Feature Friday: Hack Your Home Screen

I was hanging with Gabriel Weinberg, founder and CEO of our portfolio company DuckDuckGo yesterday. I was lamenting that I could not replace the Google search widget at the top of my android home screen with the DuckDuckGo search widget. Gabe said "you can use Nova Launcher to do that."

I had not heard of Nova Launcher but immediately downloaded it (and the premium upgrade too). Gabe showed me how to replace the standard google launcher with Nova Launcher. He started to show me all kinds of cool things you can do with Nova (like create new gestures) but I waved him off because my head was already spinning with all the cool stuff that Nova lets you do.

For now, I have just used it to hack my home screen. I have changed the grid so I get one more column and one more row. And I have replaced Google at the top with DuckDuckGo:

Fred home screen may 2013

If you want to customize your android experience a bit more than Google allows, get Nova Launcher. I am going to learn to do all the stuff Gabe does with it and may report back again. I might even turn my phone into a drone 🙂


Comments (Archived):

  1. jason wright

    Firefox OS for mobile – a true open architecture. who wants to be a droid drone?

    1. fredwilson

      i am trying to get my hands on a firefox phonehave you played with it?

      1. jason wright

        not yet…….i’m waiting for the ZTE handset to come out, which might be junk, but should be cheap,… and cheap is smart/ expensive is dumb.

        1. Carl Rahn Griffith

          Love that mantra – so true – I was pondering the same only just yesterday, prompted by the parallel demise of both our car and my MacBook Air…http://carl-rahn-griffith.t

          1. Carl Rahn Griffith


          2. Kirsten Lambertsen

            Oh God. You just struck fear in my heart. How long have you had your Air? I bought one of the first ones and I figure my days are numbered…

          3. Carl Rahn Griffith

            2yrs. I’m rather pissed-off.

        2. Schonwangroup.com E cigarette

          Jason, ZTE is here offered from Shenzhen city, I know this company well, very big, but the products they offer are a little cheap than that of Apple, Blackberrys.

      2. Guest

        Curious – what phone are you carrying around nowadays?

        1. John Revay

          i think he has a nexus 4

    2. kidmercury

      only anarchists like a completely open architecture. those who favor governance will want some degree of centralization. can’t wait for the kindle smartphone!

      1. jason wright

        and real democrats

    3. Kirsten Lambertsen

      Now we’re talkin’!

  2. JamesHRH

    It really seems like there should be a business model for organizing device interfaces.I love that there are people like you and Gabe who want to hack around with all this stuff, but what I would really like is to be able to browse screen set ups like I was walking down the aisle of a grocery store, so that I could go ‘yeah, that’s what I want’ without having to iterate 15 version.Same with my Apple iCloud & managing those devices. One click stack management.

    1. Richard

      You may be on to something.

    2. ObjectMethodology.com

      I thought I saw on the internet that a company was letting people *save* their configurations online. I don’t know if they were shareable but you could search around to see.

  3. William Mougayar

    That’s pretty good. I didn’t know you could that. I just found out there’s a fairly similar iPhone app called Dashboard & I’ve just tried it. It’s great & has some additional nifty goodies.How do u like the Creston app? Does it control temperature & security & lighting?

    1. fredwilson

      R2 is awesome. we only use crestron to control TV and audio inputs in our home entertainment systems. we use other stuff for lighting and thermostats

  4. Jack Barcroft

    Isn’t it a great feeling when you can find a new way to leverage an existing purchase and get the “oh that’s cool” feeling again? I’ve been using computers since P.D. (pre-DOS) and I love the device personalization aspects of today’s technology that’s bringing back the Personal part of PC’s and phones. P.S. I like the Bob Denver pic.

    1. fredwilson

      me too.the picture is from herehttps://auctionthing.net/wh…

    2. Schonwangroup.com E cigarette

      yes, that is right

  5. kenberger

    And the best advantage of all with launchers like this (to me): the ability to backup your home screens.A rooted Android can run powerful backup tools like Titanium Backup. But after restore, the native home screens don’t come back. With Nova, just backup that app too and its settings and you should be set.

