How-To Geek

How to Access Nova Launcher’s “Labs” Setting for Experimental Functionality

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Hidden features are cool. If you like to mod, tweak, or otherwise personalize your device, hidden menus and settings are like a playground—all sorts of neat stuff can be found behind a door that you may not even realize is there! Android’s fantastic Nova Launcher has one of those doors.

So, why do app developers hide things in menus that aren’t readily available? Most of the time this is a place reserved for experimental features—things that may or may not be ready for the every day use, but are still close enough that they’re available for testing. If you prefer beta software to stable, these kinds of menus are for you.

Nova Launcher—the most popular alternative launcher on Android—has a nifty hidden menu called “Labs.” This is where you’ll find some pretty neat features, including the option that allows you to display the weather in the search bar when theming Nova to look and feel like Pixel Launcher. Enabling Labs is actually really simple, and it should work in both the free and paid versions of Nova. Experimental features for all!

Assuming you already have Nova installed and running, jump into Nova’s Settings menu. You can find the icon for this in the app drawer.

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With Nova Settings open, long-press the volume down key on your handset. After about a second, a toast notification will show up letting you know that Labs has been enabled. Yeah, it’s seriously that easy.

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The new menu will show up at the bottom, just below “Backup & Import Settings.” Tap it to jump in and see all the new stuff you now have access to.

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If you’re trying to customize Nova to look like Pixel Launcher, the first option is the one you’ll want to enable—it will put a weather notification in the new, Pixel-style search bar.

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Otherwise, there are some interesting things here. You can set a long-press of the home button to launch Google Now instead of Now On Tap (only works while in Nova, though), if for some reason you don’t like Now On Tap. You can also force widgets to restart when you jump back into Nova, which is an excellent feature if widgets seem to stop updating for you (I’ve had this issue with both Pandora and System Monitor’s CPU Frequencies).

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There are a handful of other options here, too. Things like removing the grid size limitation, forcing the screen into upside-down orientation, and showing an unread count for Gmail are all on the table. Dig around a little bit, see if there’s anything you find useful.

Lastly, you can check Nova’s permissions here—directly from the launcher itself, instead of having to access Android’s App Settings menu—as well as access debug settings. The latter is likely something you’ll never need, but hey, it’s there if you want to check it out.

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That’s pretty much that. And if you ever want to re-hide the Labs menu, just long-press the volume up button for a second. All of your Labs settings should still stick, but the menu will once again be hidden. Nice.

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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 01/4/17

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