How to Use the Navigation Icons on Your Android Tablet - dummies

How to Use the Navigation Icons on Your Android Tablet

By Dan Gookin

Below the touchscreen on your Android tablet dwell three icons. They can appear as part of the touchscreen itself; or, on some tablets, they may be part of the bezel or may even be physical buttons. These are the navigation icons, and they serve specific functions.

Traditionally, you find three navigation icons: Back, Home, and Recent. The appearance of these icons can vary, with the most common variations seen below.

Back: The Back icon serves several purposes, all of which fit neatly under the concept of “back.” Tap the icon once to return to a previous page, dismiss an onscreen menu, close a window, or hide the onscreen keyboard, for example.


Home: No matter what you’re doing on the tablet, tapping this icon displays the Home screen. When you’re already viewing the Home screen, tapping the Home icon returns you to the main, or center, Home screen.


Recent: Tapping the Recent icon displays the Overview, a list of recently opened or currently running apps. The list scrolls up and down, so when it’s too tall for the screen, just swipe it with your finger to view all the apps. Choose an app from the list to switch to that app. To dismiss the Overview, tap the Back icon.


  • On Android tablets without the Recent icon, long-press the Home icon to see the Overview.

  • Older Android tablets may sport the Menu icon or button instead of the Recent icon. Tap the Menu icon to display a pop-up menu from which you can choose commands.

  • The three navigation icons may hide themselves when certain apps run. In most cases, the icons are still there — just invisible. Tap the screen to summon them. For some full-screen apps and games, swipe the screen from top to bottom to see the icons.


  • The Back icon changes its orientation. Tap this icon to hide the onscreen keyboard, dismiss dictation, or perform other actions similar to the Back navigation icon.