Shortcut Launcher is a third-party homescreen and launcher app for Android that aims to make things as simple, easy and elegant as possible. The overall look and feel is a little softer than the stock launcher that launches with many Android smartphones, and it's a hell of a lot less cluttered. That's because Shortcut Launcher features one swipe-out menu with an alphabetized list of your apps, a place for widgets (which can easily be dragged out and applied to your homescreen) and a quick settings menu. The real genius of Shortcut Launcher however is its single search bar for everything. Looking for a particular app? Just search for it. Want to listen to music by a specific artist? Just search for it. The same goes for finding and messaging your contacts, finding details for a restaurant or store nearby and naturally, performing web searches in your preferred web browser of choice. I've bee using Shortcut Launcher for a while now, so let's see what it's all about.
First thing's first, those looking to take a look at Shortcut Launcher will need to download it for free from the Play Store here. Once launched, Shortcut Launcher will give users a nice and neat introduction into what it has on offer and how to use it.
I really liked this quick, simple and easy approach to educating users on how to use the app, and the little note at the end was a nice touch, too. Overall, Shortcut Launcher feels like a product more than it does just another app, and that's made apparent from the first few moments spent with it.
One thing I was really happy to see was that Shortcut Launcher had remembered the icons I had on my first page and my wallpaper was also kept intact from my previous launcher (which was the Google Now Launcher, for those curious).
As we can see, all of my apps are neatly organized from the pull-out menu on the left.
I like the simple things when it comes to Android, and getting access to my apps as quickly as possible – without having them all over my homescreen – is important to me, and Shortcut Launcher makes that super-easy. The search bar is where a lot of the magic happens. I'm a big coffee fan, so searching for the word 'coffee' brought up a couple of results:
Shortcut Launcher has provided me with some app listings on my device, the option to search in Chrome for some Google searches and some nearby coffee shops. Now, I know that there's a Starbucks near me, but a simple search for 'coffee' didn't yield any results, but searching for the name "Starbucks" sure did:
Sure enough, clicking on the nearest one to me loaded up the address of the Retail Park where Starbucks can be found, and from Google Maps I can quickly hit the Navigation button and be on my way, all in a matter of seconds. There are also options to hail and Uber or call the place to maybe book a table – in the case of a restaurant or club, that is.
I'm also a big music listener, so I often like to search for my favorite artists and such. I have a very-active Spotify subscription, but sometimes I just want to learn more about an artist or find out what they're up to on Instagram, etc. With Google Now, you'd just get a simple web search, maybe a little blurb about them and perhaps a link to Google Play Music. Doing the same in Shortcut Launcher – directly from your homescreen – gives you many more options all presented nice and neatly.
Right now, I'm a big Jimi Hendrix kick, and with Shortcut Launcher, I can choose to listen to his work from a number of different places:
As noted above, I have an active Spotify subscription, and brilliantly clicking Spotify took me right to the artist's page inside of the app.
The search bar here works for more than just his however, including your contacts, movies and a whole lot more.
I'm a big fan of the Google Now Launcher and have been for a long time, but aside from the Google Now cards, there's little the search side of things actually does for me. With Shortcut Launcher however, I can use the Search Bar for everything, and actually get detailed results, with actionable info to make things easier, each and every time. I used Shortcut Launcher to great effect while trying it out, using it find new artists that were recommended to me by friends and quickly adding them to my Spotify library, quickly getting directions to restaurants, and so on. I did like the overall look and feel as well, but there was perhaps a little too much of the iOS look here. The animations and the way app folders pop-out are a little similar to something like an iPhone's homescreen. Having said that, users can quickly and easily change their wallpaper to whatever they want, and there's even a simple way of going back to your old launcher, should you wish to.
- Speed (4/5) – Shortcut Launcher itself runs quickly and finding apps or results online is definitely a lot quicker than with most other launchers out there.
- Theme (4/5) – As I already said, there's a soft and elegant approach to Shortcut Launcher's look, and it does work well, but there's perhaps a little too much of the iOS approach here in some parts.
- Features (5/5) – No doubt about it, if you want a cut-down, quicker and easier to use Android launcher that makes life a lot easier and less cluttered, then this is the launcher to use.
- Overall (4.5/5) – Simple, elegant and easy to use, Shortcut Launcher has a hell of a lot going for it, and it's the one app I can see a lot of users really enjoying over time.
- Super-easy to get up and working with a charming and easily-understood tutorial for all types of users.
- Search Bar delivers accurate and actionable information that people can use to get directions, listen to music or reach a contact quickly.
- Apps list is alphabatized and easy to sort through with little to no hassle, and adding widgets is straightforward, too.
- Imports all settings from your previous launcher, as well offering an easy way to go back to said previous launcher if you wanted to.
- Some animations and folder views might remind some users of the iOS way of doing things.
- Doesn't have any context for apps installed. For instance "Podcasts" won't bring up the popular "Pocket Casts" app.
All-in-all, Shortcut Launcher is something that I can see a lot of users really taking to, for a lot of reasons. Chief among them would be the simple approach to a clean and useable search bar that delivers lots of information that users can use there and then inside of the app, like the ability to search for a restaurant and then get directions to the place. Free to download and use, this has a lot of value and it just makes the homescreen of Android a hell of a lot more powerful, while also offering an elegantly easy experience.