App Basics for Your Android Tablet - dummies

By Dan Gookin

You probably didn’t purchase an Android tablet so that you could enjoy the thrill-a-minute punch that’s packed by the Android operating system. No, an Android tablet’s success lies with the apps you obtain. Knowing how to deal with apps is vital to being a successful, happy Android tablet user.

Starting an app

To start an app, tap its icon. The app starts.

Apps can be started from the Home screen: Tap a launcher icon to start the associated app. Apps can be started also from the Apps drawer.

You can also start an app found in a Home screen folder: Tap to open the folder, and then tap an icon to start that app.

Quitting an app

Unlike on a computer, you don’t need to quit apps on your Android tablet. To leave an app, tap the Home icon to return to the Home screen. You can keep tapping the Back icon to back out of an app. Or you can tap the Recent icon to switch to another running app.

  • Some apps feature a Quit command or an Exit command, but for the most part you don’t quit an app on your tablet — not like you quit an app on a computer.

  • If necessary, the Android operating system shuts down apps you haven’t used in a while. You can directly stop apps run amok.

Finding an app in the Apps drawer

The launcher icons you see on the Home screen don’t represent all the apps in your tablet. To view all installed apps, you must visit the Apps screen: Tap the Apps icon on the Home screen. This icon has a different look to it, depending on your tablet. There are various looks to the Apps icon, though more varieties may exist.

Apps icon varieties.
Apps icon varieties.

After you tap the Apps icon, you see the Apps drawer. Swipe through the icons left and right across the touchscreen.

To run an app, tap its icon. The app starts, taking over the screen and doing whatever magical thing that app does.

  • As you add new apps to your tablet, they appear in the Apps drawer. Some tablets allow you to create folders in the Apps drawer. These folders contain multiple apps, which helps keep things organized. To access apps in the folder, tap the folder icon.

  • The Apps drawer displays apps alphabetically. On some tablets, you can switch to a non-alphabetical viewing grid. With that feature active, it’s possible to rearrange the app icons in any order you like.

  • For apps you use all the time, consider creating launcher icons on the Home screen.

Switching between running apps

The apps you run on your tablet don’t quit when you dismiss them from the screen. For the most part, they stay running. To switch between running apps, or to any app you’ve recently opened, tap the Recent icon. You see the Overview.

The Overview shows recently used apps.
The Overview shows recently used apps.

To switch to an app, choose it from the list.

  • You can remove an app from the Overview by swiping it off the list, left or right, or up or down, depending on the tablet’s orientation. Removing an app from the Overview is pretty much the same thing as quitting an app.

  • For tablets that lack the Recent icon, long-press the Home icon to see the Overview.

  • The Android operating system may shut down apps that haven’t received attention for a while. Don’t be surprised if you see an app missing from the Overview. If so, just start it up again as you normally would.