89 comments on “Enable On-Screen Android Navigation Buttons on the Galaxy S3 (Requires Root)

  1. Wow, thanks! That’s made my S3 into a souped-up Galaxy Nexus, which is what I wanted in the first place. My phone required editing a different key layout file, however, specifically:
    I don’t know if this is because I’m running CyanogenMod 10.1, or because the Verizon S3 is different. I did notice that Generic.kl said in the comments that it’s for USB keyboards. Editing sec_touchkey.kl has only disabled the Menu and Back keys, however. Commenting out the Home key in that file (or any other, I’ve done it in five or six at this point) hasn’t disabled it for me.

    • Nice catch, Noah- typo on my part! It’s the sec_touchkey.kl file, not the generic file. Updated the post to the correct file. Nice little hacks, aren’t they?

  2. using qemu.hw.mainkeys=0 on a rooted phone does give me the soft keys, however, the menu soft key does not function the same way. It shows me the recently opened apps instead of the menu of an app. Any reason its doing that?

    • Sorry, Andrew, I’m not sure why that would be. I feel like there was a rom-related bug where the soft keys get “stuck” and think they’re being long-pressed instead of single presses, but that shouldn’t have anything to do with enabling the on-screen navi.

      • Brant, I have the same problem as Andrew. Anyone else spotted this or have a solution? Thanks

      • That’s a bummer to hear. It’s a no-brainer trade for me, but I don’t take a lot of screenshots. Good for people to know, though!

      • Brandt,

        Yes, my capacitve keys are destroyed (by water, doh!), so getting the soft key to show the menu and not the recent items is pretty vital to keeping the S3 usable.


    • Brandt/Andrew/Iain…..

      just on the menu soft key, same thing for me, on my stock 4.1 TW S3.

      The on-screen menu key just gives the recent apps list……

      no way a replacement for in-app capacitive menu key functionality….

      but most new apps do have a way of getting to app settings, using the in-app menu/settings or action bar…

      the three vertical dots are the action overflow, for functions which cannot be shown on an action bar!!

      As you can see here….


      the very idea of a menu seems to be frowned upon by Android Devs……

      And, there is now an App, SoftKey Enabler, to perform this total function, [almost]….

      I mean without needing to edit your build.prop, the app does it….see Play link below:


      However, it is missing the disable of the existing capacitive keys….but it can be used to enable or disable the on-screen keys.

      You need root and busybox.

      Hope this info is helpful guys, cheers.

      • Thanks, Irishpancake. It’s a neat app, although it doesn’t, of course, solve Andrew’s and my main issue.

        Brandt, does your first response to Andrew above suggest that a change to JB 4.2.2 (I have 4.1.2) might solve the menu/last item issue?


      • Unsure if it’s a version thing, but for me when I enable the navigation bar I get “Buttons and Layout” under Interface in Settings. In there you can move around the soft keys and add a full-time menu key, as opposed to just when the dev says so. That’s how I have mine, from left to right: Menu, Recent, Home, Back. Take a look around, though, as your settings menu may be different. Hope that helps!

      • Brandt/Andrew/Iain…..

        I think I didn’t express myself very well before, regarding the virtual nav keys, and the menu function…

        I think the traditional menu function, provided by the capacitive menu key, is meant to be defunct, if we use the soft keys, by design as per Google/Android dev advices….

        the menu function is meant to be provided in the app Action Bar, or the overflow [three vertical buttons] from 4.0 up, introduced in 3.0

        per this post….


        In my Stock TW 4.1 S3[International] ROM , there is no option for Buttons and Layout in Settings, after enabling the Nav Bar…..

        and no option for a fully functional Menu soft-key….but I would love it to be so, as I think the loss of the Menu Function is retrograde….IMO….

        That’s it guys, thanks again….

      • Hi Irishpancake,

        Thanks very much for your last reply – that makes it clear why I couldn’t find the “Buttons & Layout” options within settings myself! I agree with you – not having the menu button option is a backward step. And, given that Samsung have that as one of its capacative keys, they agree with you too.

