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Top tips and tricks to make the most of Nova Launcher
Apps Tips & Tricks 10 min read 81 comments

Top tips and tricks to make the most of Nova Launcher

Update: More tips and tricks!

Nova Launcher is the king of Android launchers. With features galore, it's the ultimate way to customize your smartphone. You can amaze friends, confuse the ignorant and save precious seconds, often simultaneously. The sheer number of options can be intimidating, so many are often overlooked. In this article, we'll show you where to get Nova Launcher and provide a rundown of the most useful Nova Launcher tips and tricks.

Jump to:

Download the latest version of Nova Launcher

Nova Launcher is often cited as the killer app for customizing Android, and in the settings you'll find a trove of options to fine-tune your experience. Not only that, but it offers great performance. If you want to try out Nova Launcher for free, it's easy enough to grab from Google's Play Store from the button below. 

You can also download the latest version of Nova Launcher from APKMirror, including unreleased beta versions. To get the full functionality, however, it's worth shelling out a few bucks for Nova Launcher Prime.

Nova Launcher Prime

Note: The experimental menu, the scrolling orientation, icon customization and Night Mode are available on the free version of the app. For the rest, you will need the paid app, known as Nova Launcher Prime. We recommend Prime, which is just under $5 and well worth the money for changing your Android experience forever.

9 must-try features of Nova Launcher

  1. Hidden folders
  2. Swipe actions on apps
  3. Swipe actions on the home screen
  4. Double tap to lock
  5. Smooth scrolling
  6. Add app drawer tabs
  7. Use emoji to label your app drawer tabs
  8. Change scrolling orientation
  9. Customize icons without an icon pack
  10. Use Night Mode
  11. Experimental features and debugging

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 one, 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
  • 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.
AndroidPIT nova launcher tips and tricks double tap to lock
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 your phone is a buzzing app metropolis.

androidpit nova launcher app drawer tabs 7
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
  • 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. Change scrolling orientation

One more app drawer tip: switch between vertical and horizontal scrolling between your app lists.

  • To do this, simply long hold anywhere on the display.
  • When the settings menu appears at the bottom right, press on it.
  • Select App & widget drawers > App drawer style then select which view you would like.
  • And that's it - go back to your app drawer and have a go!
nova launcher app drawer2
Switch between vertical and horizontal app drawer scrolling with Nova Launcher. / © AndroidPIT

9. Customize icons without an icon pack

One of the best options a launcher provides is the ability to change app icons - it can completely revamp the look and feel of your smartphone. However, on Nova Launcher you don't really need to use an icon pack to do so. You can now customize icon shape, size and label (text under the app) even if you don't have Nova Launcher Prime thanks to Adaptive icons. Here's what you need to do:

  • Open Nova Settings and head to Look & feel
  • Tap on Icon Style. There, you will find the Adaptive icon options, which will allow you to choose from six possible icon shapes, including System, Round, Square and more. Scroll and tick Reshape legacy icons, if you want all your icons to have a uniform shape.
  • Scroll down and you will also find options to adjust adaptive icon animations and normalize icon size.

However, you can also create a custom icon shape of your own (from the Adaptive icons settings) if none of the presets are to your liking. Playing with the values produces interesting results, as you can see from my lemon shaped icons in the screenshot below.

nova reshape icons
Adaptive icons are great! / © AndroidPIT

The customization options don't end there! You can even change the style of individual icons by tapping, holding and selecting the edit option. Once the edit menu is open, just tap on the icon once more. You can then select a style for it from available icon packs, built-in themes or even use a photo.

nova individual icon change
Don't like One UI's camera icon? Change it! / © AndroidPIT

Customizing the text under icons or removing it completely is also an option on Nova Launcher. Head to App drawer, then Icon Layout. From there you can change the font, color and size of the text. It even allows you to add shadow to the icon labels and to choose whether you want the text to fit in a single line or not. With all these options, icon packs are not essential anymore.

10. Night mode

If you can't wait for Android Q to introduce the system-wide dark mode, you can still spare your eyes with the Night mode features Nova Launcher provides. Just go to Nova Settings and then Night Mode. From there, you can apply the dark theme on your search bar, app drawer, drawer icons and folders. The best part is that you can schedule the switch to Night mode according to local sunrise and sunset hours.

nova launcher night mode
Night mode is sparing on the eyes and although it's not system-wide, it's still great. / © AndroidPIT

11. 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.
AndroidPIT nova launcher tips and tricks labs menu
The Labs menu is a sort of Nova Launcher easter egg. / © AndroidPIT

Bonus tip:

Both the free and paid version of Nova Launcher now offer Sesame Shortcuts. You will need to install a separate app, which then integrates with the launcher to learn from you and create useful shortcuts within apps. For example, with 1 or 2 taps, you will be able to open your most frequent WhatsApp chats, or commonly used settings. It comes with API integrations to Spotify, YouTube, Gmail, Maps, Slack, Reddit, Telegram and multiple other apps. Just install it from the link below, then head to Nova Settings and Sesame Shortcuts to customize it.

