Meanwhile, over on Android... Microsoft Launcher and Fluent Design

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Back in October 2017, I took a detailed look at using Microsoft applications and services on Android. While AAWP itself is committed to Windows on phones (i.e. not Android), it's still interesting to see Microsoft's diversification into ubiquity on all mobile OS. And, specifically here, looking at all the improvements to Microsoft's app launcher/front end for Android phones, which has come a long way. (No, there are no live tiles, don't be silly, it's trying to fit in with Android's look and feel.)

Here's the summarised changelog (for v4.5.1.39811) from the version of Microsoft Launcher featured in my October article:

  • Settings enhancements – including a transparent theme with visual effects and full control over opacity, etc. (think Fluent Design) 
  • Home App Grid – now you can create a grid with up to 12 columns and 12 rows, with a maximum of 36 icons offset by a 'half' relative to each other
  • On the welcome page, you can import the layout from another Android launcher or restore a Microsoft Launcher backup.
  • Redesigned fonts used for apps and folder names, changed the shape and look of folders on the home screen
  • The dock now supports more than 5 icons (up to 7)
  • The search bar can now be placed top or bottom
  • Long pressing an icon now pops up options rather than having to guess where to drop the icon
  • You can now let meeting attendees know you're running late from the calendar card
  • Added support for Microsoft Intune’s data protection policies and viewing corporate data
  • Added compatibility for Android 8 (Oreo)
  • You can now select multiple items at the same time, across different pages, via the long-press pop-up menu. Move, remove, drag and drop or even create new folders with selected icons
  • You can now turn the dock off completely if you like
  • Extra animations - there's a lovely explosion as you exit the application drawer
  • Improvements for notifications from Line, BBM, Instagram, Yammer, Textra and WhatsApp
  • Fixes to the Weather / Time widget to improve refresh times
  • You can choose which contacts to display on your People card
  • You can now place widgets in the dock area
  • You can pin an individual contact to the home screen

Some screens of the new version in action on my test device:


Playing with the 'transparent' theme - Fluent Design in action on Android; (right) long pressing a home screen icon brings up this unambiguous menu - no dragging around and hunting for drop zones.


Display options in the main app drawer; (right) customisation options in the Microsoft 'feed' view (off to one side from the main homescreens)

Interestingly, the Microsoft Launcher for Android has now reached a million active users - tiny compared to the wider Android market and much smaller even than people still actively using Windows on phones, but it's a start. And the pace of development is fast. I wonder how long it will be before a manufacturer does a deal with Microsoft to ship this launcher with phones out of the box?

If you have an Android phone kicking around then try all this for yourself - it doesn't need a powerhouse flagship and is readily available in the Play Store. If you do download it, you might as well grab Cortana too and have a play with that, it's very functional.

Don't panic - this is just a 'for interest' item. And now back to our regular Windows content....(!)