How To Make Your Home Screen More Manageable and Efficient in Minutes – Android Edition

If you have never tried to organize your apps, you may find yourself frustrated, flipping from screen to screen looking for the app you want. As a librarian, I am always looking for ways to better organize my environment to minimize frustration and maximize efficiency.

Both iOS and Android have options to organize your home screen, and many of them are similar. In fact, last week we published an article on this same subject for iOS. However, Android comes with so many opportunities for customization, the screenshots you see here may not reflect what is on your phone.

Fun Fact: Beyond the differences between Android version numbers (currently 13), Pixel phones and Samsung phones have differences added by their manufacturers. Your mobile carrier may also have made changes to your version of Android if you bought your phone from them. Android users also have the option to use “launcher” apps, which provide many more customization options for the look and operation of your device.

Your Home Screen vs. Your App Drawer

Icons for your apps live in two different places. Whenever you install an app, it is always installed in your app drawer. Depending on your settings, it may or may not also create an icon on your home screen automatically. The home screen is the default screen you see when you unlock your phone. The app drawer can be accessed either by swiping up from the bottom of your phone screen or by tapping the app drawer icon (if available):

Screenshot of app drawer "waffle" icon

The app drawer arranges apps alphabetically, with a search bar at the top. There isn’t much room for customization here without a third-party launcher app, so the rest of this article will focus on organizing the home screen.

The home screen is what you see when you tap the home button/icon or swipe up from the bottom of the screen, depending on whether you have gestures set up. The home screen can actually be several “pages.” Swiping to the left or right from the home page will show you how many pages your home screen is.

Create a New Home Screen Page

To create a new home screen page, press and hold a blank space (between icons/widgets) until the menu overlay pops up. Lift your finger and swipe to the left or right until you see the +. Click on it to add a page.

Screenshot of the home screen options overlay showing the plus icon to add a new page

Adding and Removing Icons from the Home Screen

To add an icon to the home screen:

  • Open the app drawer
  • Press and hold on the app to add to home
  • When the home screen appears, slide your finger to the desired spot and lift your finger off the screen to drop the icon
  • If you receive a message that there is no more room on the home screen, try again, and drag the icon to the edge of the full page to create a new, blank page.

To see the same app icons at the bottom of every page, which is handy for apps you use often, you can drag icons to the “dock” (bottom row on the page).

To remove an icon from the home screen:

  • Press and hold an icon to reveal a menu
  • Lift your finger without sliding it on the screen to reveal a menu
  • Tap remove
Screenshot of the menu that appears with a long press of the app icon, where remove is the bottom option

Note: Deleting the icon from the home screen does not delete the app from your phone.

Quick Menus for Apps

Some app icons are designed to display a context menu when long-pressed (press and hold). These menus contain shortcuts to popular app options. Here is an example of the context menu that pops up when I long-press the Fitbit icon on my phone:

Fitbit context menu with shortcuts to track exercise, log food, log water, and log weight.

Tapping any of these brings me directly to the entry screen, rather than having to open the app and navigate to the logging screen.

Moving Icons Between Home Screen Pages

  • Press and hold an icon to select it
  • Drag it to the edge of the screen until it flips to the next page.
  • Slide your finger to the desired spot and lift your finger off the screen to drop the icon
  • If the screen does not have another page to put the icon on, you may need to follow the instructions above for adding a page.

Creating Folders to Group App Icons

To group icons, long-press an icon and drag it over the top of another icon and let go. The icon will now look like a split of both icons. Tap that to open the folder. Tap on “edit name” to add a name, if desired. Tap the three-button icon to sort or select additional apps.

Screenshot of the folder overlay, zoomed in on the app icons

To separate the icons again, open the folder and tap and hold one. Drag it out of the folder and lift your finger to let it drop on the home screen in a blank spot. You may need to slide between screens or create a new page to find an open spot.

Adding Widgets to Your Home Screen

  • Press and hold a blank space (between icons/widgets) until the menu overlay pops up.
  • Tap”widgets”
Screenshot showing menu overlay with wallpapers, settings, and widgets options showing
  • Scroll through the resulting page to see what widgets are available
  • To add one, press and hold until the home screen appears
  • Slide your finger to find the desired spot to drop the widget. Make sure there is enough room, as some widgets have minimum size requirements.
  • To resize a widget, press and hold it until a menu pops up. Select resize, then drag the dots on any side of the widget to make it larger or smaller.
Screenshot of widget menu with options: configure, app info, remove, padding, and resize.


Using folders and widgets to organize icons on your home screen can help you maximize productivity while minimizing frustration trying to find your apps. Do you use folders and widgets on your phone? Let us know in the comments.

How To Stop Being Disturbed – Android Edition

Last week we showed you how to use Do Not Disturb on Apple devices. There is a similar functionality available for Android devices that we’d like to highlight this week.

What Is the Do Not Disturb Feature?

In case you missed last week’s article, the Do Not Disturb (DND) feature is exactly what it sounds like. You can set your phone to turn off notifications so you won’t be disturbed. With Android, you can schedule times to not be disturbed or you can set it on the fly. It’s not an all-or-nothing proposition, though. Suppose you’re used to setting DND at night to avoid being woken up, but your friend is expecting a baby and you want to make sure that call/text comes through no matter what time of day it is. You can set that contact’s communications to ring through the DND setting.

Use DND on the Fly, on a Schedule, or Both

If you’re about to go into a meeting or a classical music concert, you may want to turn on DND manually. To do that, swipe down from the top of your device to reveal shortcuts. If you only see 4 shortcuts, swipe down on those shortcuts to show more. Depending on where your DND shortcut is, you may need to swipe left or right to find it. In the screenshot, my DND is on the left side. I marked it in red to make it stand out.

