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In Depth: GO Launcher EX

In my 11 months here at Droid Life, it’s become apparent that most of our community use one of two different home replacement tools: LauncherPro or ADW Launcher. It’s gotten to the point that these tools are deemed essential to Android users because of the additions they bring to an otherwise boring Android home screen. That one row of buttons adds a lot of functionality and saves a lot of space; something that’s precious on a stock 4×4 grid.

Naturally, when a new home replacement comes along, it’s easy to dismiss it. How could it even come close to the “big two?” However, I urge you to read on: GO Launcher is no half-assed effort.  

I was originally going to write this article about GO Launcher, which comes to us from the aptly-named GO Development team. However, in the time it took to plan things, a new version of the launcher came out, titled GO Launcher EX. The EX version comes with some performance upgrades, theme support and some changes to how the app was structured: I’ll be taking a look at each in my review.

Hilarious mistranslations aside...

From the get-go, GO Launcher seems similar to LauncherPro and ADW; it adds the familiar dock to the bottom of your Android home screen that is both customizable and scrollable. You can have up to 3 rows of docks, which you move through by gesture-flicking left or right. I’ve turned this off, as I prefer a dock that stays constant.

Each dock icon can be customized with themed icons, or default ones. Furthermore, each button can be assigned a gesture command, as well. This is activated by swiping in any direction with your finger starting on the button. It’s a bit unintuitive at first, but it works. I can’t imagine it working in a moving situation, though, as sometimes my hands aren’t the most steady things in the world.

Also developed by the team is a separate app for notifying users of how many missed calls/texts/Gmail they’ve missed, right in the dock. The reason for the separation is that some people didn’t appreciate an app that looked into their call/text history. This function works fine, but sadly it doesn’t seem to co-operate with Handcent SMS; it works with the stock messaging app just fine.

However, when you open the app drawer, something is glaringly different; the background is solid, the waterfall animations of other launchers is not present, and there are two new tabs along the top: “Recent” and “Running”. These two tabs do exactly what you’d think: they list apps you’ve recently opened, and apps that are running, respectively. The latter acts as a task killer/applications manager hybrid.

Clicking on apps in this screen opens a pop-up asking you to choose “Close”, “Lock”, “Goto” or “Info”; while the first two’s functions are evident (killing the task or keeping it from closing, respectively), the latter two are interesting additions. “Goto” opens the app, while “Info” opens its page in your phone’s Settings > Applications menu. I find this extremely useful for when I want to move apps from my SD card and back, or just want to check up on things.

This functionality is on top of the ability to long-press on apps in the normal app drawer and uninstall them directly from there. After some haptic feedback, little red “X” hovers over every uninstallable app, and clicking on it once takes you directly to the uninstall page. As someone who used “Quick Uninstall” before it merged with Atrackdog, I cannot love this enough. Simple and no-frills. Apps can be sorted by name or installation date – newest first or last. This is a nice feature, but between sortings it defaults back to “newest last”; every time I install a new app, I need to re-sort.

Upgliding on any home screen brings you into a robust editing mode: you can customize order and number of home screens simply by dragging and dropping, or clicking on buttons. It also shows a live preview of screens, so when you’re thinking about order, you don’t need to keep a note of which is which.

Apps are selected in a unique way with GO: instead of dragging icons around, you have the option of long-pressing on one to bring up a menu. One can delete icons without having to drag them to a garbage bin (though the option still exists.) Icons can be renamed, which is a big plus: I don’t like apps without proper punctuation (I’m looking at you, “reddit is fun.”)

Apps are brought from drawer to home screen by long-pressing on an icon and then dragging into a “move to screen” area at the bottom. After that, you can drag it to one of the screen previews from before, so you know where it’ll fit in.

However, this brings me to my one problem with GO Launcher. When your screens are full, that app will not drop. This makes sense, except when there’s a folder I want to throw my app in. Because trying to move an app from screen to screen brings up that darned preview window, I can’t even throw it on an empty home spot somewhere else and then drag it sideways. Instead, I must make sure that there’s a blank spot to drag icons from the drawer to, then from there, I can put it in the folder I want.

You would be surprised how quickly this gets annoying.