        Brandt – do you think the menu key is enabled through 4.3 Cyanogenmod- 10.2.xxxx?

        Thanks again to both of you.

      • Lads- Sorry if I misunderstood. I’m just a humble caveman- your world frightens and confuses me!

        Iain, “Buttons and Layout” definitely on CM versions 10.1 and up. Then you can setup the soft keys however you want. As I mentioned in another reply, unless you like living on the bleeding edge, you might want to go the the highest nightly of 10.1, rather than coming up to 4.3/10.2 as it’s still a little buggy. They’re fixing things like gangbusters every night, though, so should be solid in a month or so. You also could try Beanstown106’s Jelly “Beans” rev 18. I don’t know if it’s in there, but it might ease you into the custom ROM world.

      • Brandt,

        No worries at all – you and irishpancake have been very helpful.

        Thanks for this recommendation to try the CM 10.1. I’ll definitely try this over the next couple of days.

        Best wishes

    • Without knowing more, my guess would be that you’re either not rooted, or the software you’re using to edit the file doesn’t have write access. Good luck!

  3. Stock video player controls crash in landscape mode with virtual keys on… Any way to deal with this??

    • I’m sorry, Malik this is the first I’ve heard of it. I’ll see if I can borrow my wife’s stock G3 and see if I can duplicate.

  4. How van i save and exit the changes i made with root editor while my hard menu keys don’t work?

    • That could be a problem- Why don’t your hard keys work? You may have to research a way to edit the build.prop in recovery, or perhaps flash it somehow via Odin? Above my paygrade, I’m afraid.

      • Hi..thanks for getting back…

        I am still on Stock Samsung TW….[Baseband I9300XXELLA Build JZO54K.I9300XXELLA]

        Rooted, and SIM unlocked.

        Regards, danny

      • Been off full stock for a while, so I can’t verify the problem, but I can offer a solution- In stock TW under “Motions” there’s an option for a screen swipe motion to take a screen capture. Takes a couple practice swipes to get used to, but when I was on stock it was all I used and it worked well. No false positives or anything. Hope that helps!

        If anyone out there can verify whether or not the button behavior is disabled for them by enabling the soft keys, please leave a comment!

      • Hey thanks again….

        here’s the thing, I knew about the swipe method, and it works, normally…thanks for that 🙂

        but I wanted/needed a screenie of a YT vid playing with the screen rotated 90 degrees, and try as I might, could not get the screen cap to work with the swipe method, rotated….

        it just pulled down notification, or stopped the vid, of something else, but never took the screen cap. I even tried it by swiping right/left, left/right, rotated, or as per normal….no go!!!

        So, I disabled the on-screen android buttons, and I was able to get that screen cap!!!! at last….:)

        it was for a user who had a problem with the new YT app, no progress bar showing on his device, but i have it, on my S3, and wanted a screenie to show it, now I got it….

        I may or may not enable them again, not sure???

        BTW, whicc custom ROM do you recommend, or should I wait for 4.3…it’s coming to the S3!!!!

        Thanks again mate….good article.

      • OK, so it was a fairly specific use case- got it. Still, I can understand the frustration. Guess it’s all about weighing the options, eh? I love the soft keys, and it’s the first thing I do when I flash a rom, but to each their own. At least you know if you >need< to re-enable the button capture you can comment out the line in the build.prop, restart, and take care of business.

        As for which rom, I'm currently on the 4.3 Cyanogenmod- 10.2.xxxx. The 10.1 nightlies were super stable, but these 10.2 ones are a little flakey. I'd say if you want to take the leap go for the last 10.1 nightly they did. Worked like a champ. Give 10.2 some time and it'll get there too. I don't think you're missing much on 4.3- it's a pretty incremental update. My wife uses Jelly'Beans' Modified Touchwiz (Rev 18?) and loves it, so that's another option if you're not ready to go "all in". Be well!

      • Thank you so very much, for the comprehensive reply and your time.

