Understanding Android Home Screens-Beginners Guide
Last Updated: February 7, 2012
Android OS offers multiple home screens (up to 7) . Each home screen functions like the desktop on your computer and can contain shortcuts, App icons,folders and widgets.
Multiple home screens allow you more effective screen space which is useful as Android tablets and phones have much smaller screens than desktop computers.
There is normally an odd number of home screens with the central screen being the main screen that you see when the device starts.
Swiping left or right moves to the next adjacent home screen.
What You Will Learn
- The main parts of the home screen and home screen layout.
- How to add/remove items from the favourites bar
- How to create folders for apps
- How to add/remove Apps and widgets to home screens
- How to change the Home Launcher.
- How to Pin Apps to the screen
Home Screen Parts and Layout
The screen shot below show the home screen layout for the Nexus 7 tablet.
You should notice the small icons at the top of the screen.
At the top left of the screen you will find the notifications area. New notifications and system messages etc will be displayed here.
The small icons are App notifications. For example Gmail has its own icon to indicate a new mail message.
The top right shows system status indicators. Here you will find Wi-Fi, battery status icons,clock etc
These areas are present on all screens (including App screens).
Underneath you will find the Google search bar with the microphone icon on the right.
Click the microphone icon to enable voice search.
This bar is also present on all home screens.
Note: to remove the search bar you need to use a different home screen launcher.
The area underneath is the main home screen is where you can add App short cuts, widgets etc.
The bottom part of the screen is composed of the favourites bar and at the very bottom the main navigation bar.
Both are present on all screens.
Note: As from Android 5.0 the icons for the bottom navigation bar have changed and are shown below:
This will display small notification icons from various Apps.
To open the notifications, swipe down from the top left corner
of any screen.
Certain notifications can be expanded to show more information,
such as email previews or calendar events.
Touch the notification icon on the left to open the related App,
Swipe the notification left or right to remove it
To dismiss all notifications, click the Dismiss icon at the top right of
the notification shade.
Shows the battery status,Wi-Fi status, time etc.
If you swipe down from the top right you can get to the quick settings screen (below).
Favourites Bar or Tray
The Favourites tray sits above the Navigational bar on the bottom part of your screen, and contains the Apps that you use most often.
The central icon will take you to the All Apps screen.
You can add/remove Apps from the tray simply by dragging them to orfrom the home screen.
This quick video shows how it is done:
Navigation Bar Description and Icons
This Bar is always present.
Note: Left image is the icon prior to android version 5
Back Button – Opens the previous screen you were working in, even if it was in a different App.
Home Button -Opens Home the central Home screen. If you’re viewing a left or right Home screen,
Recent Apps -Opens a list of thumbnail images of Apps you’ve recently been using. To open an App, touch it. To remove a thumbnail from the list, swipe it left or right.
Adding Widgets and Apps to the Home Screen
To add an App/Widget to the a home screen go to the All Apps screen.
You can select either Apps or Widgets from the menu selection in the top left.
Touch the App/widget icon and hold..
A home screen appears in the background. Drag the icon to the desired location and let go.
To remove an APP/Widget from the Home screen touch and hold the App/Widget icon and the remove App sign appears on the top of the screen (where the APP info appears above).
Drag the App to the remove App sign and it will be removed.
Note: The App is not deleted and can still be located in the All Apps menu.
Moving Apps and Widgets Between Screens
You can move an App icon between screens by pressing and holding the icon then drag it left or right to the new screen an release.
If you have several apps to move then you can place them in a folder and move the folder in one go.
Creating Home Screen Folders
Folders let you organise your Apps. You could create a folder for all you games and place them in a folder.
To create a folder the press and hold an icon and then drag it on top of another icon that you want in the same folder and then release.
You can then name the folder.
Apps vs Widgets
My understanding is that Widgets and Apps are applications or programs.
However,Apps are applications that need to be started from the screen by clicking an application icon, whereas widgets are always running in the background.
Because Widgets are always running they are always consuming resources, and so you should be careful how many are running at once.
Here is a video from android central that may make it clearer.
Changing The Home Screen
On android the launcher is the App responsible for the home screen, and if you don’t like the home screen that comes with your device you can install and switch to a new one.
You install the new launcher just like any other App from the Google play store.
On my tablet I have installed the Google Now launcher.
Once installed when you click the home screen menu you will be asked which launcher to use.
You can click just once to try it out or always to switch to the new launcher.
To go back to the old launcher go to settings and you should see a new option called home.
Click it and you will see the launchers that are installed, and you should see the active one with a dot on the side.
Click the launcher to make it active.
There are many other home screen launchers available, just do a search online for reviews to get an idea.
Screen pinning is a very useful feature that is available in Android v5 (lollipop) that allows you to lock the screen to a selected App.
You can use it to stop your kids roaming around your phone/tablet when they are supposedly playing a game or to ensure that you don’t accidentally close an App you are using.
Using Screen Pinning
To use it you need to turn it on by going to Settings>Security
You may want to enable require pin to unlock for extra security
To pin an App Open the App and then use the overview button (bottom right) to view all running Apps.
You should see a Green pin icon ( not very clear) in the bottom right. Click it to pin the App.
You get a notification with instructions on how to unpin the App.
Click Got It to go to the App. If you try to use any of the menu buttons you will see a message informing you that the screen is pinned.
Common Questions and Answers
Q- How do I add a Mic to the Home screen
A- The Mic icon is part of the Google search Widget. If you are missing this on your home screen then Locate the Widget and drag it to your home screen.
Q- How Do I change the Home Screen Background Colour /wallpaper?
A- Long press on a blank area of the screen. A screen pops up and lets you choose the background from various Apps. You can even select one of your own photos.
Click set Wallpaper to make the change.
Common Questions and Answer
Q -Can I add a widget to a Home Screen?
A-Yes just go to all Apps and select it from the Widgets section and drag it to the screen
Q- When I remove an App from a home screen is it deleted?
A – No. To delete/remove it go to the All Apps screen.
References and resources:
- Android Navigation Basics
- Lock Screen Widgets and Notification
- Installing and Managing Apps
- Droid Phone Home Screen Tips Video