Android allows you to create app shortcuts, but you can also create special shortcuts that link directly to screens within an app. For example, shortcuts could link to the Navigation screen in Maps or any screen in the Settings app.
We’re using Android’s “activities” system for this. Activities are essentially screens within an app. For example, each pane in Android’s Settings app is a separate activity. The New Note and Compose Email screens in Evernote and Gmail are separate activities, too.
Using a Third-Party Launcher
Third-party launchers often have built-in support for easily creating activity shortcuts. We’ll be illustrating this with the popular Nova Launcher, but it will work similarly on many other launchers. If you’re using the standard launcher or a custom launcher that doesn’t allow you to create your own activity shortcuts, read on for a method that will work with any launcher.
Note that this method only allows you to create shortcuts on your home screen, so you can’t place these shortcuts in your app drawer.
To get started, long-press Nova Launcher’s home screen and select Shortcuts. The process should be similar on other popular third-party launchers.
Select the Activities option to create an activity shortcut.
Scroll through the alphabetized list of apps you have installed and tap the app for which you want to create a shortcut. You’ll see the activities you can select. For example, if we wanted to create a Navigation shortcut, we would select the Maps app and then locate the Navigation activity.
If we wanted to create a shortcut that creates a new Evernote note, we would select the Evernote app and look for the New Note activity. Look at the small text below an activity’s name for a hint of exactly what the activity does.
If you’re not sure exactly which screen an activity will take you to, you can long-press it from Nova Launcher’s list of activities. Nova will immediately open the activity screen so you can see where your shortcut would lead — just press the Back button to return to the activities list.
Tap the activity once in the list to create a shortcut on your home screen. You can then drag it around and manage it like you would any other app shortcut.
Using the Default Launcher
While many third-party Android launchers offer this feature, the default Android launcher doesn’t. You can easily install a third-party launcher like Nova Launcher and switch to it, turning it into your default launcher — but you may want to keep using the default launcher and not install any third-party launchers.
In this case, you’ll need some sort of third-party app that allows you to create shortcuts directly to activities. We did this with QuickShortcutMaker, a simple and free app. Some recent reviews on Google Play indicate that several users are experiencing problems with this app, but it worked fine on our Nexus 4 running Android 4.3. If you experience problems with this app, you may want to try xShortcut Free instead.
After installing QuickShortcutMaker, simply open your Widgets drawer, long-press the Activities widget, and drop it anywhere on your home screen. This shortcut will technically be a widget, but at 1×1 it’s the same size as a standard app shortcut.
After you drop the widget somewhere, you’ll see the shortcut creator interface. You can scroll through your installed apps and tap them to examine the activities to which you can create shortcuts. If you’re looking for a specific app, use the search box to find it more quickly.
After you tap an activity, you’ll see the Edit Shortcut interface. Tap the Try button to launch the activity and ensure you’ve selected the correct one, then tap the back button to go back to the Edit shortcut interface. Before saving your shortcut, you can set a custom name and icon for your shortcut. The icon can be any image you have in your Gallery.
Tap OK and you’re done — the activity shortcut will be added to your home screen. You can now create more of them by repeating the process, if you like.
Some apps may not expose many activities you can directly launch, while some apps will restrict you from launching an activity from outside the app for security reasons. This won’t always work with every app screen you’d want to directly link to.
Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.
- Published 08/8/13