Windows Phone 7 Tips & Tricks: Hardware Buttons

August 5, 2011, By Christian Cawley

One thing that is easy to overlook on Windows Phone 7 is the selection of hardware buttons that are offered. Unlike the iPhone, Windows Phones offer several buttons for controlling applications, along with the standard power, volume and camera buttons.

The Back, Start and Search buttons are ideal for navigating your way through the various hidden features and functions on Windows Phones, such as launching voice activated search and finding your way back to the Start screen in an instant.

Start Button

With the Start button, you can exit whatever app, game or native function that you were previously using and head straight back to the Start screen, where all of the usual tiles will be waiting for you. However, this is only the beginning of the power of this button.

The Start button hides a great hands-free tool: if you are driving, for instance, and have the phone attached to a dashboard- or windscreen-mounted clamp with a hands-free kit attached, you can tap and hold the Start button to open the voice search command, which can be used to find contacts on your phone!

Even if you’re not driving, you can also use voice search to find things via Bing.

Back Button

This useful button in situated in the lower-left corner of a Windows Phone, and will enable you to cycle backwards through menus and previously launched applications. The Back button is also used in the browser to go to previous webpages, although note that if you exit the browser at any point, this recent history is lost.

If you press the Back button enough times, you will eventually arrive at the Start screen!

Search Button

This useful button can be used in many different ways, depending on the context. For instance, if you are accessing the People Hub, you can use Search to open a search box to find particular contacts. Similarly when used in the Marketplace you can use Search to find a specific app or tune; meanwhile, when using the browser, tapping Search will take you to a search engine website.

Most of the time, however, tapping Search will open Bing, where you are treated to an image of the day and some facts, as well as a search engine tool for finding local information, news and search results from the World Wide Web.

Other Buttons

In addition to the main user interface buttons, you can also access functions on your Windows Phone with the following hardware buttons:

Power Button – this is used to turn the display on and off, as well as to switch your phone off with a long press. You will know when your phone is being switched off as the “Goodbye!” message will be displayed.

Volume Rocker – this is used to alter your volume, of course, but is also used to switch to vibrate mode: use of the rocker displays the volume control on your phone, with a small button on the right of the screen allowing you to switch between vibrate and volume.

Camera Button – naturally, this button will launch your device camera. It is also used for taking snaps!

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