Screenshot showing swipe-down menu with Do Not Disturb toggle circled in red on lower left

When you tap the icon quickly, it lights up and blocks all notifications and alarms (unless you have set exemptions). If you press and hold the icon, you get options to choose from. Tap the button at the top of the options page to turn it on or off. Just below that, you will see the kinds of exceptions you can make:

Screenshot of Do Not Disturb options screen
  • Clicking on People brings you to a screen with two options – messages and calls. Select one to choose who (from your contacts and conversations) can interrupt DND with that type of communication.
  • Selecting Apps will allow you to pick which app notifications come through. For example, if you don’t want to hear email notifications but want texts to break through the DND, this is where you would set that.
  • Alarms and other interruptions could be helpful if you want things like reminders and calendar events to override DND.
  • Schedules allows you to enter a sleep schedule or set options like activating DND automatically while gaming.
  • Duration will let you set an expiration time or leave it set to turn off manually.
    • By default, DND turns off sounds. If you would also like to turn off visual notifications, use the final option on this page.

Using Pixel Phone and Stand?

If you’re using a Pixel Stand to charge your Pixel phone, you can set it to go into DND mode anytime it is docked.

  • Open the phone’s Settings app
  • Tap “connected devices”
  • If you don’t see “Pixel Stand” under “previously connected devices,” tap “See All.”
  • Next to “Pixel Stand”, tap settings
  • Select “Do Not Disturb while docked”

Other docks and phone models may also have this feature. Check your documentation for details.


Do Not Disturb is a helpful tool if you want to configure your phone to stay quiet when you can’t be interrupted. If you’d like to learn even more about how to use Do Not Disturb on an Android phone, check out Google’s DND help page. Do you use DND on your phone? Let us know in the comments.

Use This Tool to Share Videos In a Kid-Safe Way

YouTube is an excellent learning tool for people of all ages. To make it profitable for the platform and content creators, videos often contain ads, suggested content, and comments from other users that may or may not be appropriate for sensitive users. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a tool that could strip that all away when you share a video? There is! And it’s legal.

Introducing VideoLink

VideoLink is a free service that “cleans” the extraneous clutter from a video to provide a distraction-free viewing experience. They do have paid tiers available for advanced sharing and saving an unlimited number of links, but for most purposes, the free version is enough.

If you want the sanitized links to last for longer than an hour, you will need to create a free account to save them.

Using VideoLink

To use VideoLink, paste a YouTube link into the entry field on their home page and click “generate link.”

After a moment, the page will redirect and you will see your YouTube video embedded in a VideoLink page. But you still have options to configure.

Below the video, there is an edit tab where you can change the title or description, make it a private video, hide buttons, or add it to a VideoList (like a YouTube playlist). When you are done editing, save and preview.

If you have not already, saving a link prompts you to create an account. When I tried this from the converted video screen, I kept getting a weird message about needing to allow third-party cookies in order to log in. I had to go back to the home page to successfully create an account. You may want to create yours before pasting your first link in.

To view your saved links and lists, click on your name in the upper right corner and select the option. This is also where your account settings live.

How Would You Use This Tool?

Does this tool have a use case for you? If so, let us know in the comments. We’d love to hear how you are using it.

Sketchsplanations: Learn New Concepts From Illustrations

If you have ever lacked the words to describe a difficult concept, or if you are a person who learns well visually, Sketchsplanations may be the perfect site for you.

The idea behind the website is embedded in its subheading: explaining the world one sketch at a time. Jono Hey, the artist who created Sketchsplanations, draws one sketch per week that explains a concept. While I’m writing this, I am enjoying the humor in the fact that it would be easier to show you the website than explain what you can find there. I would urge you to head to Sketchsplanations and browse to get an idea of the types of explanations you will find there. If you’d like to look for specific subjects, check out the tags page for the website. I found the illustrations under the “what’s the difference between” tag to be very interesting.

I Love the Website! Where Can I Get More?

Sketchsplanations offers several ways to subscribe for more content. You can sign up to receive emails or use an RSS link in your favorite reader. If you don’t want the content to come to you, you can follow them on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, or Pinterest.

How to Stop Your USB Cable from Spying on You

Let’s be honest, not all of us are using the original USB cables that came with our phones and tablets when we bought them. Maybe it is lost, or maybe one cord just isn’t enough. Cords are cheap online, so why not grab a few extras? As it turns out, not all cables are created equal. Some could be used to steal your information.

How Can a USB Cable Be Dangerous?

Cables seem like pretty basic items, and it seems odd that an item without an electronic “brain” could pose a danger. Remember, though, that USB cables can be used to transfer data as well as charge hardware. If you want to put a picture from your phone onto your computer, you could plug it in and copy it over.

This same functionality could be used by bad actors to trigger a data transfer any time you use that wire in a device – even at a public charging station. You would assume that because it is branded as a charging station, that is all it does. But there is no good way to check if your wire is trying to do more. Some devices will not initiate data transfer without a confirmation prompt on the device, but that is not always the case. The only way to be sure your data remains safe would be to use an adapter that disables the data wires in the USB, allowing it to charge only.

USB Data Blocking Adapter

One inexpensive product that can protect you from unauthorized data transfers is a USB data-blocking adapter. It is a small dongle you place between your wire and the charger (or other devices) with the data wires removed so that it can only charge your device.

PortaPow (available at Amazon) is a trusted name in data-blocking technology, but neither I nor the library receives any compensation for mentioning them. No matter which brand you use, make sure there are no data wires at the end that plugs into the charging device.


If you are using after-market cables or public charging stations, it’s a sensible safety precaution to use a USB data blocker. At under $10 per adapter, this is one of the least expensive ways to secure your data. Do you use a USB data blocker? If so, let us know in the comments.