The phone sports a nice themeing system, which actually got me to use themes on my launcher. Each theme (installed separately through the market) comes with a wallpaper, icon and dock set. Some, like the “original” theme I’m using in my screenshots, alter app icons significantly, while the “default” theme leaves them alone. I’m going to dock some points from GO because I’d prefer they use the Beautiful Widgets “in-app” system of downloading skins instead of the market method: this tends to clutter search results quite fast. What’s important is that the theming is not difficult to use and that it doesn’t disrupt the normal operation of the launcher.

That’s GO’s strength as a whole, actually: it just works. I haven’t had it crash in the approximate month I’ve used it, nor have I had any major tech-related screw-ups. I’ve never had to kill its process to resolve a freeze, or had the screens lock up while switching back and forth.

I honestly can’t say the same for when I’ve used ADW or LauncherPro.

That could be a result of a number of different factors: I’ve used LauncherPro, Helix and ADW on different combinations of unrooted and rooted, along with updated ROMs. Any of those things could have triggered my problems. However, what I know now is that minus that one annoying issue with the folders, GO’s earned its spot on my phone.

Download:


Link to APK


Matt Demers is a Toronto writer who doesn’t understand why everyone needs like 10 home screens; he’s whittled his down to one. If you’ve liked what you’ve read, follow him on Twitter.

  • Me

    The big plus for me is the fact that, even though you have to download the add on, I get unread counts for ALL my Gmail accounts. This makes GO Launcher EX my choice over ADW and LP……at least until the ADW and LP developers get there programming together.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=24205108 Anh Pham

    I tried it, and I liked it, but I can’t live without my Launcher Pro features just yet.

  • REMilk

    I have tried Go Launcher and Go Launcher EX and it does not seem to support any size of the Beautiful Widgets Weather. It does not seem to support the Folder Organizer app. Once these are incorporated i ill give it anothet try.

  • http://twitter.com/mike43091 Michael Neborak

    Best home replacement by far. I love how there is no redraw!!! Plus they updated GO’s dockbar notifications to work with Handcent, ChompSMS, and Go’s own GOSMS (which is my favorite SMS app). GO knows what they are doing and it made my Droid, a phone not 2 weeks ago I was looking to replace with a Bionic or an iPhone, a phone I can live with for another year until my upgrade comes. Bye Bye Launcher Pro and ADW, GO Launcher is the ONLY way to enjoy an old android phone that isn’t up to speed with today’s 1gz devices.

  • metiCkOne

    Yet another launcher using ADW source and not giving proper credit.

  • http://twitter.com/Agmarr Kyle Anonymous

    Now, if only I can find out how to disable this without installing.

  • jp0201

    are you using an icon pack or where could i find those?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000044287556 Steve Spiro

    Just installed.. thus far, I may have found the reason my phone has been so laggy.. (LP :( )

    Very quick, very responsive, and VERY customizable. The App drawer folders might the best part.

  • Anonymous

    Has anyone received an invite to test spb mobile shell yet?

  • anon

    I liked go launcher for a while but when I started getting 5 or 6 fc’s every day for a week or so I had enough and went back to LP+…

  • anon

    I liked go launcher for a while but when I started getting 5 or 6 fc’s every day for a week or so I had enough and went back to LP+…

  • anon

    I liked go launcher for a while but when I started getting 5 or 6 fc’s every day for a week or so I had enough and went back to LP+…

  • anon

    I liked go launcher for a while but when I started getting 5 or 6 fc’s every day for a week or so I had enough and went back to LP+…

  • tjhrulz

    i saw this the other day and was goona test it out, now i will have to

  • Guy

    EX is nice, but when pushing the home button in an application I now get a blank screen at first and have to either press the home button again or swipe the screen left/right to make its contents visible again. Bug?
    Didn’t have this problem with GO Launcher.

    • John

      Now fixed, get the latest version.

  • Anonymous

    tinyurl.com/2bk3gkl

  • http://perpetualn00b.tumblr.com quiklives

    I am realy loving Go Launcher EX as well. My wife tried Go Launcher first, and I was pretty die-hard LPP, bt I gave it a shot after she talked about it for a while. Then EX came out and I switched to that, and the one or two glitches I had with the original seem to have disappeared. I have my home screens as 5 by 5 without any trouble, it’s smooth and fast and just about perfect. I don’t really use folders, so I haven’t run into that one annoyance at all.

