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The best launcher apps for iOS

Michael Simon | June 19, 2015
iOS navigation has matured to the point where it doesn't matter where our apps are hiding anymore--with a swipe and a few taps we can navigate through the deepest of folders in just a few seconds. Power users can manipulate iOS to do their bidding: We can launch apps, make calls, and send messages without needing to jump through a single home screen hoop, thanks to a little help from the Notification Center, Siri, and even Spotlight.

iPhone 6 users will notice that it's sorely in need of an update for the larger screen (and it could stand to add a few apps beyond Apple's staples), but if you have a lot of people to message each day, Contact Center is as good as a personal assistant. 

Best for writers: Drafts

There are myriad ways to take notes on our iPhones, but getting our words out of the app they're inside isn't always so easy. Drafts ($10) understands this problem. More of an idea organizer than a text editor, the app doesn't just capture what you're thinking--it gives you complete control over how, where, and when your thoughts are used.

Drafts looks like any old iOS note taker when you start composing, but the sharing icon at the far right of the keyboard sets it apart from its competitors. Tap it and you'll find far more than the usual pop-up sheet--a whole universe of actions become instantly available to you, letting you save, share, and ship your words just about anywhere. Whether you're posting to Facebook or your blog, sending an email or message, sharing with a cloud service, or simply exporting to another app, Drafts will dutifully expedite it. In less time than it takes to undangle a participle, you'll be able to find and execute the action you need from its expansive library--or if you can't find the right one, you can always make your own. And the best part is you won't have to fuss with those confounding text selection handles ever again.

Best widgets

Being able to launch apps and actions just by swiping down from the top of the screen might be the best use of the Notification Center widget system, so it's a bit surprising that Launch Center Pro doesn't have one yet. But there are a couple of excellent options out there. 

Launcher (free; $5 in-app purchase for Pro version) made a name for itself after it was tossed from the App Store over a "misuse of widgets." We're still not completely sure what Apple's exact problem with it was, but it was allowed back some six months later, and it's just as great as it was back then. Divided into four categories--contacts, websites, apps, and custom--the app doesn't reinvent the wheel, but it does add a nice layer of grease. The apps and actions you create within the app are mirrored in the Notification Center, letting you quickly launch them no matter how many home screens away they are.

While Launcher will likely suffice for most shortcut seekers, the aptly named Launcher Widget (free) adds enough creative flourishes to elevate it above its seeming copycat status. My favorite is the ability to resize individual icons, turning mere shortcuts into super shortcuts and letting you quickly identify your most commonly used apps. There are other quick settings in the composition window that set the interface apart from Launcher's, but both apps offer an extremely similar set of features, and whether you choose the original or its descendent, you won't be disappointed.

 

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