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

81 comments

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  • keiko 3 hours ago Link to comment

    when i read the first chapter (hidden folders) i was like, oh my, why would i ever use that? sounds lil bit over the top. then i read your example and i was like, WOAH, that comes in extremely handy, will do! and i did :)
    adding how you're using it at the bottom of every chapter was a really great idea, it kinda brings those things to life!

    here's a little tip myself regarding this chapter, maybe it too helps somebody!

    on my phone, all the apps/folder display their name right under the icon. if you set up several hidden folders, at first glance you won't know if it's just ONE app or a hidden folder containing several apps. in order to tell which is which, i wrote the names of all hidden folders in capslock.

    f.i., if it's just the app signal the title would be "Signal". since it's a hidden folder where tapping it opens signal, swiping up opens the folder with all my msg apps installed (whatsapp, telegram, ...) the title is "CHATTING". could be "SIGNAL" as well.
    the important thing is capslock; it draws attention.

    hope somebody finds this helpful :)


  • Nova Launcher is my favorite launcher. For me it is a must have app on every Android smartphone irrespective of the skin, because I love my smartphone to look the way I want. I wish I could share screenshots with everyone to show my Nova Launcher skills. I use gestures and drawer tabs and I have paid attention to every minute detail in customizing my smartphone.
    Writing such lengthy articles takes a lot of time and effort. Thank you Maam.


  • Updated: Nova's a really nice launcher, and I thought I was able to replicate tabbed app drawers like ADW v1. But I have to say the Nova tabbed drawer is years behind the five year old ADW. On ADW v1, its easy to add new icons from right within the specific tab you want to edit, on Nova it's necessary to delve deep into settings - unless I've missed a trick. Nova works right on a new Android N tablet, but began changing icons on my Android L phone and won't install on an older J tablet - so it's back to good old ADW v1 after a trial and error experience.


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

    I want to believe you're kidding but am worried you might not be :)

    Thx for the suggestion of mapping double-tap to Screen Lock; I like it and use it now.


  • Plus, with all these tips, use split-screen creator with Nova. You can have multitasking icons, wherever you want to put them. Open two apps together(I normally use them in the dock, then hide with a swipe).


  •   16
    Deactivated Account Mar 16, 2018 Link to comment

    Thank you for this article! Been using Nova for years. Still the best out there.


  • Great article - one feature of Nova Launcher that I love is the ability to choose your own icons for apps and folders. Just long press an icon, select edit, then tap the icon to select a new icon. I've gone as far as to design my own set of icons that complement each other better than the originals, and stand out against the wallpaper.


    • Hope you use the backup feature! It's one I use all the time...just in case! I'd hate to have to set one up all over again with the changes I've made. Also makes it super easy when switching to a new or replacement phone.


  • No.7 is great for a teen, not "normal" people. lol


  • Didn't know about the "labs" feature...THANKS! Love Nova Prime. I use the double-tap off all the time...cuts the wear and tear on the on/off button.


  • Wipe scroll effect really please me. Thank you.


  • My phone opens in Speed Dial making it too easy to touch a contact and dial it accidentally. I would like to have it open in Recents or Contacts instead which require two taps to dial a number. Even better, in order to dial a number, a double tap should be required. Is there any hope for this ?


  • I just installed Nova Launcher to my LG Nexus 5 (Android 7.1.1 custom rom), and whenever i unlock the screen it'll open last opened app by itself. This is really annoying, how to fix this ?


  • Which icon pack is it ?


  • I need that weather widget in my life. Someone please help


  • Lauren Mar 21, 2017 Link to comment

    How do i change my normal settings to the Nova Launcher settings... when i get a few messages it's not letting me know i have them?


  • Using nova launcher, how do I remove persistent google search bar from galaxy s7 home screen?


    • You probably have found it by now, but just in case — you can disable it in the Nova Launcher settings at Desktop → Persistent search bar. I too have removed the widget and put search on double tap, which works well for me.


  • That's a great article on a great launcher. I have tried a whole lot of other launchers and I must say that Nova is the best not because it offers the most customization options, but because it's easy to use and non-intrusive. Most launchers I have tried have altered and taken control of my home screen in ways that I found unnerving. Some even make it difficult to get uninstalled. Nova Launcher has an easy learning curve. It doesn't mess up the interface of your phone in such a way that you tend to back off and uninstall the whole thing, which I feel happens with the other launchers.


    • You hit it on the head. "easy to use and non-intrusive". Other people just don't get it, it has all the features of other launchers, but has that it isn't even there feeling to it. The bonus is that it doesn't get in the way of the phones' features. It made emui tolerable until I rooted for another rom.


    • Yep, I've been using Nova Prime for years. You set it, and forget it. No nags, no pop ups, no hints to "like" us. Stays out of the way. :)


  • Mike Feb 19, 2017 Link to comment

    Great article, thanks.