    I’m using it on a Droid X running Liberty and the Watermark’d theme – though that has changed a couple of times since I started using it – again, with no glitches.

  • Jawshua

    I’m always excited to try out a new launcher, thanks for the heads up! I’ve been really excited also using ADW EX but it’s been causing problems on my DROIDX, specifically with my gallery, I can’t open it anymore.

  • fh

    Zeam is another launcher worth checking out. It may not have quite as many features as other launchers, but it is focused on being extremely lightweight and runs very fast.

    • v941726

      but zeam’s dev moved on. no more support

    • v941726

      but zeam’s dev moved on. no more support

  • Jukboxhero

    does this launcher work properly on a droid 1?

    i was trying to use it, but for some strange reason, i was having an impossible time trying to get widgets to load on the screens, they simply would not appear after selecting one.

    and my icons? well i could not seem to get custom ones on the dock espicially, or sometimes it would work but then it wouldnt…could this have anything to do with the fact i have adw ex and lpp on my phone as well?

    otherwise this launcher wins so its frustrating me greatly, i want to figure this problem out badly!

  • Jukboxhero

    does this launcher work properly on a droid 1?

    i was trying to use it, but for some strange reason, i was having an impossible time trying to get widgets to load on the screens, they simply would not appear after selecting one.

    and my icons? well i could not seem to get custom ones on the dock espicially, or sometimes it would work but then it wouldnt…could this have anything to do with the fact i have adw ex and lpp on my phone as well?

    otherwise this launcher wins so its frustrating me greatly, i want to figure this problem out badly!

    • v941726

      yes. i would remove adw 1st.

    • v941726

      yes. i would remove adw 1st.

  • hjevetts

    If I switch over from GO launcher to GO Launcher EX am I going to lose all my home screen stuff and have to start from scratch?

    • http://mattdemers.com Matt Demers

      You can backup your Go Launcher data in the Preferences menu, then back it up in GO EX

      • http://perpetualn00b.tumblr.com quiklives

        Exactly. Though I found I did have to put my widgets back individually, it saved my docks and all the rest of my settings.

    • John

      From Go Launcher Settings choose backup, then uninstall it, install the new version, and from its menu choose restore.

  • BeeJay

    So i just picked it up. Any theme suggestions??

    • http://mattdemers.com Matt Demers

      I like Original. There’s only about 7 on the marketplace (2 are holiday themes).

  • NUPE

    one word: FAST

  • DEEroid X

    I’ve been an ADWLauncher Ex fan for so long I’m almost scared to switch over. But I must confess I do use Go SMS and I love that application. Everything about this app just runs smooth!

    • http://twitter.com/MastaMarc Marc C.

      Same here. I’ve been using ADW EX and i downloaded this to try and im LOVING it. Thinkin of switching after doing a little more testing. Go SMS is so great that the launcher has to be great too.

  • Marben20

    One feature you forgot to mention is that you can also create folders in the app drawer to organize it better. I love it.

    • Anonymous

      Yeah that is a huge plus.

    • http://mattdemers.com Matt Demers

      Ah, crap, yes, you got me there.

    • Anonymous

      Also, the gestures that are built into the launcher (like the up-swipe mentioned) are customizable. I changed mine so that the home button pulls up the home screen preview and edit screen, up-swipe takes me to my main home screen, and down swipe pulls the notifications down.

      Awesome launcher, it was mentioned on gizmodo, or lifehacker or somewhere a couple weeks ago, and I have been using it ever since.

  • (v)urphy

    I’ve played with this for 5 seconds and I’m sold….the fact that you can rename icons…thanks Kellex!!!!

    • Anonymous

      You can rename icons on ADW, just long-press and release, then tap “edit”.

    • rfranken

      u can rename icons in adw ex

      • (v)urphy

        Ah, I was a LPro fanboy and never really used ADW.

  • Hilly

    “Also developed by the team is a separate app for notifying users of how many missed calls/texts/Gmail they’ve missed, right in the dock. The reason for the separation is that some people didn’t appreciate an app that looked into their call/text history. This function works fine, but sadly it doesn’t seem to co-operate with Handcent SMS; it works with the stock messaging app just fine”

    Guessing it works with GO SMS?

