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Nova Launcher tips and tricks: eight for a top-rate experience

Update: Add app drawer tabs

Nova Launcher is the king of Android launchers. With features galore, it's the ultimate way to customize your smartphone. You can amaze spectators, confuse the ignorant and save precious seconds, often simultaneously. The sheer number of options can be intimidating, however, and many are often overlooked. Here's a run-down of the most useful Nova Launcher tips and tricks.

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Prime for a bit of customization. Let's get going. / © ANDROIDPIT

Note: aside from the experimental menu, these features are only available in the paid version of the app.

Nova Launcher Prime Install on Google Play

1. Hidden folders

Here's a great way to access all your most commonly used apps quickly and without littering up your home screen. You can make an app folder that is hidden, appearing only as an icon of your choosing. When pressed, the icon will open the first app, but when you swipe up, it will open the folder, showing the full range of related apps.

I use this for my music apps, so when I press the headphones icon, Deezer opens, but when I swipe up, I see Soundcloud, Music Player, Deezer, etc.

AndroidPIT nova launcher tips and tricks double tap to lock
Hidden folders save space, and afford quick access to apps. / © ANDROIDPIT

To set this up, first drag the related apps into a folder as you would normally. Then long-press on the folder and select Edit. From here, you can press on the icon to choose a different icon, change the name of the folder, and adjust the Swipe to open and Tap action settings. Flick the Swipe to open toggle to the right, and, from the Tap action drop-down menu, select First item in folder.

For bonus points, make your folders transparent, too, by opening Nova Settings and going to Folders > Background and sliding Transparency to 100 percent. 

2. Swipe actions on apps

Another way to make use of the swipe actions is to open apps that are related to other apps. I've got the camera icon set to open the Gallery app when I swipe, for instance, and swiping up on the Google Calendar app lets me add a reminder (download Google Inbox to access this feature). I also use this to open Messenger with a swipe up on the Facebook app icon.

To set this up, just long press on an icon, select Edit and press on the Swipe action option to select the action of your choosing.

AndroidPIT nova launcher tips and tricks double tap to lock
A small swipe up on my calendar app lets me set a reminder. / © ANDROIDPIT

3. Swipe actions on the home screen

You've really got to make the most of those swipe actions. The final way I use them is by adding a swipe-up gesture to the home screen to open the app drawer, a double-fingered swipe up to open Nova settings and a double-fingered swipe down to open Google Now, along with a few others, but you can choose whatever suits you best.

Just go open up Nova Settings, head to Gestures & inputs and peruse the Gestures section and decide which actions you want to set to do what.

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Home screen swipe gestures make accessing common features super quick. / © ANDROIDPIT

4. Double tap to lock

While this option could just be included in the section above, it seems worth highlighting, because it's something I use a lot and is easily overlooked.

Go into Nova Settings, press on Gestures & inputs > Double tap and select Screen lock. Now, when you issue a quick double-tap to the home screen, your device will lock. If you're not so keen on this, another very useful application is to have it launch the phone app.

AndroidPIT nova launcher tips and tricks double tap to lock
Double tap to lock is a quick software shortcut to lock your device. / © ANDROIDPIT

5. Smooth scrolling

If you put the same widget on multiple launcher screens and employ Nova Launcher's wipe scroll effect, it produces a really pleasing way of moving between screens, with the widget remaining in place throughout. Take a look at the gif below to see what I mean.

For this one, just add the same widget to all of your launcher screens, and then open up Nova settings. Go to Desktop > Scroll effect and select Wipe near the bottom of the list.

AndroidPIT nova launcher tips and tricks double tap to lock
Smooth scrolling with fixed widgets just looks cool. / © ANDROIDPIT

6. Add app drawer tabs

The app drawer is Android's one-stop shop for all your apps, but how about making it a more discrete home-screen-style arrangement? By default in Android, the app drawer is one page, but with Nova Launcher, you can add extra tabs to it that you can swipe left and right to scroll through. Name your tabs by category, e.g., Internet, Music and Work, and fill them up with related apps. It makes finding specific apps a whole lot easier, especially when you're phone is a buzzing app metropolis.

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Use app drawer tabs to make your apps even more organized. / © ANDROIDPIT

Open Nova Settings and head to App & widget drawer. Here, make sure Tab bar is enabled, then head down the page to Drawer groups. On this page, you can add additional tabs by pressing the plus sign in the top-right corner.

Once you've got your tabs set up, you can choose whether apps show up only in the tab you've put them in or in the main app tab as well by long pressing on the tab at the top, selecting Edit Tab..., and then selecting or deselecting Keep apps in the main app tab.

7. Use emoji to label your app drawer tabs

Having app drawer tabs is great, but you can make the set up even cleaner by using keyboard emoji instead of words to label them. Go to Nova Settings > App & widget drawers > Drawer groups and press on the pencil icon beside any tab. In the Edit window, press on the tab name, and, on the keyboard, navigate to the emoji of your choosing (you might have to use a keyboard app other than your default to access emoji, or at least the emoji you want).

