Sunday, April 29, 2012

Customizing my Android homescreen

 The equipment
     H/W: Samsung Galaxy S2
     Os: Rooted and running Slim ROM

The Apps
     Go Launcher
     Simple Calendar Widget
     DGT GTD (Beta)
     Quick Event
     Digital Clock Widget from Maize labs
     Wallpaper Changer from J4velin Development
     PicSpeed Wallpaper

The setup
I use my Galaxy S2 for everything now. I hardly ever carry a laptop - in fact my laptop has turned into a desktop in my office. As a result I have an app for almost everything. This meant a crowded homescreen set up (With Go Launcher I had close to 6 screens and had no clue where anything was). So I decided to reorganize the home screen setup for some productivity. 

My objectives were:

  1. Im a big fan of "least clicks". Every app that I needed on a day-to-day basis had to be available to me within 2 clicks (not counting the unlock)
  2. It had to look good - otherwise there is no way I'd use it. And I get bored easily

So I broke down my usage into the following activities:

  1. Phone (Dial, Contacts, SMS)
  2. Notes
  3. Email
  4. Calendar and Tasks manager
  5. Browsing the Internet 
  6. Reaching some people almost every day
  7. Other 
  8. Camera to post to facebook (will explain why this gets such importance)
  9. Other generic fun and experimentation
The setup was as follows.

I used the GO launcher set with the default theme.

Default home screen

My main or default home screen had to have the most frequently used apps.

Bang front and center is time and date since that's the quickest and most basic reference that I use the phone for. (I dont wear a watch).

Next is my agenda for the day - again something I didnt want to be clicking a lot of buttons for.

Below that is my app and contact folders. First folder on the left is my "FUN" apps. These are apps that I use on an almost daily basis mostly for fun - like Youtube, Pocket, Facebook, Google+ etc.

Next are my "UTILITIES" apps. These are things I use in a professional or work context on an almost daily basis. They include things like Google talk, Maps, Business card scanner, etc.

Next two are my contact folders. The first one (3rd in the row) is my "NEAR" contacts - people I need to reach out to on an almost daily basis in a professional or work context. These are the people who inhabit my world in the various activities that I am involved in. They include my colleagues at work, vendors who I interact with daily and so on.
The last folder is my "DEAR" contacts. These would include my family and friends and that I am in touch with on a daily basis or near daily basis. Or even someone who I have to get in touch with in a hurry - but related to family.

The order is important.
 The folder I need to access the most is on the right. Im right handed so the fastest access folder is closest to the right edge - no need to stretch my thumb! ;)

The last row above the dock is the evernote widget which I use like a beast for notes to photos to whatever else.

Secondary screens

My two secondary screens are calendar and tasks. One I need to be able to see what's happening in the week and fix appointments if needed. With the tasks screen I need to be able to see what's immediately due and what I need to focus on at any given moment.

The calendar is a nifty app called aCalendar. I chose it because it seemed to be the only free app that had a week view widget and was also reasonably good looking. I wasn't happy that it needed the entire screen to be legible - but that kind of forced me to be choosy about what other widgets I needed. (found out I didn't need any more)

For the tasks screen I'm using a widget from DGT GTD. This was the only app that synced with toodledo and was free. Of course - note of caution - it is in Beta.

I've got two widgets - one for my short term goals and one for my tasks of the day. This keeps me centered on what I need to do at any given point in time.

Finally the docks

The default dock is the default from the GO launcher theme. Contains my dialer, contacts, app drawer, sms and browser - all buttons have been redirected to non-default apps for the same function.

The dock on the left contains
  1. Mail
  2. Calendar 
  3. Facebook camera
  4. Toodletask - an app to quick add a task to toodledo
  5. Quick Event - an app to quick add an event in Google style - Meeting with John tomorrow at 4pm, etc.
Calendar is aCalendar - it has an awesome week view and really intuitive navigation between week, day and month views.

Facebook camera is in this dock for the simple reason that I can click a picture and send to facebook instantly. This is especially useful when you are not the host and you just came across a moment worth sharing. I cant be bothered clicking the pics, sorting through the gallery later and then posting them to FB. This way its all done in 3 - 4 clicks.

Toodletask is a really small and really functional app. All it does is present a text entry. Anything you enter there goes into your Toodledo list. So its a universal inbox tool like it is recommended in GTD. (Icon customized)

Quick Event enables a really fast calendar entry because it does something very similar to ToodleTask - but for a Google Calendar. That means I can enter simple english and the app translates it appropriately into Googlese. (Icon customized)

The right dock is my fast contacts dock. It contains my most frequently called contacts. Its in the dock so I don't have to open my contacts folder. I call these people several times a day.

Other customizations

I have PicSpeed wall paper gallery to download the most amazing wall papers. The great thing about this app is that it categorizes wallpapers based on color - among many other ways. This is particularly cool because I can choose light or dark colored wall papers and still ensure that the widgets on the home screen are legible by choosing the contrast color for them.

Ive installed Wallpaper changer so my wall paper changes every 15 minute alway giving me a fresh look every time I look at it. When I have time to kill I keep downloading more wall papers so the variety keeps increasing.

I could add a couple of more "fun" widgets like weather or facebook either on the home screen or on a 4th homescreen. But I didnt find it a great value addition. I live in Chennai and the weather doesnt change much. I am not someone who needs to get my Facebook or Google+ fix intravenously. So its doesnt need to be on a home screen.

So thats it. That's how I customized my android home screen and find that the Samsung Galaxy S2 totally rocks. 

Until next time.