    • http://mattdemers.com Matt Demers

      Most likely; didn’t get a chance to try it.

    • http://mattdemers.com Matt Demers

      Most likely; didn’t get a chance to try it.

  • Piotrek

    Have they finally fixed the issue with clicking icons in drawer?
    When I tried to run some app from drawer I had always about 4 missclicks (clicks iterpreted as swipe) first.
    What’s more I missed to much the possiblity to assign custom action to swipe down gesture on home screen (see ADW Launcher), which matches perfectly for expanding notifications (this top bar is so far when holding phone with one hand in portrait mode, ugh!)
    ps. I’m running HTC Desire

    • http://mattdemers.com Matt Demers

      So THAT’S what that is. I thought it was just me not pressing hard enough. Thanks dude.

  • Lurch

    what is that wallpaper with the white cirlces?

  • Lurch

    what is that wallpaper with the white cirlces?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_23JCXXVPE4WKRZVQEPTKOXQFSE Big Mac

    It lags a sometimes on my OG Droid and prevents me from adding widgets occasionally. I went back to LauncherPro.

  • Anonymous

    I installed it and ok this does everything LPP does but no transitions and LPP does not have drawer background. I think I’ll keep both for a bit. I like the LPP widgets better though.

  • rjrobins

    Love Go Launcher EX except for 2 things: 1. News & Weather Widget always shows “Error Inflating Widget” when I press the home button and 2. I miss the Facebook widget from LauncherPro … otherwise it’s fantastic and does not force close

    • Zero

      I can’t seem to get the FB widget to work on LP Pro for some reason. Every time I enter my info it crashes.

      • Anonymous

        LP pro is not a supported launcher.

    • http://twitter.com/ChrisJBatson Chris Batson

      use colorize widgets with any home screen. Just like LPP widgets…except work a little better.

    • http://perpetualn00b.tumblr.com quiklives

      The Go folks claim widgets are forthcoming.

  • Montrof

    I love this launcher and was a big fan of LauncherPro but Go Launcher does not have the screen re-writes that LP does

  • Anonymous

    Can someone describe to me what a scrolling widget is? Which ones are they?

    • EC8CH

      you can swipe and scroll inside of the widget, lots of the LP+ widgets are scrollable.

      • Anonymous

        OOOOHHH ok I get it. ok thanks dude.

    • Hilly

      Some widgets allow you to scroll the data within the widget. For example in Agenda Widget you can have a 2×2 widget showing your agenda but then scroll the agenda to see further down the list. That’s the only widget I have that allows scrolling although I’m sure there are others.

  • Keithsmnr

    What about smoothness and memory/resource usage? How big is the application compared to ADW/LP?

    • http://mattdemers.com Matt Demers

      I’ll make sure to touch on topics like these in further reviews. However, I find it kind of pointless to report on memory/resource usage due to the amount of customized ROMS, overclocking and phone specifications that’s present in Android. All I can tell people is based on my year-old overclocked Motorola Milestone; that’s awfully specific.

  • Amysackett

    I have been using it for a week and absolutely LOVE it. I have used ADW launcher and Launcher Pro Plus before.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=747685834 Carlo Salerno

    I used Go for awhile and really liked it but then I installed Go EX and every time I rotated the screen on my Droid X, the widgets all disappeared. Anyway, this got me looking into Zeam, which I have now and love, because it’s stable, simple yet flexible, and doesn’t hog so much memory.

  • Brezuljak

    What’s that clock widget you’re using?

    • Anonymous

      it’s beautiful widgets

    • http://mattdemers.com Matt Demers

      Beautiful Widgets Home & Weather. The skin is “Spirelli-innocent 2″

      • Brezuljak

        Thanks

      • Brezuljak

        Thanks

      • Anonymous

        Haha nice! I’ve been using the same clock skin.

    • Williedeuel

      That looks like Beautiful Widgets with Spirelli Innocent 2 skin.

  • http://twitter.com/mickmel mickmel

    Wow, this is slick. One big omission, though — scrolling widgets. I was just getting used to having a scrolling calendar on my home screen, and now it’s static. Still, very cool launcher!

  • Ronnie2bennett

    I can’t believe ALOT more people don’t talk about/ use ZEAM!! I like it better than all of these mentioned in the article.

    • dude

      it’s unsupported by the developer.

