One of the most prominent new features on the Galaxy Nexus, and Ice Cream Sandwich, is that the soft-keys are displayed right on the screen. While the notion is a sound one, there will always be those who miss some of the legacy features left behind. In this case, those would be the Menu and Search keys, stalwarts of Android's interface paradigm since its release with the G1. What was once four buttons - Home, Menu, Back, Search* - has been whittled down to just Home and Back, along with the introduction of the new multitasking-purposed App Switcher button. This combination was seen previously in Android 3.0 Honeycomb, but is about to encounter widespread use on upcoming phones**.


ICS's default buttons, with context-sensitive Menu icon shown to  the right (@paulobrien)

This certainly caused some dismay with power users. Thankfully, there's always someone in the community willing to put time into figuring out how to turn things the way they want. In this case, it's the familiar name of Paul O'Brien. Paul has just released a set of APKs which gives you a choice from the following layouts:-

  • Show legacy menu button on both sides
  • Show legacy menu button on both sides and keep them active even when not visible
  • Show legacy menu button on both sides and show a search button
  • Show legacy menu button on both sides, keep them active even when not visible and show a search button
  • Show legacy menu button the left hand side
  • Show legacy menu button the left hand side and keep it active even when not visible
  • Show legacy menu button the right hand side
  • Show legacy menu button the right hand side and keep it active even when not visible


Button buffet (@paulobrien)

While this wide array of choices parallels the bemusing variation in hard-button arrangements employed by Android manufacturers up to this point, the fact that buttons are display on screen in ICS, combined with your button set of choice, should alleviate any of that frustration.

Source: MoDaCo Android Forums via @paulobrien

* and every single other permutation of this set

** models TBA ...

Brian O'Toole
Having learnt his writing techniques reading e-Books of Sherlock Holmes, Brian now spends his time /kicking, lurking, SSHing and encoding.
  • skitchbeatz

    Amazing. I hope search can be held down to activate voice actions. This was/is my only worry about 4.0

    • Ron Amadeo

      I hope so. The hard to get to voice search is 4.0's biggest problem.

      • John Peters

        In 4.0 it's always listening to all you have to do is say your voice search and it will do it for you.

    • http://twitter.com/bl2nk Markus

      You can't. Atleast not on the Nexus S.

  • http://www.burakcalik.com/ xmRipper

    Good news there!

  • Victor Stuber

    This is bad. Stop changing Android's core functionality. 4.0 is supposed to simplify the apps by showing menu items on the screen. What's the point of this extra crap.

    • ocdtrekkie

      Options if people want them. Keep in mind, the menu button will still appear for non-4.0-optimized apps.

    • infin/itive

      This is good. If someone doesn't want the legacy functionality, they need not use this mod. Calling it 'crap' is childish. The flexibility of Android is part of what makes it so special. Removing the Search button seemed to be a move in the wrong direction - toward the rigid simplicity of iOS. It is encouraging that others see the value in a persistent Search and/or Menu key.
      The GN is an option for me now, and that is a good thing.

  • Daniel

    Notably, the G1 lacked the search button, but had call answer and end buttons. I loved those hardware buttons.

    • Freak4Dell

      I would gladly give up the search button for hardware call and end buttons. I also love to see hardware buttons for navigation in general (home, menu, back, etc.) on some phones where it fits.

      • zach

        I have my power button at the top of the phone act as an "end-call" button. makes it easier to hang up

    • http://androidpolice.com Brian O’Toole

      Right you are... but it had a search button on the keyboard, so I'm sticking with what I said :P

  • Freak4Dell

    Awesome. I like the menu button, so if I ever end up with an ICS phone that doesn't have buttons, it's nice to know there's a way to get them back.

  • Kree Terry

    sweet, this is why i love android.

  • Tyler C

    It makes me happy to see this, I frequently use all 4 capacitive touch buttons on my Thunderbolt and can't imagine not having them.

  • l

    What Twitter Clientis that in the screenshots?

    • http://androidpolice.com Brian O’Toole

      That is Tweetdeck.