Action Launcher 3's July 2016 update is available now

This update has been a very long time coming, but it's finally ready.

The main focus of this release was to upgrade the base code to Marshmallow's Launcher3 code. By doing so, Action Launcher gained notable usability enhancements including the addition of fast scroll in the All Apps drawer, a much improved widget picker, infinite paged folders and more, as well getting the code in a place where updating to future versions of Launcher3 should occur much faster.

This update also contains another 10 highly requested settings/features/tweaks, in addition to a host of bug fixes, optimizations and improvements in memory usage.

Finally, I've also added an Alpha of Google Now integration (demo video here), which works really well. Unfortunately using it does require Action 3 to be a system app, but that's entirely down to the way Google implemented the API. This is my first feature that requires users to tinker with their device to use, so I'll be interested to see how the reception is to that. Hopefully Google has a change of heart and opens the API up for all apps sooner rather than later so everyone can use it, but for now, unfortunately, only a subset of the audience will be able to use it. I've published a FAQ post detailing all the ins and outs of the Now integration here. Please be aware that aside from entries in the in-app FAQ, all Now integration options are hidden unless your device is rooted, or Action Launcher 3 is a system app. Finally, keep in mind this feature may be removed at any point, especially if Google take issue with its inclusion for any reason and request me to do so.

This is easily the largest update I've ever done (something I'm not exactly proud of given how long its been between updates), but hopefully ya'll will like it.

The full change log for Action Launcher 3s July 2016 update is as follows:
• NEW: Update base code to Android 6.0.1's Launcher3 code. Notable usability enhancements include the addition of fast scroll in the All Apps drawer, a much improved widget picker and infinite paged folders and more. This base code upgrade also sees a year's worth of Google's bug and stability and performance fixes.
• NEW: Can select pure black color via Quicktheme.
• NEW: Option to disable the Quickdrawer (Settings -> App drawers -> Quickdrawer).
• NEW: Option for enabling dark icons on the status bar (Settings -> Display -> Dark status bar icons). Note: requires Android 6.0 or later.
• NEW: Option to enable overlapping widgets (Settings -> Desktop -> Overlapping widgets).
• NEW: When dragging existing Home screen items, display Edit and Uninstall shortcuts.
• NEW: Add shortcut to jump straight to the system's device storage browser (requires Android 6.0 or later).
• NEW: Add shortcut to trigger a music search (via Google App).
• NEW: Add shortcut to jump to weather forecast (via Google App).
• NEW: Add shortcut to jump to the settings via the System Settings -> Apps -> Action 3 app page (requires Android 7.0).
• NEW: Added old material design versions of Google Play apps to in-built icon pack.
• NEW: Option to enable Google Now integration (Alpha). Note: REQUIRES ACTION 3 TO BE A SYSTEM APP. Please see FAQ for full details. Option will appear in Settings -> Desktop -> Google Now integration (Alpha) for rooted devices only.
• IMPROVEMENT: Reduced app's memory usage. Especially apparent when using an Icon Pack and/or Smartsize icons.
• IMPROVEMENT: Samsung Knox support.
• IMPROVEMENT: Engaging Quickedit with many icon packs installed is both much faster and more reliable.
• IMPROVEMENT: Support icon packs that use vector drawables.
• IMPROVEMENT: Use high-res Google icon on the Quickbar.
• BUG FIX: Importing from TouchWiz's launcher works when running Marshmallow.
• BUG FIX: Fix alignment of text/icon on Hidden apps dialog.
• BUG FIX: Newly installed apps will apply the current icon pack's icon.
• BUG FIX: Don't display Shutters on Quickedit when Shutters are disabled.
• BUG FIX: Countless other stability fixes.

As always, a nice review on the Play Store is always appreciated 😀

Action Launcher 3's July 2016 update will release tomorrow. It will include Google Now integration for rooted devices only.

Google Now integration has been by far and away the most requested Action Launcher feature over the years. The roadblock here has always been the lack of an API from Google allowing other apps to use Google Now integration. With the recent revelation that Sony's launcher added support for Google Now integration, it seems Google are progressing in this area (yay!).

Tomorrow's Action Launcher 3.8 update will enable support for Google Now integration, but before I release the update, I thought it wise to release an FAQ to explain how this works, why its only available for root users and more.

Is there an API for apps to use Google Now integration?
Yes! But unfortunately at this time, Google have opted to only allow system apps to use Now integration. System apps are the same as a normal app you might install from the Play Store, except they generally come pre-installed on a device. Gmail and Google Maps are examples of system apps on a typical Android phone.

TL;DR: Given Google's current decisions around the Now integration API, Action Launcher must be installed as a system app on your device in order to use Now integration.

Wait, Now integration will only work if Action Launcher 3 is a system app? What's up with that?
Unfortunately, yes. The is entirely down to Google's conscious decision to only allow the Now integration API to work for system apps.

What is required to set Action Launcher as a system app?
To my knowledge the only way to convert an app to a system app is if your device is rooted. From there, setting Action Launcher as system app isn't too difficult. I have instructions for doing it via Titanium Backup or via ADB. Or you can Google search if you like. If anyone has any other suggestions here, please do let me know.

I don't want to/can't root my device. Can you add a hack or something to make Now integration work for all devices?
I don't believe there's anything I can do here I'm afraid. Believe me, if there was, I'd do it. But the reality is, whether Now integration works is entirely controlled by the Google App.

