Nova Launcher and KitKat

With the recent Android 4.4 (KitKat) update there have been lots of questions about what this means for Nova Launcher. I still need to do a lot more research and work before I have definitive answers for all the questions. However I can give a brief summary of what to expect.

Nova will be updated to include, as options, much of the Nexus 5 launcher's look and feel. I've included a screenshot of an unstable development version of Nova Launcher. You can see KitKat style light folders icons and background, circular page indicator, and transparent system bars (on the Nexus 5). These will be optional so if you prefer the darker Jellybean style you can keep it.

Transparent system bars will not be available to all devices. The system bars are drawn by the SystemUI component, not the launcher. KitKat introduces an API for apps such as Nova Launcher to request that the SystemUI draw these with only a light gradient background. Not all KitKat devices will support this functionality for performance reasons, and Nova will be unable to force it. Also older Android versions are unaware of this new API in KitKat and thus will not get transparent system bars. The exception is that some devices, such as the TouchWiz SGS4, had transparent system bars implemented by the manufacturer skin, and Nova is able to make use of their private APIs for this.

Google Now integration, in the exact same way that Google does so, is not possible. This includes the swipe to the left for Google Now and the "Ok, Google" hotword. The Google Experience Launcher (GEL) is not a stand alone component, but actually a bundle of Google Search, Google Now, and GEL. With current APIs, it's not possible for Nova to access Google Now in the exact same way that the GEL does. However I am looking into ways to achieve similar functionality. Quick access to Google Now is already possible by swiping up from the home button (on devices with navigation bars), or by assigning a Nova Gesture to launch Google Now. Some users have suggested placing a full screen Google Now widget on the left most page. I'll be investigating further enhancements in this area, but it's important to note that the exact Google experience is not possible for non-Google apps.

The new launcher also redesigned the app and widgets drawer. Google has removed Widgets from the App Drawer and now places them in their own drawer accessible by long-pressing in empty space. I'm looking into how a setup like this could work with Nova Launcher. it is not a straightforward change due to Nova's additional functionality such as custom drawer tabs. But it is something I can take inspiration from.

There are also a number of bug fixes and performance improvements that Google has built into the new launcher that I will be investigating. Nova supports a much wider range of android versions and devices than the Google Launcher so performance improvements often need lots of testing or modification to ensure they don't actually hurt performance on some devices.

SMS integration with Hangouts poses a problem for unread badges in Nova Launcher. Unfortunately Hangouts does not provide an API for other apps to access the unread count. I am looking into workarounds.

Some Nova Launcher Prime users have asked if I plan on charging again. Don't worry, the answer is no. Nova Launcher Prime continues to sell well, which is great as I love working on it.

I cannot provide ETAs. I will most likely be spreading some changes across multiple Nova Launcher updates to get them out to users sooner.

[edit] Beta is out[/edit]

I don't have any beta ready for users just yet, but when I do you can help test by joining the beta community at https://plus.google.com/communities/103449253667195874971 and then opt-in for the Nova beta at https://play.google.com/apps/testing/com.teslacoilsw.launcher/join and TeslaUnread https://play.google.com/apps/testing/com.teslacoilsw.notifier/join . When a beta is ready you will see it as an update in the Play Store. Please note that betas are early releases and are not fully tested yet, if you are uncomfortable with this then please wait until the final release as it will be heavily tested.
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