It's the most wonderful theme of the year...

I was a Nova Launcher fan before I was an Android enthusiast, and the launcher has only gotten better over the years. Nova is a wonderful launcher for users at any level. Sure, I've spent my fair share of time on Action Launcher, Apex Launcher, and so many others trying to find what made my home screen the best it could be… and so far, the answer has been a resounding Nova. The benefits over other launchers can seem small, but in a launcher market that's as tight as this one, those small benefits can make a huge difference in the launcher that we've called one of the best things to happen to Android.

Robust Google Drive support

Drive is a themer's best friend!

Whenever I change or reset phones, one of the first things I do on a phone after disabling Google Play Music and installing my apps is getting my home screen in order. On Nova Launcher, that process is ridiculously simple thank to Google Drive integration, and it makes pulling out a holiday theme year after year a breeze.

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From the wallpaper picker to the Backup/Restore function, Nova Launcher can pull your launcher and theme elements straight out of the cloud. No downloading locally and saving to a particular folder, just tap Documents or Document Storage, swipe in from the left side of the screen, and tap Drive.

Subgrid positioning

Subgrid positioning makes widget placement a breeze

As a very particular themer, everything has its place on my home screen and I want it exactly in its place to avoid covering up the wallpaper or throwing off the balance of a home screen. Subgrid positioning in Nova Launcher gets you the consistency of a grid with just enough give to get your widgets and apps in just the right place.

Subgrid positioning is like crack to a themer, and boy, am I hooked. Try lining up the Deadshot widget from our Suicide Squad theme on Google Now Launcher and then try it again on Nova. Arrange your home screen icons in a pyramid or honeycomb pattern in Nova Launcher. Subgrid positioning means that you can get everything exactly where you want it.

Folder customization

Folders free up your home screen

Folders might seem ho-hum in Nova Launcher compared to Action Launcher's Covers, but I've got a secret for you: Nova Launcher can do Covers too, and do them better. Long-press a folder, Edit it, and tap Swipe to open folder to enable it. Want to have the tap open something other than the first app in the folder? Sure thing. You can set the tap action on your swipe folder to any app, shortcut, or activity Nova allows for its gestures, which is a lot.

Another benefit to Nova's folders is in their visual customization. If you want to make a folder look like anything but a small grid or stack of icons in Action Launcher, you have to enable the folder's Cover, then change the icon of that first app in the folder. Nova doesn't care what's first in the folder, or whether you're using a swipe folder, you can set your folder's icon just like any app. As someone with folders occupying most of her dock, this is quite a valuable feature to me.

More: Making the most of home screen folders

Gesture selection and placement

I've got a gesture for you: come hither

Gestures are in a lot of launchers, but no one, not even Action Launcher, does them as well as Nova Launcher. Remember how you could assign any shortcut as a swipe gesture to a folder? You can do that with any app shortcut, too. This means that even without the App shortcuts in Android 7.1, you can add a shortcut to your Inbox icon that takes you straight to composing a new email. You can add a gesture to your dialer icon that direct dials your mom — in fact, you should go do that right now.

Then we have one and two-finger gestures to use on any blank space on our home screen, like double-tap and two-finger swipes. My double-tap gesture is set to something new, and I'm already in love with it. My HTC 10, like many phones, has double-tap to wake, and double-tap to sleep on certain screens. Unfortunately, third-party launchers are not one of them. Well, Nova Launcher recently added a shiny new gesture option called Screen lock. While it can't instantly power off the screen, it turns the screen black for five seconds before using screen timeout to shut the screen off for real, and it works fabulously.

App drawer organization

Tabs rule

There are lots of ways that launchers try to organize their app drawers: app type, most recently used, most frequently used, and of course, good old alphabetical. For those who haven't found a magic algorithm for organizing their apps, there's also another method available on Nova Launcher: tabs and folders. And while it can seem chaotic and tedious, it's really not — it's a system I've used for the last four years.

While you can't deviate from the A-Z sorting of apps in the app drawer, you can break up that long list into more manageable sections with tabs. I have five tabs for my apps: Genie for utility and customization apps, Sparkle for office and work apps, Crown for communication apps, Void for entertainment and gaming apps, and the default Apps tab for miscellaneous and seldom used apps. I can also group apps in folders within these tabs to help keep things clean and easy to sift through.

By using categories I made, it's easier to find my apps and easier for me to avoid the time suck apps in Void when I need to get something done. It's not for everyone, but if the organization styles you've tried before haven't worked, maybe Nova will let you craft one that works for you.


Nova can do simple jsut as easily as it does complex.

By far, though, the best part of Nova is that it doesn't just work for me: it works for Android users of all types. Whether you just want to replace the ugly icons that came on your phone or you have your own system for organizing your digital life, Nova is there for you. New users can ease themselves into the launcher and experts can dive into the minutiae all with the same launcher and the same setting system.

If you want to try out Nova Launcher without having to completely rebuild your home screen, that's fine, and it's easy to import your home screen layouts from another launcher within Nova Settings > Backup & import settings > Import. If you need help finding your way around, ask. There are Nova Launcher users everywhere, in our comment sections, in our forums, on social media. There are whole communities on Google+ devoted to Nova Launcher and Nova Launcher themes.

And if you need any help puzzling out what those settings in Nova Launcher mean, we have a comprehensive Nova Setting guide right here for you, too!

More: Best Android Launchers