Image: Jack Wallen
Every so often I come across an app that makes me nod my head at the ingenuity of developers. Of late, the app that has won that particular nod is a unique take on the Android home screen launcher. The app in question is T-UI Launcher. This incredibly minimalistic take on the home screen not only brings a high geek factor, but it could also serve as a simple way to prevent those unfamiliar with how the Command Line Interface (CLI) works from gaining access to your data.
Before the thought crosses your mind, no, this isn’t a security tool; it’s just a very different interface for your Android device that only certain users would know how to work with. This launcher isn’t for everyone (you have to be okay with typing), but it’s a lot of fun and brings a bit of old-school Linux flavor to your Android interface.
Let’s install T-UI and get up to speed on how it works.
Installing T-UI is quite simple. Here are the step:
- Open the Google Play Store on your Android device
- Search for T-UI Launcher
- Locate the entry by Francesco Andreuzzi and tap Install
- Allow the installation to complete
Once the install finishes, tap the home button and then tap to select the T-UI launcher from the list (Figure A). Tap either Just Once (to try it out) or Always (to make it your default home screen launcher).
When you open T-UI for the first time, you will be walked through a very well done tutorial. Each page (Figure B) will instruct you on a different aspect of the launcher.
The welcome pages discuss:
- The help command
- Launching applications
- Managing your apps
- Various built-in commands
- Turning on services
- Using the built-in text editor
- The T-UI settings app
The gist of T-UI is simple: Want to open the Chrome browser? Type chrome. Want to open the Facebook app? Type facebook. As you type, the launcher will make suggestions, so you don’t have to type the entire app name (Figure C).
If you’re looking to open up the Android Settings tool, type settings.
One really cool trick is how you can place phone calls with T-UI. To call one of your contacts, issue the command call CONTACT NAME (Where CONTACT NAME is the actual name of your contact). Naturally, as you type a name, T-UI will make suggestions (pulled from your contacts list). Hit the Enter key on the virtual keyboard and the call will be placed.
The built-in text editor is a pretty handy feature. To open the app you type tuixt FILENAME (Where FILENAME is the name of the file to either edit or create). Once you have the app open, tap in the upper section of the window to start typing or editing (Figure D). Once you’re done typing (or editing) tap on the bash-ish prompt near the bottom of the screen and then type save.
After you’ve completed working on the file, tap the prompt at the bottom of the window and type exit. You will then be returned to the T-UI home screen where you can continue interacting with your device.
Fear not, T-UI does not prevent you from using the Notification Shade exactly as expected. Drag the shade down to gain access to all of your notifications; drag it down a second time and you can tap the Settings gear icon to configure Android.
As unique as they come
If you’d like to try out a home screen launcher that offers as minimal an interface as you’ll ever see (as well as confound anyone that picks up your device), you really should try T-UI. It’s a nice break from the standard mobile GUI interface and, once you get used to working with T-UI, it makes a lot of sense. Yes, this is a niche-centric launcher, but it fills that niche better than any in its category.