Android phones have four standard keys: a Back button, a Menu button, a Home button, and a Search button. These keys will help you navigate through your phone more easily, no matter what program or process you're running.
Pressing the Back key takes you back one step to whatever you were doing prior to the beginning of your current step. It works in Web navigation, e-mail navigation, or navigation to a previously open program.
Pressing the Menu key brings up a list of options relevant to the area of the phone you're currently using. When you press it on the homescreen, it permits you to access your phone's settings and other customization options.
The Home key has two functions: If you press it once, it takes you back to your home screen. If you press and hold it, it allows you to multitask and switch to other programs you've recently used.
Pressing the Search key produces different results depending on where you are in Android at the time. From your home screen, it brings up a Quick Search Box that you can use to search the Web and your phone at the same time (Android will return the most relevant results from either domain as you type). From within an app, the Search key typically starts a search specific to that program-enabling you to search exclusively within your e-mail, for example, or within your contacts list.
The App Launcher
You can always find all of your apps in the app launcher. To open the launcher, simply tap the square icon at the bottom of the screen. The launcher looks different depending on what version of Android you have, and whether or not your phone has a custom overlay.
Within the app launcher, you can tap any app's icon to run the program, or press and hold it to drag it directly onto the home screen as a shortcut.
Android's notification panel puts incoming information at your fingertips, no matter what you're doing. Notifications can come from many different places: e-mail, voicemail, text messaging, even social network and news applications. When you get a new notification, an icon will appear at the top-left of your screen. You can pull down the panel to see detailed information about the notification and then take action if you wish.
Check the settings of various applications to see what kind of notifications they offer, and then customize them to work for you.
For comprehensive tips about Android and reviews of the best apps and devices to help you get the most out of the mobile operating system, order PCWorld's Android Superguide, on CD-ROM or in a convenient, downloadable PDF file.