  • Use Nova launcher on my Tablet but find it not so good for my phones


  • Thank you for the good article, I had to copy (sorry) on my device the awesome interface & theme you made and it rocks!


  • I've had Nova for almost a year now and my only, and new, gripe is that I can't set a system-wide font, as some launchers allow. Maybe they will add that feature someday. I just got an LG G5 and it seems I can't add downloaded fonts without rooting, which I'm not inclined to do. I can't really complain much about Nova, though; it's essentially perfect. I've never had any real issues with it and it does everything I want it to and then some.


  • I am new to Nova and this article certainly helps me understand what it has to offer. By the way, can you tell me where did you get the wallpaper from? I like the dark ones and it looks great. Thanks!


  • Please forgive me, in case this represents a "DUH" kinda question; but I am a fairly new Android Convert, and have a Droid Tablet and Mobile. Will I need separate account per device (Ex: Dloaded it/paying for it twice, syncing across devices, etc?) Any advice would be great! Thank you, and Merry Christmas!

    Mark

    PS: Very well-written and explained article, thank you!!!


    • "Will I need separate account per device (Ex: Dloaded it/paying for it twice, syncing across devices, etc?"

      AFAIK, No. I have Nova in the payware edition on three tablets here. When I get a new tablet, I install my standard set of apps including Nova from Google Play, and get no nags about buying additional licenses. Nova is good enough I'd cheerfully pay for a registration for each, but I've never been asked to. (And the free version of Nova is good enough that you can do just about anything you need with it. I bought Nova Prime to get gesture support, but lived without it for a while before getting it. I'm currently a happy Nova beta tester.)
      _______
      Dennis


  • 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.


    • Haven't used golauncher in a couple of years. It became too bloated for me, and slowed my phone, which didn't have a lot of ram. Started using nova, and it did everything golauncher did, without feeling bloated. Golauncher tried to do everything, be everything(too many supporting apps to go with it, that slowed it to a crawl). A launcher, should be a launcher, nothing more, not another operating system.


    • Before Prime, I used Go launcher, but had to stop using it when the nag screens came along.


  • 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.


    • It'll work just fine. I had it on a old alcatel, with less than 512mb memory and it ran great, the crashing of the phone wasn't nova's fault ever, just the phone being butt.


  • 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..


  • 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


  • 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
    • Admin
    May 12, 2016 Link to comment

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


  •   30
    Deactivated Account May 12, 2016 Link to comment

    that's the best article and tutorial on how to do Nova I've ever had the pleasure of reading, respect and well done..
    my personal thing is using invisible icons for my invisible folders..
    and a homescreen grid at 7x7 for placing icons


  • Alex Apr 25, 2016 Link to comment

    That was really use ful!I had been using Nova Launcher Prime for an year now!Great work keep it up! Chris Marshall :)


  • Joe G Apr 4, 2016 Link to comment

    Is there a way (widget) to use a swipe action on and text message a group of preselected people?


  • Hello, please, what is the theme used on the first GIF? Thank you :)


    • Adam Apr 2, 2016 Link to comment

      Glyphs by Tokems


      • Yup. And the weather widget comes from Simple Weather.


      • I downloaded every single app with the name simple weather but sadly couldn't find this Widget. I use something similar from chronus but this is simply perfect. Would you be kind enough to point me in the right direction. I really really want this weather widget.


  • Can you provide me the wallpaper plz!!


  • I'm gonna have to play around with the hidden apps folder thingy. Is it different than simply making a folder on my home screen and loading apps in it? For instance I have a folder on my home screen for games, and if I tap that folder it opens up and shows me all the games I put in it. How is the hidden folder different?


    • The difference is that the folder is represented by just a single icon, and you can tap it to open the first app, or swipe it to open the folder. So it doubles as a shortcut to your favorite app and a folder for all related apps.


  • I used Nova for over a year before I discovered you can drop (1-high) widgets into the dock.


  • Haggie Feb 29, 2016 Link to comment

    Six for six! Great article. Usually, I already know the "tips". These were all new to me and I consider myself a fairly adept Nova user.


  • Thank you for the interesting hints. For the screen off double tap feature, I was using a turnaround (selected a screen off app when double tapping), but I am happy to see that Nova finally added it in the newest update.
    Another thing I will probably try to do is to use the same widget in different screens: I'm now using just a clean oversimplified screen, but maybe this will allow more freedom.


  • nice especially number 1 helped me


  •   30
    Deactivated Account Feb 26, 2016 Link to comment

    Nice article, gonna try out the labs settings.... just out of curiosity.. thanks for the tip.
    my favourite stealth thing with Nova folders is to use an invisible icon from Flite icon pack.... really cool for a minimal look until you forget where you put the folder !!


  •   18
    Deactivated Account Feb 25, 2016 Link to comment

    I am confused is this paid version. Google Now is also similar but Nova has more ways to customize that's the best part.


  • Nova is a very good launcher with reasonable price.Seriously dudes I would buy 4 freedom 251 with the cost next 3d launcher