13 essential Nova Launcher tweaks you need to know
Getting the details right matters in a launcher, and no details are more important than your settings.
Nova Launcher is one of the best launchers on the market, with users praising its reliability, customizability, and its ease of use. And once you’ve gotten the hang of Nova Launcher, it is indeed quite easy to find your way around the launcher, but it’s no secret that Nova Settings can be a bit daunting to new and casual users. Never fear! We’ve searched every submenu and found our favorite settings and some of the best secrets hiding in Nova Settings.
Nova Launcher review: still king of the mountain
Desktop > Desktop grid > Subgrid positioning
Precision widget placement, brought to you by subgrid positioning.
Subgrid positioning is one of Nova Launcher’s aces, it sets it apart from most launchers on the market and opens up millions more configurations for users who need to get widget sizing and icon placement just perfect on their home screens. By enabling this toggle, you can set icons halfway between the normal grid placements, and you can resize widgets by half-grid steps as well, enabling things like 4×1.5 widgets.
Read more about subgrid positioning
Desktop > Search bar style
Nova Launcher’s search bar isn’t quite as versatile as Action Launcher’s Quickbar, but it’s still quite themable and customizable, letting you pick from several bar and logo styles as well as choosing and color and transparency.
You can then add the search bar as a widget, enable the persistent search bar at the top of desktop, or enable it in the dock (more on that in a bit)!
Desktop > Add icon to home screen
When we download new apps, some people want to add them to the home screen. The vast, vast majority of us, however, do not. Turn off this setting to end the annoyance of deleting new apps from your home screens.
Desktop > Advanced > Widget overlap
This somewhat hidden setting is quite useful for busy home screens, as it allows you to overlap widgets. It’s helpful if you want to place widgets with a lot of dead space in their margins or if you want to place icons at the edges of your widgets. It’s also useful for overlapping fourth-wall-breaking widgets for awesome mercenary themes.
Desktop > Lock desktop
If you’re prone to accidentally deleting things off your home screen, or frequently hand your phone off to young children who like to move things around, locking your desktop can keep things from getting moved, deleted or otherwise messed up.
App & widget drawers > Swipe to open
One of the more popular home screen features of late has been ditching an app drawer button and replacing it with a gesture. By activating swipe to open, you can swipe up on the dock to open the app drawer, and swipe down in the app drawer to return to the home screen, just as you can on the Pixel Launcher.
Dock > Searchbar in dock
Speaking of the Pixel Launcher, in the Pixel 2, the search bar has moved from the top of the home screen to the bottom, providing a buffer between the dock apps and the nav buttons and putting the search bar in a much more easily tapped location. This allows you to turn on a persistent dock search bar, either above or below the dock icons.
Look & feel > Adaptive icon style
Adaptive icons are here, and while it’s going to take a long, long time before they’re anywhere near perfect, it doesn’t mean that they’re not useful now, especially the way Nova Launcher handles them. Nova not only allows you to pick the shape of your adaptive icons, it can automatically tint the background layer for legacy icons, eliminating at least some of the white backers.
Getting rid of white adaptive icons
Look & feel > Dark icons
For most home screen themes, the standard white icons for the notification bar stand out and work quite well. However, if you’re going to be using a white or light-colored background, you can turn on this toggle to make the notification bar stand out more with dark grey icons. It’s not always needed, but for some wallpapers and themes it can make a world of difference.
Night mode can automatically shift portions of the launcher from white or colored ‘day’ variants to darker ‘night’ colors, but did you know that Night mode has another cool feature? You can turn off all the toggles for the launcher-facing portions for Night mode to theme, set Night mode to always, and get a dark UI for Nova Settings. Hello, darkness, my old friend!
Gestures are an important part of any launcher these days, and gesture controls in Nova Launcher can take the experience to new levels. Outside the swipe to open setting we mentioned above, this menu can set a dozen special shortcuts for certain actions and gestures, allowing you to access more apps quickly without cluttering your home screen.
Outside this section, however, there is one more important gesture to remember. If you long-press any app or folder on your desktop or dock and Edit it, you can add a swipe gesture, essentially doubling the capacity for every icon on your home screen. Cool, right?
Read more about gestures
Notification badges > Dynamic Badges
Notification dots in Android Oreo are kinda cool, maybe, but Nova does them one better with Dynamic Badges. Dynamic badges can stand out better than dots against a wide variety of themes, and they can provide more context than a dot by showing contact avatars and album art.
Dynamic Badges are better
Labs > Bypass system icon theme
Some phones have icon masks that add the same shape or color to the background to every single app. Some masks are good, and some masks are bad, but if you want to take the system mask off of your apps, Nova Launcher has an experimental feature that can help do this. It doesn’t always work, which is why it’s in Labs with the other not-completely-reliable features, but it’s worth a shot if you don’t want masks and don’t want to turn to icon packs quite yet.
What hidden features do you most enjoy in Nova Settings?
There’s lots to discover still waiting in Nova Settings, so what’s your favorite? I’m kinda partial to drawer groups, but most people just prefer the standard A-Z app drawer. Whatever your persuasion, tell us your favorite Nova Settings in the comments!
Let us know in the comments below!