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**.

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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

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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 ...