So you didn't get a Nexus 5 – that's okay. You can still get that shiny new KitKat look and feel with the new Nova Launcher beta. It won't get you all the way there (the transparent nav bar is limited, for example), but the new version of this third-party homescreen has a lot of little visual tweaks to make it look almost like the real thing.

Screenshot_2013-11-11-13-03-39 Screenshot_2013-11-11-13-02-29 Screenshot_2013-11-11-13-03-18

The Nova Launcher developer posted recently about the changes that were coming in light of KitKat, and now here we are. The beta app can be downloaded from the Nova Launcher site directly if you want to try it out. There is also a Play Store beta program (opt-in after joining) if you want updates to hit your device directly. Although, there aren't always betas in the queue in Google Play. Here's a full list of what's new:

  • Kitkat scroll indicator (Settings > Desktop > Scroll Indicator)
  • Kitkat folders (Settings > Folders > Light Background and Folder Background > Light Circle)
  • Kitkat font (Settings > Look and Feel > Icon Font > Condensed, requires Android 4.1+)
  • Kitkat app drawer (on by default, get the old style by long-press > Edit > tap the icon > Built-in)
  • Transparent system bars on Kitkat (Settings > Look and feel > Transparent Notification Bar)
  • Transparent nav bar on Moto X (Settings > Look and feel > Transparent Navigation Bar)
  • Drawer tab indicator scrolls during tab change
  • Drawer scroll indicator is relative to current tab
  • Scroll indicators animate properly for infinite scroll
  • Backup/Restore from external sdcard (on devices with sdcards)
  • Fast scroll for vertical app drawer
  • Fixes and optimizations

Screenshot_2013-11-11-13-02-42 Screenshot_2013-11-11-13-02-55 Screenshot_2013-11-11-13-01-43

Far right: the old look for comparison

Most of the changes are to the main homescreen interface. The menus and app drawer still look like Jell Bean, and the transparent navigation bar is only supported on some devices like the Moto X and Nexus 5 (and possibly other devices running 4.4 ROMs). There's no ETA on this update reaching the stable channel, but at least you can give it a shot now.

[Nova Launcher]

Ryan Whitwam
Ryan is a tech/science writer, skeptic, lover of all things electronic, and Android fan. In his spare time he reads golden-age sci-fi and sleeps, but rarely at the same time. His wife tolerates him as few would.

He's the author of a sci-fi novel called The Crooked City, which is available on Amazon and Google Play. http://goo.gl/WQIXBM

  • veRdiKt

    What an awesome dev. Loving the new transparent system bars on the N5. I personally dislike the "new" google launcher. I think the dev changed the font as well. FINALLY.

  • Régis Knechtel

    "the transparent navigation bar is only supported on some devices like the Moto X and Nexus 5". This made sooooo sad :(

    • Bluewall

      It was kind of expected you know

      • Régis Knechtel

        Yeah, but i always expect for some miracle, lol

        • Bluewall

          It just can't happen :p

          • Régis Knechtel

            OK. I got it

    • Christopher Bement

      Get Paranoid Android and you can make it all transparent.

    • chenxiaolong

      It says that because only the Moto X firmware and Kit Kat support the transparency features. (And the Nexus 5 is the only device shipping with Kit Kat).

      Btw, transparency works just fine in my build of Android 4.4 for the Galaxy S4 :) So it's not really dependent on the device.

      • Régis Knechtel

        great news :D

      • taz89

        I've got the s4 and nova has supported transparency on it for a while now.. Don't need to be on 4.4 as I had transparency on 4.2. I think as long as the oem supports transparency officially than it will work

        • MyLeftNut

          Yeah, I've said this previously on another post. I've had transparency with Nova on my Note 2 for a while now. Only problem I had, which made me disable it? When you activate transparency and add shadows, Nova still sets the shadows below the Status bar, instead of at the very top of the screen.

          When using light status icons I like to enable shadows for better visibility but Nova doesn't do it right. Apex, strangely manages to get the shadows right. Emailed dev...but you know how that goes.

    • tokuiten

      If you're rooted, get Xposed Framework and GravityBox.

      You'll be glad you did.

      • freezeq

        what exactly schould i do?

      • Régis Knechtel

        I heart GravityBox messes up with status bar on lockscreen when you set transparency on

        • tokuiten

          Works fine on my 2012 Nexus 7. What device are you on? I understand that GB doesn't work very well on non-Nexus devices.

          • Jonathan Seymour

            Works great on my TF300T too.

      • Régis Knechtel

        Thank you soooo much! It worked and made my day :)

    • heat361

      That's because it requires an api which is android 4.4 specific.

  • Amer Khaznadar

    I suppose that it's unlikely, but I do hope they'll find a way to have Google Now integration à la Google Experience. I've grown used to it.

    • Christopher Bement

      That's probably not going to happen.

    • Ismael Rodriguez

      Probably not, but I can see someone making a 3rd Party Google Now full size widget to help compensate.

    • LewisSD

      Not a huge fan of having google now to the left of the home screen. Especially when you can activate it by saying ok google, or swiping up from the home button, or clicking the search box at the top. Plus I have grown to like the layout of having screens to the right and left of the home screen.

