Originally Posted by JohnJSal
Just to be clear, if I use an alternate launcher without rooting, will I be able to change how much of the screen will be used for icons/widgets? Because the panel dots and launcher bar seem to take up half the screen.
Try a few different ones. Nova Prime, the one I use allows me to remove the panel dots and therefore when I add in another row, the rows can be spaced out further down the screen than previously. Quite a few launchers will allow you to adjust the dock size. Nova Prime does but it will only adjust by arbitrary amounts; some others allow more of a granular control.
There is a launcher called Lightning Launcher that allows you to add in apps that aren't tied to a grid size, so absolutely free in their placement (overlapping, right up against each other and custom sizes for instance). I found it a pig to work with though.
Apex gives you quite a bit of control over what you are asking, JohnJSal. I've just downloaded it and had a look.