When you get an Android device straight out of the box, there might be some stuff installed by default on it that shows up on the home screen (the first screen you get to when you power up the device).
For a lot of folks, this wonderful new stuff is, in fact, wonderful new stuff. I am not one of those folks. I like my home screen tidy and animated. Also, because I am totally addicted to live wallpapers (backgrounds that are animated on the home and lock screens), I typically like to have a few folders with the stuff I want and how I want it organized on the home screen, rather than a ton of icons and widgets.
I have yet to discover a pre-installed method in Ice Cream Sandwich (the version of Android running on Grace, my Samsung Galaxy S3), that allows you to put your applications into folders and then show those folders on the home screen. If you know of a way, I’d love to hear about it–please feel free to post directly to me at my G+ account +Lori Priebe or to comment below.
However, the Google App store has a variety of programs that will do this for you. My favorite is called Folder Organizer. It’s free (which is always good). There are also Apps Organizer, Application Folder, aOrganizer, Auto App Organizer, and many others. Folder Organizer became my favorite because it was the first one I found and figured out how to use. It allows me to create labels, then label each app (or not) with those labels. The labels become available as folder widgets that can be placed on your home screen. Further, you can THEME those folders.
Applications that help you roganize your applications should always have the following:
- Decent instructions. Despite the fact this is not rocket science, it is rarely intuitive. Make sure you can read about the tool and what others have done with it.
- It has limited permissions. You want this for any application you download; an organizer application should not need to report independent location data, for example. Pay attention when you install and don’t install an app that asks for permissions that don’t make sense.
- It lets you organize applications into folders or labels (or both)
- Extra bonus points if it lets you multi-label applications.
- Extra special bonus points if it lets you change the icons for the folders.
I have found that Folder Organize fulfills all these requirements for me.
Above you’ll see my home screen from a few weeks ago, Dedicated to Doctor Who— the background image is a live wallpaper called “Galactic Core.” The large blue box, otherwise known as a Tardis, is a widget called Animated Tardis Widget (when clicked, it flashes in and out of reality with real Tardis sound affects). The icons are a set I found at Very Icon.com, which are free for personal use only and are famous icons from the show: gas mask, Tardis key, K-9, Sonic Screwdriver, Dalek and components of a pocket watch.
To get this screen, I downloaded all the items I mentioned above. Then I hard pressed the icons currently on the screen and dragged them to the trash (which appears in the lower right of the screen on the Samsung Galaxy S3, but may appear at the top or the bottom depending on the Android device you’re using). You’re not actually throwing the programs away–you’re just removing them from the home screen. You can get any one of them back by clicking the button that takes you into applications view, and long pressing on the app you want to appear on the screen; in my example, above, you can see that I did that with settings. I go in there pretty often, so I just put it directly on the home screen.
Note, you can have whatever apps you like on the home screen, sans folders. Depending on the device, you typically get three or more screens that you can cycle through and add icons to.
If, however, you want to organize your apps into folders, theme the folders and place them on your desktop, you’ll probably want to use one of the organizational programs I mentioned above.
To do this in Folder Organizer, you’ll want to copy the icons to your device; I typically download them to a computer, plug my device into the computer, and then drag and drop the icons. You can also download them directly onto your device. Note, I say “icons” because they will serve as icons on your desktop; however, Android doesn’t like or read “.ico” or “.icon” files (unless you’re using a different program). So you’ll want to download these images as jpegs, gifs, or pngs. Also note, some gif images are animated (and look very cool). This tutorial doesn’t cover using animated gifs, and if you upload them for this, they’ll appear stationary.
Next, you’ll open Folder Organizer. Likely, it will do a quick load of all your data (right there on the screen) the first time you open it (or the first time you’ve opened it after adding other programs.
Click on “Labels.” Then it will produce a list of groupings of applications it has made and the apps themselves that you have.
To label an item, click the downward facing arrow on the right (in blue above). The pop-up will appear (as in the image above). Click “Labels.” A pop-up will appear with checkboxes, so you can select each of the labels that applies to that application. If you don’t see your application immediately, you can expand (open) the items under “applications” by clicking the triangle pointing down on the left side.
Once you’ve labeled each of your items, scroll through the list and see that the labels you’ve created/selected appear in the tool. Right click the down arrow on the right next to one of the labels, and select “icon.” Navigate to the part of your device where you stored the icons. Select one of them. Repeat this process with each of the folders you want to have a custom icon for.
Once you’re done, exit the program and return to the home screen. Long press on an empty part of the home screen. Depending on your android device, it will ask you if you want to put in widgets or if you want to add something to the home screen (as well as other options). Select widgets or add something to the home screen. If you added something to the home screen, be sure that you’re on the widgets tab (for example, on the Galaxy S3, it opens to the apps tab). Then find the Folder organizer 1×1 icon. Select that and long press it. It will appear on the page and ask you what you want it to link to–select one of your themed folders. Repeat until all the folders you want are on your screen(s).
You can long press and move them around to any configuration you want, or to move between screens if you like. You can also find the Tardis widget (if you installed it) and put it on your home screen using the same technique.
Upcoming blogs will talk more about theming without needing to know how to code, but these basics for getting organized and making your android device look how you’d like are a good first step.