        So, Cyanogen…..I have used it on other phones, and my cheap Chinese Tablet, so I am familiar…

        I think I need to make the leap soon, and I also have this “insane chip”, but no sign of SDS happening yet, just the known bug regarding the clipboard crash, after 20 or so cut and paste ops, phone just crashes, no warning at all….crazy or what???

        Quickest fix here is to use the Samsung Kb to clear the contents, before it gets to 20 or so!!!

        Thanks again, good to talk, and be well yourself!!!

      • Just a quick followup as I happened to need to do it last night- as of the latest nightly for CM 10.2 (Sept 4th) the VOL_DOWN+POWER combo works for screenshots. You have to hold it for a half a second or so.

      • Brandt,

        A follow up from me on enabling the menu soft key .

        I tried the CM 10.1 (then 9.1, then a later version of 10.1 again), but always got a repeated boot loop issue, which was quite a pain for a root newbie like me. Eventually I was able to recover my backup (after I learnt how to FAT32 format a 64gb card so it could be recognsied by CWM). I then looked for the Jelly Beans ROM, but it looked as if it wasn’t applicable to the i9300 international S3, so i avoided that. I finally tried Foxhound 2.7, which seems well rated, but that didn’t reveal the buttons options…

        So, I tried the easier route of searching for apps to do the dirty work for me! One, called Auto Hide Soft Keys, by GMD, allows a show/hide navbar and includes a menu key. It’s not perfect, but it ain’t bad.

        And at least I now know a little more about Android.

        Hope this helps someone.


  5. Hi all,

    tried this and it’s working on my S3 using CM10.2 (Android 4.3).

    However, I do not understand why manufacturers are using the screen button instead of the capacitive buttons below. Maybe it’s cheaper, but we always waste a lot of screen space, while there is more than enough space below the screen for the buttons.

    It really affects my decission which phone to buy.

    Anyway, thanks for the trick. I tried it on my S3 and it consolidates my decission never to buy a phone without capacitve buttons (as long as I can get them)!


    • Sorry, man, I’d need a little more specifics to even posit a guess. I can say it’s incredibly unlikely that enabling the OSN had anything to do with your situation, though.

  6. I just did what you wrote. The 3 buttons come but they’re not in the middle.
    Actually there’re “recent apps/Home/Back” but they’re arrange to be in the right part at the bottom of the phone.
    The recent apps button(left one) is nearly at the middle is there any mistake?
    Using JDQ39.I9300XXUFME7(S3 Android 4.2.2)

    • Not anything in the build.prop that I know of could cause things to be weird like that, but there was some funny business with some of the stock Sammy apps that would cause it to display weird, or over other buttons, etc. Is it all the time or some of the time- any way to get me a screenshot?

      • Only think I can think of is to search and see if any new settings pages got added. On Cyanogenmod, it was added under “Interface” as “Buttons and Layout”. From there I was able to reorganize the buttons- it kind of looks like it’s set up for four buttons and the far left is blank. That’s the best I’ve got, I’m afraid- the further and further out we get from the time I posted this, the more people I’m seeing with problems.

      • Ok I’ve factory reset my device back to 4.1.2(Official Firmware)
        And after using the code, everything is the best.
        The 3 icons are arranging in good position and when getting into an app or page that could use menu button, it changes to 4 icons. So everything is perfect now.
        Waiting for 4.3 Official Firmware.
        Thank you so much 🙂

  7. If your Galaxy s3 back and menu button stopped working after a glass replacement, would a on screen button work.

  8. It all works but I have one more problem.
    I have disabled my power button becouse its to sensitive (its broken in some way).
    I have put on screen navigation buttons and I have put my home hardware key as my power button.
    But when i hold the original power button for couple of seconds the phone turns off, and as its pretty sensitive when I put my phone in the pocket it preses the power button and my phone turns off.
    So the question is can I replace long hold power button with long hold home button to do its work?
    Sorry if my english is bad 🙂
    Please help

    • Unfortunately I don’t think it’s possible to do so- having the ability to disable the power button would be a dangerous thing in the big picture. An app could take over your phone and you’d have no way to kill it if you didn’t have a removable battery like the S3!