As before, ensure you have Tab bar enabled on the App & widget drawers page.

AndroidPIT nova launcher tips and tricks emoji app drawer tabs
Ensure you have the Tab bar enabled to use emoji to label your app drawer tabs. / © ANDROIDPIT

8. Experimental features and debugging

This final tip is for the professional Nova Launcher users out there. I don't often make use of this, but it might be helpful to have on hand.

You can access a secret menu, containing experimental features and debugging options, by holding the Volume Down button while in Nova Settings. Once you've held it down for a second or two, a new option called Labs should be available at the bottom of the menu.

If you find this menu scary and dangerous upon unlocking, long press the Volume Up button to remove it again.

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The Labs menu is a sort of Nova Launcher easter egg. / © ANDROIDPIT

Do you know any other features Nova Launcher users should be taking advantage of? Let us know in the comments.

45 comments

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  • Thank you for the article, which convinced me to get Nova Premium, too.
    For the last years I was a loud and proud user of Go Launcher EX and Go Launcher Z. Recently the Launcher devs decided to add a ChargeLocker, popping up, whenever I conected my device to a charger. Not only did sais ChargeLocker force me to unlock my mobile twice (1. CHargeLocker, 2. my Lockscreen) but it also surpressed my alarm clock. Whenever that Locker was active (which it was whenever you charged your Phone) it caused my alarm clock to stop after 1 Second of ringing. I almost missed work once due to this ****. Best of all: You could not deactivate it and only after comprehensive research did I find out that it was caused by the Go Launcher.
    With this experience, Everiting "Go" will from now on be just as prohibited on my phone, as everything from "CM- Cheetah Mobile", who did just that stunt a few months ago.

  • Thank you for the comprehensive writeup. I've been using Nova Launcher sine not long after I got my first Android device.

    Back in the day, I was a PDA user, and still have a working Palm TX. There were an assortment of alternative launchers for Palm devices, and I settled on one called Launcher III. I wasn't interested in eye candy - I wanted a launcher that added power and configurability and allowed me to make the most effective use of the device. Nova Launcher for Android is what Launcher III was for Palm OS here, and I've been delighted.

    It wasn't all that long before I bought the paid version, largely to get gesture support. I make extensive use of the Dock, with multiple pages, and being able to hide and reveal it with a gesture is a boon.

    My device is a tablet, not a phone, and is usually not connected to the outside world, so my usage and habits reflect it. My home screen, for example, has only apps that store data locally and don't need to be connected to the Internet to function.

    I got my first tablet when a local retailed had a grand opening promotion with a 7" Android tablet for $20. My use case was eBook viewer, and if that's all it did it would be more than worth the money. It did a lot more, and I found myself swimming in the deep end of the Android software pool. Several tablets later, I still am, and Nova has been the first thing installed on new devices.

    The article pushed me to explore a few Nova features I hadn't gotten to, like Tabs in the App Drawer, and I'm quite pleased. Thanks for doing this. I count it a good day when I learn something, and I did from this article.
    _______
    Dennis

  • Its unfortunate that I may not be able to use this as my Galaxy J5 has limited memory. But it looks really good.

  • I use the gestures to launch the gallery with a double finger swipe up on the home screen,, single finger swipe up from the bottom to launch my calendar and two finger swipe down to load my contacts. All these things are now accessible from the home screen without the need for even an icon. I have the desktop grid and dock set so that all that is displayed on my home screen is my chosen desktop picture and icons for camera, mail, dailer , messenger, chrome and the app drawer and a shortcut for circle launcher....all of these are docked icons (currently using the Grafikos Icon pack) . 1 home screen, all neat and accessible. I also have gesture configured for double tap to sleep. I love Nova and I love Circle Launcher too, one tap and it opens all my frequently used apps in a nice cirlcle I can launch them from.

  • Nova is the boss of launchers

  • Great article. My question is how do I make my widget not have full color. But set a transparency mode?

  • Great write-up! I love Nova Launcher and have been using since the first Nexus. Since I've got it on my LG V10, I've lost the ability to pinch out to hide all apps on the homescreens. Do you have any suggestions or work arounds?

  • does nova launcher cause lag for a 1 gb ram smartphone?

  • Great launcher.. but is it have the wake up gesture in nova launcher..

  • GizPrime 6 months ago Link to comment

    Nova Launcher is a such an amazing Launcher. I use nova launcher Launcher Prime last two years. because it's a lite weight and easy to use for everyone

  • great tutorial. I have been using Nova launcher for years but did not know about the swipe feature. Very helpful. Keep up the good work

  • Thanks very much!

  • I've using Nova Launcher for a while, many of these tips-and-tricks I didn't know.
    Thanks!!! :D

  • Kingdavid 6 months ago Link to comment

    Please i would like to know the name of the icon app

  • I use Nova launcher on my Nexus 6, because stock Android can be boring just like Apple's iOS; you know, not enough features and options. The best launcher, period.

  • Mark 6 months ago Link to comment

    I just started using Nova launcher this will help a lot. Thanks

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