In layman's terms, Action Launcher requests the Google App to start Now integration. From there, the Google App basically says "is the app that's asking me to start Now integration a system app? If so, I'll allow it, if not, I won't allow it". There's not really any scope for anything on Action Launcher's end to trick the Google App into allowing Now integration to work.

Why would Google opt to make the Now integration only work for system apps?
As annoying as it might be for me as a launcher developer, I can somewhat understand Google's logic here. Seemingly Google opted to design this API for device manufacturers (whose launchers will automatically be system apps), not all apps.

If Google release a public Now integration API without the system app requirement, will Action Launcher support it?
Absolutely! It is my sincerest hope that Google do provide a public API for Now integration in the future, perhaps with a whitelist for trusted launcher apps or something else. If/when anything happens here, I assure you I will support it.

Is there anything I can do today to prepare for this update?
Sure. If you install any version of Action Launcher 3 as a system app today, when tomorrow's update lands, the app will update like any other app, and you'll be able to use Now integration as soon as the update is on your device.

How does Google Now integration co-exist in Action Launcher with the Quickdrawer, which also slides in from the left?
It doesn't. You have to pick one or the other.

You've never supported a root-only feature before. Why now?
Supporting a feature that requires tinkering with your device in ways that potentially voids a device warranty is something I've staunchly avoided in all my apps to this point. I'm making an exception here because:

  • Adding Now integration is such a popular feature request, and finally it's one I can accommodate.
  • A non-trivial percentage of Action Launcher's users are in fact rooted.
  • Frankly, Now integration in Action Launcher is a damn cool feature.

I do not plan on marketing this as a core feature in the store listing, Plus upgrade panel, doing traditional promo video or anything like that. To be honest, I'm rather petrified that by supporting a feature that requires root, I'm going to get slaughtered in reviews from people who (understandably) don't grasp why anyone who just installs the app via the Play Store can't use the feature. I've attempted to mitigate this by removing Now integration related options from the app if the device is not rooted and explaining the situation in the in-app FAQ, but I'm still very nervous about it (Side note: if you are a root user and enjoy the feature, I'd appreciate a positive review!).

Anything else?
I've labeled Google Now integration as an Alpha feature in the app. This is because it's an experimental feature that is using an undocumented API, and could get pulled at any point for any number of reasons. Please be aware of this. That said, Now integration a terrific feature that feels great in Action Launcher, so I don't plan on removing it without a very good reason.

Thanks for your understanding. See you tomorrow for the update!

Podcast 27: 📚 The good & bad of attending Google I/O

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What's it like to attend Google I/O? Was the venue switch away from San Francisco to an outdoor venue in Mountain View a good move? What quality level were the technical sessions this year? Why do Google keep making seemingly basic mistakes hosting I/O each year? Was the move to abandon the giveaways of previous years a good one?

Jake Wharton and I discuss all this and more.

Podcast 26: 📰 Google I/O keynote 2016 - another take with Karl Smith

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Many felt I was too negative in the previous episode, where Koush and I broke down Google I/O 2016's keynote. Previous guest of the show Karl Smith was one such person, so he and I decided to dig into some of the areas we disagreed with most in this impromptu follow up episode, and I also offer some further thoughts on what we saw given a few more days to process it.

Follow Karl on Twitter: @punyweakling.

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Podcast 23: 📰Alphabet unrest with Ron Amadeo

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Turmoil, staff exodus and mud-slinging at Nest. Promising robotics unit Boston Dynamics reportedly up for sale, while the rest of the initiative is seemingly on notice. Reports of unrest at Verily Life Sciences. The other bets of Alphabet seem to be making quite a bit of news of late, and not in a good way.

Ars Technica's Ron Amadeo joins me to discuss all of this news, our feelings on what this might mean for future Alphabet bets, as well as rumors of Google's competitor to the Amazon Echo.

Follow Ron on Twitter: @ronamadeo.

Links:

Podcast 22: 📰Android N with Ty Smith

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Well that came out of nowhere! Google surprised us all by announcing Android N. In this episode, Ty Smith and I dig into all the newly announced features, discuss our impressions of our time using the N Preview, chat about what features didn't make this release that we were hoping to see and more.

Follow Ty on Twitter: @tsmith

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  • Get 30% off your DroidCon SF ticket with the discount code "droidcon30"!

Podcast 21: 📚Nexus 5X & 6P, three months on with Brian Griffey

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Most device reviews happen at launch time, but often our impressions change as we spend significant time actually using the device.

In this episode, fellow Android developer Brian Griffey and I discuss our wildly differing experience of actually using the Nexus 5X and 6P as a daily driver for the last three plus months.

Follow Brian on Twitter: @briangriffey.

Podcast 20: 📚… of the year, 2015 with Jesse Wilson

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Warning: this episode contains mild coarse language.

Jesse Wilson and I break down all of 2015's news and developments by doling out awards to the tech space's newsworthy people, products and companies.

But some of the awards include:

  • Haters gonna hate hate hate of the year…
  • Lipstick on a pig of the year…
  • Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to what you just said, and may God have mercy on your soul of the year…

Also, the post-show sees an Internet first, with two douchebags discussing Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Follow Jesse on Twitter: @jessewilson.

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