      • Aleksey_US

        I believe the OK Google... always listening functionality will be broken under Nova

        • http://riteshtripathy.wordpress.com/ Ritesh

          It doesn't exist under Nova (yet).

    • http://riteshtripathy.wordpress.com/ Ritesh

      I'll take the "swipe up from home" and be happy. That Google Now on the left screen is totally unnecessary and I hated how it broke the symmetry of my homescreens.

  • http://billhay.es/ Bill Hayes

    Can I change my answer to the weekend poll? I'm all over this like hot butter on a... um... prostitute? No, that's not right. Something. What do you butter? Toast! Hot butter on toast! Why did I think of prostitute? I'm going to quit drinking and install Nova Launcher.

    You don't need hot butter for toast though because toast is already hot by its nature.

    • Ivan Myring

      prostitutes (buttered or otherwise) sound like a pretty good substitute for toast

    • NinoBr0wn

      Random comment of the year.

    • a

      " I'm going to quit drinking and install Nova Launcher."

      A ringing endorsement!

  • Cesar

    I hope the aesthetic changes make it to the play store soon. I'd love to have the KitKat icons on my phone.

    • LewisSD

      I am sure there is a kitkat icon pack you could download and apply.

      • Cesar

        There are, but they are all paid themes. Why pay for an icon pack when I can get the same icons for free from an update?

        • Chris

          Yeah I saw that last night when I was looking for an icon pack, and they are all charging for something they didn't make? Not sure how that goes, but I am going to make an icon pack (hopefully by tonight) and get it up on the store for free.

          I'll prob throw some other goodies in there as well.

  • Vetal

    awesome, love it. now I get all the stuff I wanted from the stock launcher and not have all the stuff the stock does wrong.

    • porter86

      It looks exactly the same as the old Nova launcher. Why are people so excited over this?

      Oh but it has the Ice Cream Sandwich search bar, great!! Woooo.

      • deano

        because you're a dick

        • porter86

          Wow people are really intelligent and mature on Android Police.

      • Oliver Bastholm

        You can easily change the search bar to the Jelly Bean style as always...

  • http://www.Nave360.com Sebastian Gorgon

    Divider needs to be updated so it's just dots instead of that line,

    • http://farukahmet.blogspot.com/ Faruk Ahmet

      Screenshots here don't show it but it already is.

      • http://www.Nave360.com Sebastian Gorgon

        I enabled my divider and it's same old ICS style

        • Testraindrop

          you can change it to dots in the options

          • http://www.Nave360.com Sebastian Gorgon

            Oh right, yes it's the Scroll Indicator, sorry my bad. Thanks!

        • http://farukahmet.blogspot.com/ Faruk Ahmet

          Because it actually is not related to the divider. Disable your divider, and change the indicator style under the "Desktop".

  • Jadephyre

    Now if we just had Android 4.4 to use this with...

    • http://twitter.com/anishbhalerao Anish Bhalerao

      Hahaha. What are you, a Galaxy Note 2 / Galaxy SIII user? Hahaha.

      Oh wait, my Nexus 4 still hasn't gotten 4.4!

  • ramdana

    typo in last para. Jell Bean

  • Crispin Swickard

    How badly I was wanting this. Now Its already perfect. The drawer has some work ahead of it since it looks really weird if that is any sort of partial background transparency. Currently only looks good at all or nothing. I heart you so hard Teslacoil devs. :)

  • http://riteshtripathy.wordpress.com/ Ritesh

    Set Color Theme to White to get a little more KitKat in the app drawer. ;)

    • Crispin Swickard

      I did that first thing when getting the phone/kitkat. Since I decided within about a minute I didn't like the new launcher. However white is too white. to match the status bar Icons, and edgeglow etc you want #BFBFBF ;)

      • http://riteshtripathy.wordpress.com/ Ritesh

        Damn you... you triggered my OCD. Arrghhh..

        • Crispin Swickard

          And mine led me to find that it should be #BFBFBF. lol

          • http://riteshtripathy.wordpress.com/ Ritesh

            I had a look and I think #ffffff matches the system icons/status bar icons pretty well. #bfbfbf makes it a bit too gray. I'm not fiddling with it anymore.. please stop! lol

          • Crispin Swickard

            I took a screenshot, and tossed it into photoshop. according to the color picker the status bar icons are #BFBFBF, though if your using the separator at the bottom still like I am it may appear more gray/dark on a darker wallpaper due to the bar being semi transparent.

          • http://riteshtripathy.wordpress.com/ Ritesh

            Ahem... *launches PS*

          • http://riteshtripathy.wordpress.com/ Ritesh

            Well, you're right about the codes but somehow, it doesn't match up visually on the phone. I've left it at #ffffff. I can sleep peacefully now. Good night!

      • J2


  • abomination

    Transparent notification bar works on galaxy s4.

  • Primalxconvoy

    I used nova launcher once and have up as creating custom folders for apps was akin to pulling teeth. Have they fixed that glaring omission from this yet?

    • http://riteshtripathy.wordpress.com/ Ritesh

      Nope. Still the same maze of steps to achieve that and drawer tabs.

