site, and the monochrome shader for unthemed icons works beautifully.
  • Zwart (Free): It's like Whicons, but black. Also free, also awesome, and also goes with so many wallpapers and themes.
  • Glim (Free, $1.99): When it comes to material icon packs, Glim's selection is spectacular, and the color variants that ensure at least my dock can match any theme color I need.
  • Dives ($0.99): When we made our recent Pixel theme I dug deep into the Play Store for a circular icon pack that worked well and played well with a variety of themes, and Dives hit the spot and then some.
  • Perfect Icon Pack ($1.49): Drumdestroyer Themes does some damn good work, and this pack is vibrant, crisp and quite honestly, perfect. It also includes an alternate icon of a Mickey Mouse hand hanging ten and flipping the bird, so there's an icon in there for anything.

Once you've got your icon pack, you can apply it like so:

  1. Open Nova Settings.
  2. Tap Look & feel.

  3. Tap Icon theme.
  4. Tap the icon pack you wish to use.

You can also edit individual icons in Nova.

  1. Long-press the icon you wish to edit on your home screen.
  2. Tap Edit. NOTE: if it's an app with Android 7.1 shortcuts, you will tap Icon options before tapping Edit.
  3. Tap the icon to edit it.

  4. Select the icon pack or gallery source you wish to pull your icon from.
  5. Scroll through your desired pack and tap the icon you want to use.
  6. Tap Done.

Hide unwanted apps

On most phones, there's a laundry list of apps you don't use and don't need cluttering up your launcher. On most launchers, your choices are simple: disable the app or stick it in a folder. Nova Launcher gives you another option for apps that you can't disable but still want to not look at: hide them from the launcher.

  1. Open the app drawer.
  2. Press and drag the app you wish to hide up towards the top of the screen.
  3. Drag and drop the app you wish to hide on Edit.

  4. Uncheck the Apps box to hide it from the drawer.
  5. Tap Done.

Back it up once you're happy

Once you have things the way you want them, you should back up your Nova setup. This will make it easier to set things back up once you go to a new phone, or a error forces you to factory reset your phone. It's also helpful if you mess something up in your layout and want to get what you had back. Backups are easy, and we can send them directly to Google Drive so that they're available on every phone you set up.

  1. Open Nova Settings.
  2. Tap Backup & import settings.
  3. Tap Backup.

  4. Name your backup. It defaults to a date and timestamp, but that doesn't really tell you what the layout/theme is.
  5. Tap the dropdown menu below the backup's name.
  6. Select Share.

  7. Tap OK.
  8. Nova will create the backup and bring up the Android Share menu. Select Save to Drive or whichever cloud service you wish to store your backup on.
  9. Ensure the account and folder listed are where you wanted to back up to, then tap Save.

If you need any more help getting acclimated to Nova Launcher, sing out in the comments below, and in our forums!

We also have a wonderful article to explain the rest of the Nova Launcher settings we ignored this go around.