How to Make Nova Launcher Look (and Function) Like the Pixel Launcher

By Cameron Summerson on December 21st, 2016

IMG_0335

Google’s Pixel Launcher is a fantastic and clean home screen utility that everyone should be able to enjoy—the problem is, it’s a Pixel-exclusive feature. The good news is that you can actually set Nova Launcher up to look and function exactly like Pixel Launcher. And since it’s Nova, you can actually improve on Pixel Launcher’s functionality. I call that a win-win.

So, what makes Pixel Launcher so good? Really, it’s the simplicity. The app drawer button has been removed, and the drawer is now accessed with a simple swipe up from the dock. This is not only arguably simpler, but it also frees up a spot in your dock, giving the option to add another app instead of having a spot taken up by the app drawer button.

It also offers quick access to Google Search with the small “G” Tab at the top, as well as fast access to arguably my favorite weather app: Google Weather. Long-pressing certain icons—like Messenger or Phone—will offer up quick access to your most recent contacts. Pixel Launcher is all about speed, efficiency, and simplicity.

Screenshot_20161216-100611 Screenshot_20161216-100628

Before we get into the how-to on this thing, you should be aware that there are a lot of steps involved here. As such, I created a Nova backup file—with an empty home screen—that contains all these settings so you can download it, add your icons, and skip a lot of this hassle. You can find the download in the last section of this tutorial.

It’s also worth mentioning that most of these settings are available in the free version of Nova—you just won’t be able to change the icon size, which requires Nova Prime. Everything else should be good to go, though.

Go ahead and open up Nova Settings—I’ll break everything down by category (Desktop, App & Widget Drawers, etc.) and try to keep the instructions as short and concise as possible.

What to Change In Desktop Settings

The first option in Nova’s Settings menu is “Desktop.” Jump in there, and change the following:

  • Desktop Grid: Change this to 5 rows by 4 columns. Tap “Done.”
  • Icon Layout: Change the size to 120%. Set the Label to “Condensed,” and change the size to the second tick in the bar. Tap the back button.

Screenshot_20161215-101600 Screenshot_20161215-104052

  • Width Padding: Set this to “Medium.”
  • Height Padding: Set to “Large.”
  • Persistent Search Bar: Toggle this On.
  • Search Bar Style: Select the “G” logo with the white oval, then tap “Bar color” and set it to white. Scroll down and select the colored “G.” Finally, tick the “weather” box at the very bottom, then back out of this menu.

Note: For some users, “Weather” doesn’t show up here. Instead, it’s hidden away in Nova’s “Labs” menu—to enable this, long-press the volume down key while in the Nova Settings menu. The Labs option will appear and you can enable Weather.

Screenshot_20161215-101855 Screenshot_20161215-101902

  • Scroll Effect: Set this to “Simple.” Tap “Done.”
  • Page Indicator:  Set to “None.”

That’s everything in Desktop Settings.

What to Change in App & Widget Drawers

Once you back out of Desktop Settings, jump into the App & Widget Drawers menu and change this stuff:

  • Drawer App Grid: Set this to 5 rows by 5 columns. Tap “Done.”
  • Icon Layout: Change the size to 120%. Set the Label to “Condensed,” and change the size to the second tick in the bar. Tap the back button.

Screenshot_20161215-102317 Screenshot_20161215-110529

  • Frequently Used Apps: Toggle this On.
  • App Drawer: Set this to “Vertical.”
  • Card Background: Turn this off.
  • Swipe to Open: Toggle this On.
  • Swipe Indicator: Toggle this On.
  • Background: Make this white and set the transparency to 0%. Tap the back button.
  • Enable Fast Scrollbar: Toggle this On.
  • Scroll Accent Color: Tap this and set it to teal—it’s the first option in the fourth row. Tap the back button.

Screenshot_20161215-110646 (1) Screenshot_20161215-102634

  • Toggle on “Search Bar.”
  • Scroll Effect: Set this to “Simple.” Tap “Done.”

Now tap back again to head back into Nova’s root Settings menu.

What to Change in Dock Settings

Head into Nova’s “Dock” settings. Tweak these things:

  • Dock Background: Select “Rectangle” as the shape. Change the color to white, then set the transparency to 85%. Toggle on “Draw behind navigation bar,” then back out.

Screenshot_20161215-103022 Screenshot_20161215-111011

  • Dock Icons: Set this to 5.
  • Icons Layout: Change the size to 120%
  • Width Padding: Set this to “Medium.”
  • Height Padding: Set this to “Large.”

Tap the back button to head back into Nova’s Settings menu. You’re almost done!

What to Change in Folders

Tap the “Folders” option. A few more things:

  • Folder Preview: Set this to “Grid.”
  • Folder Background: Set this to “N Preview.”
  • Background: Set this to white, with a transparency of 0%.
  • Icon Layout: Change the size to 120%. Set the Label to “Condensed,” and change the size to the second tick in the bar. Tap the back button.

Screenshot_20161215-111035 Screenshot_20161215-111027

Optional: What to Change in Look & Feel

Lastly, if you want to round out the Pixel look, you’ll need to change your icon pack. In order to do that, you’ll first need to download a Pixel Icon Pack from the Play Store—there are a ton to choose from, but this one seems to offer the most icons. Once you have it installed, jump into Nova’s “Look & Feel” menu.

  • Icon Theme: Choose “Pixel Icon Pack.”

Download Our Clean, Pixel-ified Nova Backup

Like I said at the beginning, I created a clean setup that already has the above stuff enabled, tweaked, toggled, or otherwise done. This means you can download this backup file to your phone, head into Nova’s settings > Backup & Import Settings > Restore or Manage Backups, choose this .novabackup file, then add your own widgets and icons to complete the look. Easy peasy.

Note: You’ll still need to install the Pixel Icon Pack from the above step if you’d like to set your icon theme.


Setting up Nova Launcher to look and feel like Pixel Launcher can take a bit of time, but I think it’s well worth it. This is an easy way to breathe new life into your handset—especially if you’re currently pining for a Pixel.

Cameron Summerson is a die-hard Android fan, Chicago Bulls fanatic, metalhead, and cyclist. When he's not pounding keys on the 'net, you can find him spending time with his wife and kids, chugging away on the 6-string, spinning on the streets, or watching the Bulls while yelling at the TV.

  • Published 12/21/16
More Articles You Might Like

Enter Your Email Here to Get Access for Free:

Go check your email!