      • smeddy

        Go to draw -> Nova Settings -> Organise Tabs -> Multi-select the apps for each tab. Until I discovered this it was a maze.

    • Brian Koppe

      You're gonna have to be more specific about what you didn't like, because I have never had any issues.

      • Primalxconvoy

        See below. I found that using stock or go launcher was more intuitive to create folders on the home screen and/or app drawer and/or give it a custom icon and rename it. It's the main reason I have a custom launcher.

        • MyLeftNut

          All you have to do is literally create your folder by dragging and dropping, long tap, select an icon, and rename. What's so hard about that? You can even assign gestures for the folder (single tap, swipe up...).

          I put all my games into one folder, sorted them A-Z, had my most played game set to open when I swipe up, renamed the folder "games," and created an icon 144X144 (a white 360 controller image) in paint and set it as main image. Took less than 3 mins and that's only because I have like thirty apps in that folder.

    • dobbsy

      I don't follow what you mean. You make folders by dragging apps on top of one another, just like, I believe, with the stock launcher.

      • Primalxconvoy

        As far as I can remember, creating custom icons, renaming it and using them in my app drawer wasn't as easy as go launcher.

        • Shane

          It's very easy. Just drag icons on top of one another, then you can long press and edit, or just tap the folder, and tap the 'Unnamed Folder" text.

          • Primalxconvoy


  • wolfkabal

    Really my only beef with the stock 4.4 launcher are the icon sizes. I got so used to running with 6 columns and 6 rows both home and nav drawer that everything seems HUGE now. Glad I can go back to Nova now :) I will miss swiping to Google Now though.

    • nikira

      The only thing I missed from nova over the kitkat launcher was the app drawer. I like everything else, for the most part, but hated the app drawer. I liked the quick link to the play store and because I have so many apps, I prefered the old style of vertical scrolling. If I could at least have those two things back, i'd be happy enough with kitkat launcher. If they could add the google now and voice integration to nova, I would switch back (and might anyway).

    • Patrick Thompson

      I will miss the swipe to Google Now as well. I think it's my favorite GEL feature. I added a pinch Nova Gesture that launches Google which is kind of close.

  • JeffColorado

    I have a nexus 5 and still welcome this. The native launcher is just too damn restricting. I still use Nova.

  • Niall Murray

    I can finally get rid of the oversized icons! Today is a good day.

  • Ivan Martinez

    Nexus 5 guy reporting here --- It's an excellent start. Transparent Nav buttons were sorely missed, and once you have folders in your app drawer (200+ apps here), you just can't go back to an unorganized app drawer. I'm looking forward to more Google-specific features that currently don't have fully open functionality to open up, so Nova can utilize in a subsequent update and be the superior launcher it always is.

    DREAM: Google acquires Nova Launcher, incorporates all awesome features into GEL. *drool*

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      More like Google acquires Nova Launcher, then throws away most of his work, implements 10% of the features, kills the project, and moves dev to work on optimizing a shade of white in the next Android update.

      • Ivan Martinez

        This makes me sad and worried that it's true. But let's pray for positivity in an unlikely situation like this

  • Patrick Thompson

    FYI: You can make the app drawer transparent as well. Settings > Drawer > Background Transparency and change the theme color so it's not 33b5e5. Settings > Look and Feel > Color Theme. This will help your app drawer look more KitKat-ish as well.

    • tokuiten

      Also, this has been in the regular (non-beta) version of Nova for quite some time.

      I'd actually forgotten that the stock app drawer wasn't transparent until the KitKat leaks started coming in and everyone began talking about how it's transparent now. Totally forgot it was just a Nova feature.

  • A Black UI is the best UI

    And this is why the stock "google experience" launcher is a horrible piece of crap.

    • dean

      yeah exaggerate much, its not that bad ffs

      • A Black UI is the best UI

        Not that bad would explain a launcher that is in beta the google experience launcher is just a piece of crap.

        • DerpDDerperson

          GEL isn't bad, just over simplified. If there was some customization options, I wouldn't have a problem with it. As it is, if someone can get the OK Google search bar to work in other launchers I'd just as soon use one of those.

  • Brian Nazareth

    Review your typos, you forgot the Y in Jelly Bean and typed 'Jell Bean' instead :P

  • Billy Royle

    yawwwwwn...much ado about nothing. how can people get so excited over a small transparent bar.

    kit kat launcher looks god awful and im glad to stick with nova as is.

  • Rob

    But... But... But... What if you actually have a Nexus 5, love parts of KitKat but hate the limited customization options? :D

    • Rickin Palmeira

      then you just wait a little bit untill nova launcher starts to have all/most features of gel integrated to it

  • kleptodathief

    nova prime should have an AUTO feature to sort out or group all your apps into categories for u? does it? i have boatload of apps, over 200 and its a fcuking cluster fcuk!!!

  • Adam Tuck

    Transparent notification bar works (and looks) great on HTC One GPE! I'd love the Google Now access to be brought over from the Google Experience Launcher. I know I can do it with gestures, but it just feels smoother having it already loaded on a 2nd homescreen.