  6. Richard

    This is the Swiss Army knife of launchers. Looks like you can set up swipe command to open apps, so they don’t need to be on the launch page. Pretty cool. I could see this being the next fad amoungst the teen crowd? How you set your screen tells people what group you hang with?

  7. kenberger

    also, cyanogenmod is very robust as to allowing control over grid and icon sizes, the way you mention here and well beyond. Looks like you’re already using that on the phone shown here. I’ve already loaded it onto the Galaxy S4 demo I just received.

  8. Chris Phenner

    Was Fred’s Android screen shot (and its app icons) really just a giant ad for the USV portfolio? If so, that was so native I almost missed it.

    1. Matt A. Myers

      Pretty close – especially if he or USV owns any Google stock..

      1. fredwilson

        i do not. but i am a big fan of their mobile products.

    2. Carl Rahn Griffith

      Well, one should always eat one’s own dog food! 😉

    3. ShanaC

      sometimes. there have been pictures of it over the course of the blog – not everything was usv

    4. Elia Freedman

      Oh no! No more room for investing! 🙂

      1. Kirsten Lambertsen

        That’s why he keeps getting bigger phones, ha!

    5. JamesHRH

      I don’t think they have a piece of the Weather Channel…… 😉

    6. David Petersen


    7. fredwilson

      promoted content!

    8. takingpitches

      context-aware ad!

    9. ObjectMethodology.com

      Fred is top notch at what he does. So, I wouldn’t be surprised if it were planned. It’s another example of genius. Even if it wasn’t planned it’s still a good example of genius.

  9. kevinmurphy

    looking at your home screen makes me think (if you haven’t done so already) that a an idea for feature friday’s would be an app discussion

    1. Techman

      I wonder if Fred will look into AirDroid. I think he would love it. @fredwilson:disqus

    2. atticusrye


    3. fredwilson

      we did that on a fun friday a while back but we can and should do it again. a lot has happened in mobile since then.

  10. pointsnfigures

    They have it in the Apple iTunes store (the Duck Duck Go app)

    1. fredwilson

      yup. but they don’t have widgets on iOS that i know of

  11. Dave Pinsen

    What’s the elevator pitch for DuckDuckGo? Why should someone considet using it over, say, Bing?

    1. PhilipSugar


      1. Dave Pinsen

        Bing has privacy features too.

        1. PhilipSugar

          You wanted the elevator pitch…yes you can configure Bing and Google both quite a bit.

          1. Dave Pinsen

            Yes, and thanks for that.

        2. Kirsten Lambertsen

          Not like DDG does. They really truly live it. They won’t even pass arguments in a URL so that sites can see how much traffic they’re referring.

          1. Dave Pinsen


    2. kidmercury

      different approach to building the search engine, which some say yields a better result.fear of google/msft, too much google/msft, google/msft overloading search results with their own properties (google maps, places, facebook stuff, etc).

      1. Dave Pinsen

        Got it, thanks.

    3. andyidsinga

      from their home page :Search Anonymously. Find instantly.

      1. Dave Pinsen

        Ok, thanks.

      2. Schonwangroup.com E cigarette

        I see, thanks for that

    4. Techman

      DuckDuckGo are big pimps on privacy. They don’t record any information about searches you make at all, while Google and Bing can and probably will. I still prefer Bing personally, though.

    5. andyidsinga

      another reason alternative search engines may be desireable, the filter bubble : saw this on hacker news : http://www.farnamstreetblog

  12. markslater

    8 portfolio companies on Home screen! Pimp!

    1. ObjectMethodology.com

      Hey, ABS !!!!

    2. fredwilson

      nine. but who is counting? 🙂

  13. Steven Kane

    hmm. busy decoding the subtle, nuanced meaning of gilligan image. so many questions. why is “little buddy” not smiling? what does he know that we don’t? has the professor invented something so disruptive we may finally get off “the island”?

  14. Elia Freedman

    I bought an iPhone when we started developing for it in 2008. Last year, I got an Android phone when we started developing for it. I still use iPhone daily but I have to admit that there are definitely advantages to Android and it seems like the things I do on iPhone are all available on Android, too. I think if I have to switch I would. I’m amazed at how well Google has closed the gap.

