Understanding Android Home Screens-Beginners Guide


Updated: January 25, 2017

android-home-screensAndroid 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

Home Screen Parts and Layout

The screen shot below show the home screen layout for the Nexus 7 tablet.

home-screen

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:

android-bottom-nav

Notification Shade/Area

This will display small notification icons from various Apps.

To open the notifications, swipe down from the top left corner
of any screen.

notifications-expand

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.

See Understanding and managing Android notifications

System/Status Area

sytem-statusShows 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).

quick-settings

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.

favourites-tray

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-icon  back-button

Back Button – Opens the previous screen you were working in, even if it was in a different App.

Home-screen-iconhome-button

 

Home Button -Opens Home the central Home screen. If you’re viewing a left or right Home screen,

recent-apps-iconrecent-apps

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.

apps-widgets

Touch the App/widget icon and hold..

A home screen appears in the background. Drag the icon to the desired location and let go.

add-app-home-screen

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.

create-folder-android

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.

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.

homescreenlauncer-start

To go back to the old launcher go to settings and you should see a new option called home.

homescreenlauncer-stop

Click it and you will see the launchers that are installed, and you should see the active one with a dot on the side.

homescreenlauncher-switch1

Click the launcher to make it active.

homescreenlauncher-switch2

There are many other home screen launchers available, just do a search online for reviews to get an idea.

Screen Pinning

screen-pinnied-notificationScreen 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

screen-pinning-settings

You may want to enable require pin to unlock for extra security

screen-pinning-enabled

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.

pinning-App

You get a notification with instructions on how to unpin the App.

screen-pinnied-notification

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.

screen-pinned-warning

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.

Google-search-mic

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.

android screen-wallpaper

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:

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