The best three Android interface apps

With plenty of user interface add-ons available on the Google Play store, it can be hard to decide what to download, especially when there's a price attached. The following are our three favourites.

Action Launcher Pro: Appearance

Action Launcher Pro is a custom launcher created by Australian-based developer, Chris Lacy. It costs $US3.99 and contains a series of display and accessibility features delivered through the classic grid layout. We like to think of it as an app that eliminates many of the UI-based restrictions of stock Android, TouchWiz, and other smartphone manufacturers' custom setups.

Although it remains within the confines of a traditional grid layout, Action Launcher Pro allows you to scale from 3x3 to 12x12 icons, and in combination (7x5, for example). Although 12x12 may look far too congested on a smartphone, it works very well on a tablet and eliminates home screen count sprawl.

Action Launcher Pro also allows you to scale the size of your icons from 70 per cent to 130 per cent.

In addition to a standard folder system, Action Launcher Pro offers 'covers' and 'shutters'. Covers allow you use a single icon (eg: Facebook) to serve as a containing app which leads to all other social networking apps when you swipe up from the icon (it opens like a folder). Shutters open a pre-selected widget once you swipe up from an icon.

Another great feature is the ability to edit your dock, and scale from displaying three to 12 apps - something we really missed when subject to the Australian TouchWiz's restrictions.

Lastly, Action Launcher Pro provides quick access to Google Play and Google Search/Now with icons in the top right.

Action Launcher Pro: Drawers and Widgets

Action Launcher Pro hides your app drawer to the left of the screen. It can be accessed by swiping from the left edge of the screen to the right, or by tapping the circle icon in the top left-hand corner of your screen. Items are listed in alphabetical order, making them very easy to find.

To access widgets, just tap 'Widgets'. While TouchWiz only allows certain apps to be resized, Action Launcher Pro lets you change the size of all of them. The third screenshot in this slide shows the same widget in three different sizes. Some widgets adjust well and look good regardless of their size, while others simply aren't made to be manipulated.

More recently, Chris Lacy has introduced a Quickpage which provides access to a drawer from the right side of the screen no matter what app you are using.The Quickpage can be customised just like a home page, but its grid size is static.

Action Launcher Pro: Settings

Action Launcher Pro has a thorough Settings menu which is accessed by either tapping the home button on the home screen of your smartphone/tablet (for those which have one), or by tapping the three vertical dots in the top right-hand corner of the screen, and then 'Settings'. Here you can also lock your screen to avoid accidentally moving icons and widgets.

The menus seem complicated to start with, but once you navigate through them a couple of times, it all becomes straightforward.

Action Launcher Pro: Features

Chris Lacy has done a great job at segregating most of the options at hand, meaning you don't have to dig too deep to find a certain setting.

There is also a backup and import option so you can save your setup and install it on a new device rather than wasting time coordinating everything over and over.

DashClock: Appearance

DashClock is a very useful lock screen utility which provides notifications to a range of apps.

The left screenshot shows the appearance of DashClock for those who use a lock pattern, PIN, or password. Swiping down from the widget provides further detail, as seen in the centred image. By entering this view, you can also access the settings menus; just tap on the little gear/cog icon.

The general appearance of time and data can be altered via the settings.

DashClock: Settings and Extensions

The DashClock settings are fairly straightforward, allowing you to organise the order in which Extensions appear on your lock screen.

Note that not all apps are supported, but most of those which are, are free. A quick link to a full list of DashClock Extensions from a range of developers can be accessed by tapping the three dots in the top right.

kovdev: Nox and Lumos

kovdev's mission statement is "to provide users with an assortment of design options to personalise their Android devices," and it delivers on this. The Dave Kover and Ben Lee combo has created a series of icon packs which complement Action Launcher Pro.

The only problem is selecting which one to download as they cost $US2.23 each.

The first and second screenshots in this slide are of the Nox and Lumos apps, respectively. Nox contains very simply square icons with a hint of a shadow from each. Lumos is reminiscent of Apple's round-edged icons.

All of kovdev's designs are very similar to the originals, but offer a unique twist. Not all icons are supported, though; those which have not yet been addressed utilise the app's default look with a border. Credit must be given to kovdev for very frequent updates which are rolled out at virtually the same time to the team's full portfolio.

The best part is that there is not only one messaging icon or one phone icon -- a full arsenal is at hand, allowing you to further customise your experience.

kovdev: Settings

Note that in order to use one of kovdev's icon packs, you must have one of 12 compatible launchers installed on your device. It does not work with stock and vendor version of Android. The list can be seen on the main menu.

Other features within all of kovdev's icon packs include a range of wallpapers (high-definition, and different ones for each app) and dock trays.


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