    1. Schonwangroup.com E cigarette

      Some of my friend ever wanted to set up the android system on their Iphones, but that cannot be done, though they liked apple iphone very much, it seemed that Android was easy for them

  15. LE

    By my calculations approx. 1/4 of the apps on your home screen are sound or music related.

    1. fredwilson

      yup. i bluetooth into the places i spend time and play music via my phone

      1. Schonwangroup.com E cigarette

        me too, and also sometimes play games

  16. LE

    “Google search widget at the top of my android home screen”This is a good example of how brainwashing works. And if you check the gawk.it (avc search) anyone can see how many times Fred mentions android. I’m trying to fight actually walking into a store and thinking about it because it goes against my “if it’s not broke” attitude. iphone does what I need. We’ll see. Maybe I’ll do it just to prove that it won’t be a gateway drug.”but I waved him off because my head was already spinning”(We choose to go to the moon not because it’s easy…)”I am going to learn to do all the stuff Gabe does with it and may report back again.”That’s much better.

    1. falicon

      +1.Not that you asked but I am also going to releasing a mobile app for gawk.it soon (iPhone and android)…it will let you search your favorite sites like avc of course but will also have some cool unique features too that I think people will love. Stay tuned! 🙂

      1. ObjectMethodology.com

        “Not that you asked…”.ABS !!!!.This is great.

      2. Techman

        Hey can you send me an email about this? I want to be an Android tester before the app is outed for Android.

        1. falicon

          awesome – will do!

  17. andyidsinga

    love nova – you can overlap widgets too – my home screen is my virtual wallet with photos of kids and wife.

  18. GrahamGnall

    Customizability is easily the trump factor that keeps me on android. Check out mycolorscreen.com: Galleries (and some walkthroughs) of some beautiful, creative homescreens. Good inspiration for hacking around.

  19. John Saddington

    or… you could cripple your mobile device and gain some sanity back. that’s my most recent hack!

  20. John Revay

    Fred,Your home screen is heavy on music – first 5 icons. I like it!#Turnupthevolume

    1. fredwilson

      that is one of the main use cases for my phone. i bluetooth into things and play music

  21. Aaron

    One of the biggest reasons I use Android, being able to customize almost anything. My home screen looks pretty basic but it’s because everything is hidden. I have hidden touch points that only I know about that bring up frequently used apps. I have swipe gestures that turn runs a different app.

  22. Ari J. Greenberg

    Thanks for sharing Fred! So awesome to see what apps you’re using.I added your home screen to the the new blog I started called HomeScreenProject.com (built on Tumblr of course).I believe that home screens are today’s coffee tables and that you can learn a lot from people based on what they have on first page of their mobile device.So far, I’ve collected/curated screens from:@garyvee @julien @scobleizer @davemorin@JoeFernandez@bijan@aplusk@msg@innonate@ajvHoping I can continue to grow this and create a collection that everyone can enjoy and benefit from.

    1. Techman

      Just wanted to let you know that you might want to change the Disqus color scheme from “auto” or “dark” to “light”. Your page is showing the dark theme for some reason and it doesn’t look well at all.

    2. fredwilson

      that’s awesome. just followed it.

  23. kirklove


    1. fredwilson


  24. dh labs

    i’m using nova launcher’s remap home button feature to launch an sl4a python script to voice control my house http://goo.gl/m2yfK

    1. fredwilson

      that is badass!

  25. Donna Brewington White

    Are these apps in any particular order?

    1. fredwilson

      yes, top row is music. next row is utility. next is social. next is other, then google stuff

  26. Kirsten Lambertsen

    I just had to leave you a quick note reporting that Foursquare just made my day 🙂 It was a user tip about Penn Stat. Makes my life an order of magnitude easier.

    1. fredwilson

      and now you have made my day

  27. Pete Griffiths

    Good tip. Gonna check it out. Thanks.

  28. Jay Janney

    Hi Fred:How old are you in that background picture on your android phone? You could pass for Bob Denver 40 years ago….lol

    1. fredwilson