Productivity the Goal in Microsoft's Arrow Launcher Update for Android

A new utility page acts as a central hub for Arrow Launcher 3.0's work- and productivity-enhancing features.

Android Dev

Microsoft has released Arrow Launcher 3.0, the launcher app for Android released by Microsoft Garage, the company's experimental app division. Like other launcher apps, Arrow offers users an alternative to the stock Android home screen.

In version 3.0, available now in the Google Play store, Microsoft focused on corralling the app's productivity features into one easy-to-reach location.

"Backed by the Office team, the latest update adds a new utility page, a central hub that condenses many of Arrow's best productivity functions: recent activity, favorite contents, recent apps, reminders and documents," wrote Microsoft spokesperson Athima Chansanchai, in a Feb. 27 blog post. "Each function is displayed as a compact Arrow card."

A new universal search function, accessed by swiping down on any screen, helps users find contacts, text messages, apps on the web and other information. An integration with Wunderlist, the to-do app Microsoft acquired in 2015, allows users to sync their reminders across devices. The app also provides quick access to Office documents stored on the cloud, along with sharing options.

For those who like to tinker with the look and feel of their home screens, Arrow Launcher 3.0 includes more personalization options. Users can now tailor Arrow to their liking by renaming and rearranging apps, changing their icons and even hiding them completely. Alternately, users can let Arrow organize apps based on their usage. Borrowing from the Bing search engine, the app's Bing Wallpaper of the Day option offers a fresh backdrop every 24 hours.

And those customizations can now stick after an upgrade. The company has added a backup and restore feature, enabling users to keep their customizations when they install future builds of the app.

Under the hood, Arrow Launcher 3.0 promises snappier performance. It launches apps 10 percent faster and uses 20 percent less memory. Additionally, the app is 15 percent more energy efficient, helping users squeeze out more battery life.

Since its debut in 2014, Microsoft Garage has pumped out a steady stream of experimental consumer apps for various platforms.

Earlier this month, the group released an email search app for Windows called Email Insights. The lightweight app helps users find the information locked away in their Outlook and Gmail inboxes using some of the contextual search capabilities that power today's search engines.

Email Insights spells the end of typing various iterations of a person's name or precise search terms to dig up old messages. "The idea is to remove the cognitive load of a user while searching. A user need not remember all the exact keywords or spellings for their queries," boasted Suresh Parthasarathy, a senior research developer at Microsoft Research India, in a Feb. 14 announcement.

In India, Microsoft Garage released SMS Organizer for Android. Helping users cut through the clutter of mobile messages, the app organizes items into two categories, Important and Promotional, and places them into separate folders using the company's machine-learning technologies. The app also can set smart reminders based on the content of incoming messages, like travel confirmations or bill payments.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...