How To Create More Useful Shortcuts on Android’s Home Screen with Nova Launcher Gestures

If you’re anything like me, you do a lot of stuff with your Android phone. That usually means clutter on the home screens for most users—but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Nova Launcher—our favorite home screen launcher for Android—has some powerful and unique gesture features that will have your home screens cleaned up and more powerful than ever with just the swipe of a finger.

First things first—you’re going to need the “Prime” version of Nova to enable gestures, which will set you back $4.99. If you’d rather wait, you can sometimes catch Nova Prime on sale for a couple bucks less, but I feel like the normal asking price is fair. This is a crazy powerful app that you will literally use every single day.

There are two main “types” of gestures in Nova: home screen gestures and icon gestures. For example, the Google Maps icon on my home screen opens Maps as normal when tapped, but a swipe up on the icon automatically opens navigation to my house without the need for any further interaction. Similarly, a couple of the icons in my app tray double as folders—tapping the icon opens the app, but swiping up exposes the contents of the “hidden” folder. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg here.
How to Set Up Home Screen Gestures in Nova Launcher

To set up gestures on the home screens, jump into Nova’s Settings menu by heading into the app drawer and selecting “Nova Settings.”

The seventh option in the Settings menu should be “Gestures & inputs”—go ahead and tap that to head into the primary gestures menu.

There are several options here, including alternate Home button actions and “OK Google” hotword detection. The section we’re going to focus on, however, is a little farther down the page under the “Gestures” subheading.

There are various configurable gestures here, all of which have the same set of options available to them. You can configure as many as you want, but for the sake of simplicity we’ll just work with the “Swipe up” gesture. The same rules apply to configuring all of the gesture options, so you’ll be able to apply the following instructions to any of the choices here.

When you tap on the “Swipe up” option, a new menu will open with three tabbed options: Nova, Apps, and Shortcuts.

The first tab basically shows all of the options available exclusively to Nova—executable actions that have to do with the launcher. For example, you could set the Swipe up gesture to automatically open the App drawer or show recent apps (keep in mind that this only works on the home screen), two things that just seem to make sense with a swipe up gesture. Simply tap on the option you’d like to apply the Swipe up gesture to, and you’re finished.

Similarly, the “Apps” tab allows you to assign a gesture to an app. So if you’d like to swipe up on the home screen to launch Chrome, for example, you’ll just scroll down till you find the Chrome icon and tap it. Done.

The third tab, however, isn’t as simple as the first two—but it’s also the most powerful. Basically, the “Shortcuts” option allows you execute more complex choices than just launching an app or opening a menu—this choice can instantly dial a contact from your address book, open a text conversation with a specific person, open navigation to a specific place, create a new spreadsheet, and so many others. This is definitely a crazy powerful feature that you’ll want to explore thoroughly.

Once you’ve settled on what you want that particular gesture to do, just tap that option. It’ll close the gesture menu and take you back to Nova’s gesture options, and the choice you just selected should show up under the “Swipe Up” title. In this case, I set the gesture to open the app drawer.

That’s it—you’re done.

How to Set Up Icon Gestures In Nova Launcher

Icon gestures are just as powerful. Instead of swiping around on the home screen itself, these allow you to swipe up on an individual icon to do something cool. This is particularly useful, because you can assign actions that make sense with that app.

The example we’re going to use here is one of the best things I’ve ever discovered: swiping up on the Maps icon to immediately navigate home. Keep in mind that this only works on the home screen, though—it doesn’t apply to the icon in the app drawer.

The first thing you’ll want to do is put the Maps icon on your home screen by long-pressing it in the app drawer and dragging it out and placing it in on the home screen.

Long-press on the icon, then tap “Edit.”

A dialog box with a few options will show up, but we’re only interested in the “Swipe action” bit. Hit the text area that reads “None” to open the action menu.

This should look familiar, as it’s the same menu we looked at in the first section of this guide. While you can set any action you’d like, we’re going to focus on the “Shorcuts” tab. Swipe over a couple of times to get there.

In order for Maps to know where you want to go when you execute the gesture, you’ll have to first assign a location by hitting the “Directions” choice in this menu. This will open the Maps “Create widget” screen.

The “Start turn-by-turn navigation” box should already be ticked here, which is what you want. Below that, just set your desired location—for this example, I’m just using my home address—then give the shortcut a name. You can also choose to avoid ferries, highways, and tolls here if you’d like.

With all the desired options selected, just hit the “Save” button in the bottom right.

This will take you back to the “Edit Shortcut” dialog in Nova, but the “Swipe action” entry should now say the name you gave the shortcut in the previous step. Hit done to save the gesture.

Go give it a try—swiping up on the icon should now open navigation to the location you put in above, no additional taps required.

How to Set Up Folder Gestures In Nova Launcher

Attaching specific actions to swiping on folders in Nova is one of my personal favorite features of the launcher, as it allows users to further manipulate how functional the home screens can be. For example, there are two folders in the screenshot above. Can’t tell, can you? Didn’t think so.

To satisfy your curiosity, it’s the Chrome Beta and Sync for Reddit icons. Swiping up on the Chrome Beta icon opens my “Productivity” folder, while the same action on the Sync for Reddit icon opens my “Social” folder. Tapping the icon opens the app represented by the icon—so the Chrome Beta icon opens Chrome beta, and the Sync for Reddit icon opens…Sync for Reddit. You got it, I know.

To set up a folder with a gesture, the first thing you’ll need to do is create a folder and put a handful of apps in it.

Then, long-press on that folder and tap the “Edit” button.

Simply toggle the option that reads “Swipe to open folder”—this will instantly switch the folder to a single, executable icon with a swipe up gesture attached to it. You can also assign a specific “tap action” here using the same method outlined in the Icon Gesture section above.

Nova Launcher is one of the most powerful applications you can get for you Android device to improve efficiency and organization on your home screens, and gestures are a huge part of that. This guide is just a fraction of what you can accomplish with gestures; further exploring this versatile feature is definitely encouraged.
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