    • You must be rooted and have the directory mounted in read/write mode using software like Root Explorer. Give that a try!

  9. Recently disabled the home , back keys with adding #.
    Now i am unable to re-enable the keys even after deleting the #. What to do?

    • Should come back after reboot. Only other thing I can think of is to make sure you’ve mounted the directory in write mode, and that the file is actually saving properly. If using Root Explorer, it automatically makes a .bak version of your old file, so you could delete your modified key file and rename the .back to the proper name. That’s about all I’ve got, I’m afraid.

  10. Dear Brother ‘ Brandt

    Very Very Thanks To You
    My Lg Optimus G Hard Touch Button Not Working From 2 Months
    I’m Use Soft Key With Your tips On My Lg Optimus G & Re-back My Optimus G

    brother One Things I Want To Know That-
    If There Any Possibility To Re size The Soft Key Little Smaller ?
    Because It’s Take More Space On Screen .
    Thank You Very Much Again

    • Not that I know of, brother- I’m sorry! But usually where there’s a will, there’s a way, so keep searching and post the answer if you find it!

  11. Hi.
    Enabled Softkeys on rooted Galaxy Note 8 running JB 4.2.2
    Everything works fine but the Softkey “back” button always requires a fast double tap.
    Why is that and how can I change it to a normal single tap?

    Thanks a lot.

  12. I tried this on S3 with android 4.3. The softkeys are located to the bottom right side of the screen. The back and home button working fine but the menu button is doing the same as the home button. I think because they are both located in the middle part of the screen and so do the same? Anyone an idee to solve this? I dont want to go back to Android 4.1.x where it was working well due to the comments.

    • Sounds like something funny with the build. I’ve had no problems all the way through 4.4.2, so it’s not a core OS issue. Also the fact that it’s off to the right is weird. If you look at my screenshot, you can see it’s centered. Good luck!

    • I also have the same issue on a rooted stock 4.3 Galaxy S III. I just removed it. They work fine on CM11.

  13. Hiii,
    I am using xolo Q 700 , its touch screen was broken. The upper part of the crack of the screen working fine but the lower part of the crack is not working properly. So I can’t access the navigation key of my phone, mainly the back button, so is there any way that I can control that back button through a software or I can place that back button on upper left most corner or upper right most corner. Pls reply ,or u can mail me on roysayantan.sunny@gmail.com

    • My understanding is that it can only be at the bottom of the screen. There may be a hack, but I’m afraid I don’t know it…

  14. When disabling the hardware keys on my AT&T Galaxy S III, only the menu and back keys disable. I can prevent waking on home key, but it won’t completely disable. Help?

  15. thanks. that works. i haven’t tried a lot yet, so don’t know if i will get the same issues as above people, but one thing i want to add is that the root explorer trick is not working or atleast for me. i tried 3 different root file browser, none of them worked. finally i found “Build Prop Editor” on google play and that thing did the job for me.
    although, my keys are bit shifted on the right side, dont know why. i do have my one hand operation turned off. will see, but still a nice add on 🙂

    • Weird. I use Root Explorer every time I do it, which is every time I flash an update to CyanogenMod. I do that probably a couple times a month. Only thing I can think of is that you have to mount that folder as read/write and then “open in text editor” to make the changes. Then they don’t apply until after reboot.

      • it may be possible. mine was not CyanogenMod rom, a different one (DN3), maybe that is why. nevertheless Build Prop Editor app is pretty nice and lets you edit the build file pretty easily too.
        thanks again 🙂

    • Sorry, no idea! I usually search around on XDA Developers for stuff like that. I almost always find that if I’ve thought of it, somebody thought of it there first!

