Okay so put aside your political stances guys and gals…this isn’t a far right launcher with Swastickas all over it (get it?…ss….SS??). No, no….this is another launcher replacement for Google’s Android OS.
For those who don’t know, a launcher is another name for the software that is used to allow you to interact with the device. It doesn’t encompass ALL of the areas of your smartphone necessarily, but it’s the glue that holds them all together and allows navigation to different aspects of your phone.
There have been a number of launchers that have been released for Android. Go Launcher EX, ADW Launcher, LauncherPro, and Nova Launcher are just some you could be aware of. Each of those mentioned, attempts to bring a new fluidity to the device onto which it’s installed along with new features not resident (presumably) in the handset’s original launcher.
So before we get started, let’s explore why you would consider installing a new launcher onto your device. The reasons are numerous in fact.
Perhaps the device you have is particularly old and is struggling with the effects on your native launcher? Installing a custom launcher may give the opportunity to disable some of the effects causing the most problems and improve performance. Perhaps, you just want some more customisation and configurability added to your launcher? Some launchers give the option to remove or add a dock, give new Widgets and new graphically enhanced transitions along with many more features to give your experience a nice polished finish. Furthermore, you might be one of the legion of “themers” or “modders” that simply want to stretch the boundaries of home screen customisations.
That’s just a few reasons why you’d want to install such an application.
ssLauncher by developers ChYK, is a launcher with a little difference. Most launchers have some Widgets included, and normally include the ability to add/remove a dock or a home screen as mentioned above. ssLauncher allows you to select these options too, however delivers a number of predefined ‘templates’ which are deployed during installation for ease of use and to throw you straight into the ssLauncher experience. These include a standard home screen with missed calls, text messages and unread email counters. Swiping across the pages you are taken to an applications screen, contacts screen, a Hot! screen (where you can add favourites applications), a standard applications screen (with a twist…more to come on this later), bookmarks, and a credits page.
You are, of course not limited to these screens. All of these can be amended with various widgets and
shortcuts, replaced, or even removed entirely, from the launcher menu.
Editing your screen real estate is as easy as pressing and holding down on an existing widget/shortcut. A popup menu and selection box around the widget/shortcut you selected to edit is displayed with a number of options. You can choose to bring forward/send back in order the widget that’s been selected, as you would in any desktop graphics package or Office suite. You can get quite creative by layering Widgets atop each other.
Other options such as copying and removing are available, alongside ‘Edit’.
Launching an application, navigating to another home screen or page, displaying a contact or a bookmark, or adding an activity are all available options. One other option is the very interesting ‘widget’ option. Every launcher allows you to add a new widget right? Well yes, but I have yet to see a launcher to do something as nifty as ssLauncher does with it’s widgets.
The widget option follows the same principle as the other options in that you select a Type (widget, obviously), a Target (What widget do you want to display), configure the Style (what icon will the widget look like; an Icon, some test, or a combination of both) and either Icon/Title attributes depending on the style chosen. Once completed, you will apply the settings at the bottom of the screen and have the “WidgetIcon” or “WidgetText” display on your home screen (see below). What you will immediately see is that the widget itself is not visible. It becomes visible when you click on it, and at that point has all the same interactions as the if the widget had been directly added to the home screen (which is also available by pressing and holding on the home screen as usual).
The above shows the selection of the Widget launch option, and configuring of the size of the Widget when visible.
The below, as you can see, shows the finished article. A Text block, that when clicked on, displays the Bookmarks widget. Scrolling and tapping functionality continues to work. When using this launcher, I used this technique to create a page full of social media text blocks, that when clicked, displayed their respective widgets (Flipboard, Twitter, Facebook, etc). Very, very neat addition.
The sheer enormity of the settings menu is a tad daunting at first, but the best thing to do is dive right in and start pressing things! Isn’t that the golden rule for all new technology?
Another cool feature in ssLauncher are “parcels”. Parcels are Folders to you and I, that keep your applications separated logically (or however you wish to separate them!). The really cool feature on this is how you can access them once in their “parcel”.
Let’s start at the beginning shall we? On an “Applications” page the user can select a number of items that they wish to “parcel” up (folder). The parcel can be renamed and moved around the screen, and the contents are accessed primarily by clicking the parcel directly.
However for a really cool way to access the parcel contents, simply drag the contents from the parcel and scatter them across the screen!
So that’s just some of the things this launcher can do. It’s comparable to the big launchers in terms of fluidity, battery drain (although this one takes more of a hit whilst setting up), and general functionality, but can take a little while to get into if you want to create some lovely home screens. That’s the key. This gives the ability to create some pretty decent home screens over and above what you’d normally expect with a launcher. Off the top of my head, and coupling this with tools such as Tasker and Minimalistic Text, you could create some pretty awesome functioning home screens.
Overall it really does have some potential if you’re willing to put some time and effort in. In a short period of time I was able to add a font from my Windows machine to the device to change the top headings, add some invisible widgets, and some different themed icons to the contacts tray, so it’s certainly doable. However in order to create a work or art, a bit more effort would be required.
- Configurability beyond many other launchers
- Font/Image replacement tools built in
- Popup Widgets are uber-cool
- Not for people who want to pickup and go – requires time
- Aligning widgets/shortcuts can be tricky
- Could do with a post-install tutorial & more templates
It’s a brilliant launcher for those wishing to hone their creative skills and create artistic home screens. It has the performance of any other major launcher available, and the ability to try many of these features for free before purchasing a paid version is welcome. It’s a very strong addition to an already saturated market and for me sits quite happily up there with the best of them. Its unique selling point with reference to the customisation of it could equally be a down side to many. If you want a launcher to pickup and go, then there are better options. If you love tinkering and making sure you get absolutely every pixel just so, on your home screen, then ssLauncher is for you.
UPDATE: The developers have released an application called Popup Widget which takes the functionality found in ssLauncher, and deploys it as a stanbdalone application to be used on any/all launchers – now that’s great!
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