Tutorial : For Beginners – more help with your home screen

helping seniors understand AndroidThis blog is intended to help all seniors regardless of their skill levels and I have been a little remiss in not writing more posts to help the ‘newbies’ or absolute beginners amongst us. We all had to start somewhere learning about new technology and while there are many self help books out there, they often are aimed at the younger crowd, so let’s start at the beginning and go through using your new Android phone or tablet together.

Firstly, after turning it on and entering your pin code or your personal pattern to unlock it (if you haven’t set up any security and you want to, just read my post on securing your device) you are greeted with the home screen. This is similar in many ways to the desktop of a Windows computer with icons that allow you to open apps plus, and a big feature that Apple iPads don’t have, to be able to use widgets that display things like the time, weather, emails etc. Many tablets come with some widgets already displayed but if yours doesn’t have any, read on and at the end I’ll show you where they are if you want to put some of the handier ones on your screens.

A difference that the Windows desktops don’t have is multiple home screens and yours very likely will have at least 2 or three already. Most experienced Android users like to group app icons of a similar nature on one screen or screen area, for example one home screen might have just the games, another all the Google apps like Gmail, Drive and Keep – I’ve underlined the apps provided by Google that I have already reviewed so you can tap or click on them to read these later.

You can go to any screen by ‘swiping’ left or right and also shift the icons around the screen or from screen to screen. Again, there is a post for beginners about how to do this already. Read it here.

Down at the bottom of all Android home screens are 7 icons that equate very well to the commonly-used ones that you can place onto the Windows taskbar that are always available. The centre one (a circle with 6 dots usually) displays all the installed apps on your device and this icon can’t be removed or changed. All the others though, can be much in the same way that you can place icons on a home screen, just tap, hold and drag an app icon down onto this area. Note that if the bar already has the 6 other icons, you either need to remove one to get a space or in later versions of Android just drag an drop it on top of a similar app icon. For example, many users will have their web browser on this ‘bar’, if you want another one like Chrome or Firefox – you can have both on the one icon and when tapped it gives you the option of which browser to use. For help in doing this, read another tutorial here.

Note also that the actual position of the commonly-used app bar changes depending on the orientation of the tablet or phone. When in portrait mode the bar is above the Home / Back / Running Apps button, while it changes to the righthand side when in landscape mode.

Many devices used to have dedicated ‘real’ Home and Back buttons but these days most tablets and phones have ‘virtual’ (onscreen) buttons. The function of these are as follows:
Home – obvious really, this takes you to the default home screen from within any app or screen.
Back – depending on the app you are in this will either go back a step or exit the app altogether which can be frustrating. Just remember that the last button can get you back into it very easily!
Recent apps list – this (usually a small square  but they may also look like the screenshot shown lower) button will bring up the last apps you have used. They may not all still be actually running but if you accidentally closed one with the Back button, it will be the one at the bottom of the list. Just tap it to restore the app to your screen. Very handy isn’t it?Android buttons

Finally, to end the explanation of home screens, at the top you should see a bar that says ‘Google’ at the far left and an icon of a microphone on the far right. Use this bar to enter a search phrase straight into Google search or if you don’t mind having a conversation with your device – tap the microphone and ask a question. You might be surprised how accurate this can be (or scary!).

Widgets, as I’ve mentioned above, can be a great way to display handy information on your home screens. Let’s place a simple one there to show you how to do it.
Firstly, make some room on a screen at least the size of nine icons. If you can’t do this easily, just make a new home screen by dragging one of the icons to the far right or left of the last or first screen on your device. To make it simpler, swipe from right to left to get to the rightmost screen. Tap and hold any icon there and drag it to the right. Now magically, it will be shifted to an new screen to the right. Leave it there until you have put your new widget there as an empty screen is automatically removed.
Next, tap and hold on a blank space on your new screen and tap the Widgets icon that will appear (note that some devices or Android versions have different methods but this should work for you). You will see all the widgets installed that you can select from – I suggest that you try the Gmail widget first as it is almost always installed on all devices. Tap and hold the Gmail widget and it will ‘float’ over your screen. Choose the folder you want to have on the widget (I use the Inbox) and soon the Gmail widget will appear showing your latest emails. To make the widget smaller or larger, just tap and hold the widget until the resizing box and four dots appear – then use the dots to stretch the widget wider, taller or smaller. Andy’s Tip: Use the corners to resize both directions at once! Once you have it to a suitable size, tap anywhere on a blank part of the screen to fix it as it is.

I hope this has helped beginners and others to understand a little more how their Android phone or tablet displays information and apps to you. If you have any difficulty understanding this or any tutorial don’t hesitate to pop a comment into the box below.

Andy

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Andy
About the Author : Andy describes himself as "an older geek" and has been assisting seniors with understanding technology for many years. He is involved with his local seniors computer club and believes that seniors appreciate assistance from those of a similar age group.

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