Since Microsoft released its very own launcher back in 2015, the app's grown quite popular, especially among business users work with Microsoft services. Now in a brand new preview build, Microsoft Launcher gets its biggest upgrade yet with dark mode enhancements, landscape support and more.

For this version, Microsoft wiped the slate clean, rewriting the app on a new codebase. And while that means that some features from the previous version are no longer available, we are getting a lot of new stuff.

Left: Theme settings (ver 5.11), Right: Theme settings (ver 6.0)

The old transparent theme has been removed, as well as the system theme option. Elements of the transparent theme have been implemented into the remaining two, leading to a more consistent design. Themes still switch from light to dark automatically with your system; it just removed the option to turn it off. This may be annoying to some, but I imagine most are happy with auto-switching being the default. The option to change accent colors has been removed but that may return in future releases.

 

Left: Your Feed (ver 5.11), Right: Your Feed (ver 6.0)

The feed located on the far left home screen gets the most welcome redesign. I always switched it off due to its inconsistent feel but I'm more inclined to use this new version. As you can see in the screenshots above, the old look was a bit of a mess. The "add a task" widget filled the width of the display, while the other UI elements didn't. Now everything follows the same design parameters, which deeply satisfies my OCD. The welcome header gets a complete redesign, hiding the quick info icons and relegating them to individual widgets further down the list. It may not be as productive as before but from an aesthetic standpoint it's a move in the right direction. A uniform, uncluttered user experience is the theme here.

Left: App drawer (ver 5.11), Right: App drawer (ver 6.0)

Recent apps get a horizontal divider and the new apps category is gone. The app search is now a bold search bar, similar to most other launchers. This is one design change I'm not too fond of; the flatter look from before was cleaner. This new search bar does change shape based on how you customize the main search widget, however.

Landscape mode

The app now features landscape support in 6.0, which will undoubtedly please people who use their phones with Bluetooth keyboards or have larger screens. This sounds promising for tablet users (the current MS Launcher experience is severely lacking on tablets), but at the moment this release shows as incompatible with anything other than phones.

Microsoft emphasizes that this is an alpha preview, so you should only use this if you're okay with frequent bugs and crashes. As this is a separate listing on the Play Store, you can always keep the stable build installed alongside the preview and switch between them as you see fit.

6.0 is the biggest update Microsoft Launcher has ever received and I'm excited to see where it goes next. Below you'll find the changelog for this update, as well as the Play Store link.

Be among the first to help us test brand-new early-stage features as we continue to evolve the Microsoft Launcher. The goal of this program is to gain your valuable feedback to improve quality, performance and shape the overall user experience.

This version of Microsoft Launcher has been rebuilt on a new codebase to make new features possible - such as Dark Mode, Landscape Mode, and numerous performance improvements (speed to load, low memory utilization, battery optimization and fluent animation). Additionally, this version only contains a subset of the standard features from the main app. You may wish to search for and download our primary "Microsoft Launcher" app on Google Play for the most reliable and complete experience.

Give it a try and use the feedback button in the app to let us know what you think. We will have frequent updates to this launcher so check back regularly.

WARNING: This is an Alpha version of the Microsoft Launcher so as such some features may not work properly, or the experience may be unstable.

MICROSOFT LAUNCHER PREVIEW FEATURES

Give your phone a new look
• Personalize your apps with custom icon packs, and use adaptive icons to give your phone a consistent look and feel.

• Enjoy Bing daily images as your wallpaper, or use your own photos.

Dark Theme
• Microsoft Launcher supports Dark theme for your viewing pleasure. Select dark theme for comfort of use at night or in low light environments. This feature is compatible with Android phone’s dark mode settings.

Landscape mode

• Microsoft Launcher now supports vertical and horizontal orientations to enhance your viewing preference.