Android tips: use long press to discover app widgets and shortcuts

November 19, 2009 | by Andrew Kameka

Android Tricks

Android tips: use long press to discover app widgets and shortcuts

Widgets are always available for download in the Android Market, but many of the “regular” apps that you download come with built-in widgets. I’ve been getting several questions from new Android owners recently that all seem to deal with similar issues. Is there an easy way to change Google Voice settings? How do I get my to-do list on the home screen? I often have to tell people, “Long press is your friend.”

As I mentioned in our Android FAQ, long pressing on the homescreen is the way to load widgets. It can also be the path to discovering other shortcuts available to maximizing your Android experience.

1) The Set-Up

Press and Hold a blank area of a homescreen panel. After a couple of seconds, you should see this image:


2) Widgets

Press widgets and you’ll see what options you have for adding to the screen. Depending on what apps are installed, you’ll see options for complementary widgets. I am a frequent Astrid user, so I elect to add an Astrid widget to show my upcoming tasks.

I also add a ZAGAT widget that suggests interesting restaurants and Handcent to show unread text messages.

3) Shortcuts

Repeat the long press technique and press “Shortcuts” to see more options. I added a Toggle Google Voice shortcut that quickly switches between the four GVoice calling options. You can also add Contacts, Bookmarks, and links to files on an SD card (if you have a file browser/manager like Astro installed).

4) Folders

Try long press once more and click Folders. You may find special contact shortcuts, or in my case, a folder showing my stations on Pandora. This allows me to pick which station to play before opening the app and waiting to switch from the default station.

The widgets, shortcuts, and folders each user sees will always differ. But the one common way we load them is long pressing on the home screen. Tap around and see what you discover.


Be mindful of which widgets you install. Some widgets constantly update or run and can negatively affect battery life or performance. If you notice a sizable drop in battery life or speed after installing a widget, check to make sure it isn’t eating too much of your phone’s resources. Perform the check by long press > Shortcut > Settings > Battery Use. You can also use apps like Taskiller or Advance Task Manager to determine how much memory is used by background services.