    • http://mattdemers.com Matt Demers

      I was actually going to do a GO vs. Zeam post, but I though this deserved a closer look. I might give Zeam the same treatment in a later column.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/WLJ7ZQQXMDVQ3RNYF3VW65HJ5M Jason

    I’m super happy with it so far. I don’t have any of the Screen Redraw problems that were in Launcher Pro, and I don’t have any of the lag issues with ADW Launcher EX. Also don’t have the drawer reloading issues of Slidescreen.

    This app is a winner for sure, I’m already recommending it to everyone

  • Porno

    Love their slogan “Keep on making cool App”

    Also “We no speak Engrish”

    • http://mattdemers.com Matt Demers

      If I didn’t go to the website, I wouldn’t have known otherwise.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1603800094 Cody Clay

      If English isn’t their first language, there’s no reason to make fun of them.

      • http://mattdemers.com Matt Demers

        They’re a Chinese dev, but at least they’re trying.

        • http://twitter.com/golauncher GO Launcher

          Thanks :)

    • http://twitter.com/mike43091 Michael Neborak

      Who gives a shit how they spell their slogan if they make a good app? Were you using it thinking “Son of a bitch, I can’t find anything wrong with this app! How can I trash it!? HOLY SHIT! They forgot a S at the end of apps AND capitalized the A in it! What a glaring flaw! I’m gonna go run to Droid-Life and point this out! WOW! What terrible grammar!”

    • Golauncher

      Sorry about this mistake. We will replace the slogan today.

    • http://twitter.com/golauncher GO Launcher

      Sorry about the mistake. We have fix the slogan now.

  • Tonee187

    This thing is cracking I like it better than my phones regular theme Droid 1

  • Jshee42

    I’ve been using it for a week. As far as it goes (OG Droid), it works ok, but there seems to be some lag in comparison to the GO Launcher (this is GO Launcher EX we’re talking about, right?). I’ve been happy overall with it.

  • Maansova

    Looks good but i can’t get away from launcher pro :)

  • Anonymous

    The gesture commands you are talking about seem to be a lot like Launcher Pro’s Swipe Gesture. I find the swipe gesture highly intuitive and extremely easy to use. In fact almost all of my dock buttons have it. For example if I press the “Shop” button on my dock it opens a Folder Organizer folder with all my shopping apps but if I swipe up on the button it opens the Android market.

    • http://mattdemers.com Matt Demers

      I find the gesture shortcuts that are available for the buttons are functions I can already achieve without gestures (like opening the app drawer) or don’t use very often (hiding the top bar.)

      • Anonymous

        I tend to use them as shortcuts or as a secondary function to the main button. Here is how some of my dock buttons are used (Main app – Swipe Gesture app): Shopping folder – Market, News & Info Folder – Google Reader, Dialer – Google Voice, Gmail – Compose Mail, Text – Show New Texts, Browser – Show Bookmarks, Camera – Gallery, Media Folder – Music App.

        I am so used to this feature I would be lost without it.

  • Turnerw1

    been using it for 2 weeks now and really like it

  • Droid1guy

    My second First!

    Sounds like a good Launcher, is it stable? How is the lag?

    • http://mattdemers.com Matt Demers

      Three paragraphs from the bottom.

      • Droid1guy

        Freezes and lags are different. I’ve expereinced significant lag with both ADW and LauncherPro, and it’s annoying. I’m sure the fact that I have 7 home screens and several widgets is what causes it, but I’d love to find a launcher that is snappy even with all those widgets and screens…

        • http://mattdemers.com Matt Demers

          Yeah, the 7 home screens and widgets will do it. I just 1 screen and 1 widget, so my phone just flies; use some folders, man.

          When you have that much, it’s not a matter of launcher; you’re gonna need a lot of ram/processor to get your phone to load that stuff every time.

          • Zero

            I can’t promise that this will work across multiple phones or ROMs or Roots or Unroots but I know it has worked on my Droid every time with every ROM I’ve used. This vastly improves redraws and lag that i experienced with LP Pro.

            Again just as a precaution I didn’t write this. I don’t know anything about the authors or posters. I’m just saying create a backup before you run this just to be sure and I am not responsible for anything that happens to your phone and I wcan’t help you fix it as I don’t even really know what it does.