On my Samsung Galaxy S Android phone: if I start a couple of apps, I can get an overview of them in the 'Active applications' icon on my first screen.

Clicking this icon, shows me all active applications but allows me only to end them.

I find no way to activate them.

Pressing the center touchpath at the bottom displays the last 6 clicked icons - which may or may not be the ones running.

F.i. if I start 6 applications, I see these 6 icons, if I start a 7th one I see the last 6 started. I wont see the first icon again . So how can I activate this first one, other than knowing it is running, and tapping it's icon again ?

Please don't start telling me why I should start 6 or more applications. That's not the point, here , of course :)


You can't - at least not by using the system as it is installed. A well, no big deal, really. Just wanted to see if I was missing something here. Coming from a Windows background (and aren't we all because otherwise we should be holding an iPhone now), this did not seem to illogical. Thanks for all answers.

  • I keep my list of most used applications on the 'home' screen. So I dont have to use the ignoring 6 applications list. Great question!
    – Barfieldmv
    Commented Oct 8, 2010 at 13:01
  • For the record, Advanced Task Killer Free by ReChild can be used as a sort of an app switcher. You can set its "Default Click Action" to "Switch To". However, doing something like that isn't really the regular Android workflow.
    – Lie Ryan
    Commented Oct 10, 2010 at 14:23

6 Answers 6


The app Smart Taskbar will show you a list of the all tasks(apps) that are currently running on your device and allow you to switch to that app, similar to the native functionality but you are not limited to the 6 most recent apps.

Basically it opens from any screen and also lets you set some shortcuts and widgets and choose from all installed apps (like the app drawer) so you can complete any task from anywhere on your phone without having to go to the home screen first.

There are a bunch of other apps that let you switch between running apps, just search the market for "task switcher."


Sounds like you're overthinking it. Android goes out of it's way to intelligently manage applications and resources. When you leave an app it will generally keep running as long as the resources are available. Long pressing Home and selecting it or just launching the shortcut again should take you right back to the running app.

Theoretically it shouldn't matter if it is still running or not, though -- every app is supposed to save it's state in such a way that if the OS kills it before you come back, it should still be able to launch back to the same state you left it in. This isn't universally applied in programs yet, but it does seem to be much more widespread these days -- presumably because the developers are getting used to the "android way."

  • 1
    I know. But the application button gives me (at the moment already) 3 pages full of icons , and that list will grow for sure. I don't want to go to page 2 or 3 or 4 to restart (or call up depending on your view point) one of the listed icons. I started some before, and I just want to restart one of those .. not wade through all installed ones.
    – Edelcom
    Commented Oct 9, 2010 at 6:19
  • 1
    I can sympathize, but I still think you are working against the way the system is setup. There really is no running or not distinction, other than apps that are actively doing background work, and they will be leaving a notification in that case. If you have frequently used apps that you don't wish to dig to get to, perhaps you would be better served by shortcuts on your home screens or trying a home replacement app that allowed for organization of the app menu. I believe Launcher Pro does this, for example.
    – Saiboogu
    Commented Oct 10, 2010 at 22:53

I know of two other places in Android to get the list of what's currently running. (This is on my Motorola Droid.)

From the Home screen:

Settings | Applications | Running Services


Settings | Applications | Manage Applications | Running

The views are different; one shows all the services from each app, the other just shows the apps.

  • @Al E.: OK, same comment as the other anwser. You only see a list of running programs, you can't activate the program, or can you ? I want to activate it (bring it on top).
    – Edelcom
    Commented Oct 8, 2010 at 13:27
  • You need to start the app. Are you missing the application list? I don't know what Samsung has done to your interface, but on my Droid I have three icons on the bottom of my home screen. A phone on the left, a globe on the right (launches browser) and a grid in the middle, which pulls up the list of all the apps installed on my phone.
    – ale
    Commented Oct 8, 2010 at 13:34
  • I think he wants to switch to the app from the "running apps" list. Kind of like Alt+tab on Windows.
    – Matt
    Commented Oct 8, 2010 at 20:34
  • 2
    That's not how the phone works. If you want to use an app, you just tap the icon for it. For apps you want quick access to, make a shortcut on one of your home screens.
    – ale
    Commented Oct 9, 2010 at 19:56
  • 1
    @Al E. It's taken me a while to come to terms with this. For a while I was trying to use the phone like a windows machine, which it thankfully is not.
    – Matt
    Commented Oct 9, 2010 at 23:49

I usually started an application by inputting the name of the application on the Search Textbox. In my Samsung Spica, there is a dedicated "search button", I can click on the search button to go to the Search Textbox and start typing the first few letters of the apps I want to start; the autocomplete will do the rest and you can click on the application you want to start.

In Android, conceptually all programs are continuous and never halted. When the OS needs to reclaim memory, it pauses the application and asks it to save state; later on, the OS wakes the app up and asks it to load its state. Conceptually, applications never dies; conceptually, all applications are running all the time; Android's Activity life cycle is designed to give this sort of illusion.

  • I know. But the application button gives me (at the moment already) 3 pages full of icons , and that list will grow for sure. I don't want to go to page 2 or 3 or 4 to restart (or call up depending on your view point) one of the listed icons. I started some before, and I just want to restart one of those .. not wade through all installed ones.
    – Edelcom
    Commented Oct 9, 2010 at 6:21
  • @Edelcom: Did you read my first paragraph? You don't need to wade through all that icons, the quick search box can be used to search for installed applications as well as the web. You can type the first few letters of the applications' name, and the textbox searchs the app you want to start.
    – Lie Ryan
    Commented Oct 9, 2010 at 15:17
  • I did read your first paragraph? But, why should I need to remember the first chars of any application just to activate it ? For common ones like Facebook and Twitter, ok , but other ? The search box is very usefull, but for activating a running application ? Having said that: it really is not a big deal (my question that is). Coming from a Windows background (and arent't we all), I just found it strange to be able to call up the last 6 you clicked, but not the one's you decided not to terminate.
    – Edelcom
    Commented Oct 10, 2010 at 5:34
  • @Edelcom: But in Android, conceptually, all programs are always running all the time and never terminates, the "list of currently running programs" are exactly "all of your applications". If you have some favorite programs you use regularly, put a shortcut in your home screen; if you want to go back to a recently used app, 6 latest apps are shown (I don't think anyone can manage more than 6 active tasks at the same time, most human's brain can only hold 3-7 pieces of information at a time); if you want to start a rarely used app, either use the quick search or the full application menu.
    – Lie Ryan
    Commented Oct 10, 2010 at 14:09

A program like Advanced Task Killer will give you a list of running applications. Long press on one of them pops up a menu, and one of the options there is to switch to the application. You can also customize the long press so that the default action is 'switch to', saving you a menu.

There are lots of reasons why something like a task killer is not something you should be using, but I won't get into all that. I have it on there for the extremely rare occasion that I need to kill a rogue process.

You can also do a search over at App Brain for 'task switchers'. AppSwipe! looks decent, but I've not used it (or any of them).


This may not exactly answer your question, but if you press-and-hold the home button, you should get a list of the most recently-run applications. Pressing any of them will activate the app.

This is built in to (I believe) the launcher, so it is possible that this only applies to stock Android and that it has different behavior on TouchWiz (or whatever skin Samsung put on the Galaxy S phones).

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