  16. Hi Brandt,
    After a search of how to enable on screen navigation lights, and a long look around, found that your descriptive way of how to do it is really the best one. I followed the steps and ended with success.
    Three difficulties I encountered, which have nothing to do with your procedure:
    1) How to change my System from r/o to r/w. 2) The generic.kl was under keylayout. Took me hours to find the answers, but solved the two problems.
    By the way, my mobile is a Galaxy S3 Mini I8190XXAMG4 CyanogenMod 11.0 ver 4.4.2.
    3rd problem is the Menu and Back lights, I switched them off from Settings/Buttons/Backlight, tried to disable Illuminate buttons in normal position of 5 sec, min 1 sec and Don’t turn off which is the best choice because it last longest, but the lights always come back, after some hours of sleep, during charging or just come back for no reason at all.
    Is there a key or someway to switch them permanently off as long as the navigation lights are on the screen?
    Appreciate very much your expertise help.
    Best regards,

    • Self reply to help anyone needing it.
      Hi Brandt,
      Awaiting your reply to my above problem, I did some research and fortunately found the solution to disable the navigation buttons lights PERMANENTLY.
      Launch your Root Editor and go to:
      “System (Root)/sys/class/leds/button-backlight” then long press “max_brightness”.
      Press “Permissions” and Select “Owner root [Write]” and OK.
      Open your Text Editor, change 255 to 0 and save…et viola.
      Best Regards,

      • Hi Jimmy, been on the road. I use Root Explorer to gain write access to the system directory. Not sure I understand your other questions- the methods in the article all seem to work fine as far as disabling the soft keys.

  17. Hi Brandt, hope you enjoyed your trip. I use FX File Explorer (Root Add-On).
    Bad news, for 24Hrs the lights were out, that is when I decided to share with you, but all of a sudden, during charging, they were back on, repeated the procedure several times, same result, the “255” always come back and replacing it with “0” lasts only till the charger is plugged in, the lights are back on, which did not happen during the first 24Hrs!!!
    Now have to start all over again to find a solution for those crazy lights.
    I don’t know what to say, can you help in any way?

    • Hey Jimmy had a thought. If your objection to the lights is during sleep times, I highly recommend Gentle Alarm. It’s a great little alarm app, and it has the ability to blank the notification AND soft key lights. Probably why I don’t notice the soft lights very much. Also allows the screen to be set to a very low level on the clock. (unpaid testimonial!)

  18. No, there is a misunderstanding here, I want the lights out for 2 reasons:
    1) It is very distracting, ugly and useless to have both soft lights ON.
    2) To save the battery

    • Yep I got ya. Just wanted to find out if it was only at night or not. Good luck and if you find the answer let me know!

  19. Pingback: AOSP Lockscreen? - Android Forums

  20. Hi, so just to clarify, you are doing this on CM11? Because when I do this on CM11, nothing happens.

    • Bad news: not sure why it wouldn’t work for you. Good news: Most recent builds of CM 11 have added “Enable on-screen nav bar” Setting under Settings->Buttons! No more build.prop necessary!

      • Yeah, I have settings under “Buttons” for navigation bar, but no option to turn it on. I’m running a nightly from last week on CM11 d2lte. I have Verizon, but I don’t think it matters. Thanks for your help anyway.

        If anyone else has any ideas I would love to hear them.

      • That’s weird- I have a checkbox on mine, plain as day. CM11, was on the nightlies until the last milestone came out. Decided to ride the “stable” channel for a while, but all of them have had that feature for a couple of months at least- made my freaking day when I noticed. Any chance it’s a bad flash? Maybe a clean install?

  21. I did what you said to do and after I rebooted it still wouldn’t show up. Is it because I am on cynagemod?

    • Hiya! Sorry to hear you’re having trouble. Works fine on CM, but in CM11 they added it to the settings menu under “Buttons”, “Enable on-screen navigation”, so you don’t need to do this if you’re running the latest builds of CM11.

  22. I did it and the soft buttons worked! However, all my srock apps plus widgets are crashing and not loading. They don’t even have there stock icons, instead it is just an android.

    Sent from my LG Optimus L90 (D415)

    • Hey Steve- adding the Nav shouldn’t have anything to do with that. Probably coincidental instead of causal. Sounds like bigger fish, I’m afraid.

  23. Pingback: Links and research – Murilo Pontes Blog

  24. Pingback: Artigo: Utilidades e pesquisas - murilo pontes blog

  25. Pingback: Research topics - murilo pontes

Comments are closed.