8 Android gestures that speed up everyday tasks

Cycle through Chrome tabs, go 3-D with Maps, launch the camera and more.

8 handy Android gestures you need to know
Credit: Ben Patterson

Navigating your way around a new Android device will get a lot easier once you’ve mastered a few handy touchscreen gestures.

For example, you can switch between Chrome tabs with a single swipe, while a two-finger swipe will add a whole new perspective to Google Maps. No sign of the virtual Home button? There’s a gesture that’ll bring it back. Read on for all that and more.

A quicker way to get to your Quick Settings

When you swipe down from the top of the screen on your unlocked Android device, you’ll see a small row of buttons sitting at the top of your various notifications (or in the very top corner of the screen, on pre-Nougat handsets). These are your so-called “quick settings”—a series of one-tap buttons that’ll let you do things like turn Wi-Fi on and off, switch on your phone’s flashlight mode, or toggle Airplane Mode.

A quicker way to get to your Quick Settings Ben Patterson

Swipe down with two fingers to reveal all your Quick Settings on an unlocked Android device.

Swipe down again and you’ll see even more quick settings, such as (depending on your setup) the screen’s auto-rotate setting, Bluetooth, and your device’s hotspot feature.

If you’d rather jump directly to all your quick settings rather than having to swipe once and then again, try this: Swipe down from the top of the screen with two fingertips instead of just one. When you do, you’ll reveal an expanded view of your various quick settings.

Swipe to get the Home button back

It can be a little disconcerting when you’re viewing a video or doing another full-screen activity on your Android device, and the virtual Home button goes AWOL.

Swipe to get the Home button back Ben Patterson

Missing Home key? You can get it back with a simple swipe.

In many cases, the Home button will reappear by simply tapping the screen. But that doesn’t always work, depending on the app you’re using. With YouTube, for example, tapping the screen while watching a video in full-screen mode only pauses the clip, leaving the Home button hidden.

If your Android device’s Home button has deserted you, try this: Swipe down from the top of the display. The three main navigation buttons at the bottom of the screen—including the Home button—will slide back into view.

Double-click for the camera

Whether clicking a physical button on your Android phone counts as a gesture may be a matter of debate, but this particular shortcut is so handy it’s worth mentioning here.

Double-click for the camera Ben Patterson

You can jump to the camera at any time by double-clicing the power button on your Android handset.

Basically, you can jump to the Android camera app anytime—even when your phone is unlocked and you’re deep within an app—by double-clicking the power button (assuming your Android device is running on Lollipop or better).

That’s in stark contrast to iOS, which lacks a camera shortcut in its unlocked state—meaning you’ll need to scramble to the Camera app if that Kodak moment arises while actively using your phone.

Get a new perspective in Maps

The Maps app for Android offers such an eyeful of information that it’s easy to forget the whole different way of looking at the world—or at least, the world according to Maps.

Get a new perspective in Maps Ben Patterson

Give Google Maps a little depth by swiping down with two fingers.

Just drag two fingertips down the screen to make the view in Maps tilt for a 3D perspective, complete with 3D buildings (depending on the city).

To go back to a flat view, slide two fingertips back up the screen.

Refresh Chrome will a pull

There’s no obvious way to refresh a page when you’re browsing in Chrome for Android—or at least, not unless you open the main menu by tapping the button in the top-right corner of the screen.

Refresh Chrome will a pull Ben Patterson

Tugging down on a webpage in Chrome for Android for a quick refresh.

That said, there’s an easy way to refresh a Chrome webpage in a flash: Just pull down on the page with your fingertip.

Bonus: If you’re holding your phone with your right hand, you can quickly open the main Chrome menu by swiping down in an arc with your thumb, starting from the top-right corner of the display.

Swipe address bar to change Chrome tabs

Unlike the missing refresh button in Chrome, there is a small Tabs button at the top of the screen, but there’s an easier way to switch tabs than trying to tap that tiny target.

Swipe address bar to change Chrome tabs Ben Patterson

You can cycle through all your open tabs in Chrome for Android by repeatedly swiping the address bar.

Just swipe one way or another across the Chrome address bar. When you do, the next tab will slide onto the screen. Keep swiping to cycle through all your open tabs.

Slide across space bar to move the cursor

When I was initially writing about my own recent switch from iOS to Android, I complained about missing the magnifying glass that appears when you tap and hold a word you want to edit.

Slide across space bar to move the cursor Ben Patterson

Editing text on your Android device will get a lot easier once you start swiping the space bar to move the cursor.

Well, turns out Android has its own answer to iOS’s magnifying glass. With the stock Android keyboard, you can move the cursor by sliding your finger back and forth across the space bar. It’s not quite as elegant as Apple’s magnifying glass, but it’s far easier than trying to move the cursor with your fingertip.

If you want to try Android’s space bar trick, you’ll need to have the right setting enabled. Tap Settings > Languages & input > Virtual keyboard > Google Keyboard > Gesture typing, then make sure the Enable gesture cursor control setting is toggled on.

Slide left from the delete key to delete words

If tapping the Android backspace key or selecting passages of text to delete feels almost as tedious as dealing with the cursor, there’s another keypad gesture that might make your day.

Slide left from the delete key to delete words Ben Patterson

You can quickly delete large swaths of text on your Android handset by swiping left from the backspace key.

Tap the backspace key and then start swiping to the left. As you do, Android will start selecting more and more text from the left of the cursor. When you’re ready to delete, just release the keypad. To change your mind, slide your finger back to the right before releasing.

 
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