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How to understand TikTok’s homescreen icons

How to understand TikTok’s homescreen icons


If you’re just trying out TikTok, you’re going to be really confused by all the icons on your homescreen. Let’s go through them so you’ll know what you’re doing.

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Hand holding a phone with a TikTok logo against an illustrated background
Illustration by Samar Haddad / The Verge

Icons have become a very handy way of accessing the features of your various apps — especially when you’re dealing with a lot of features on the relatively small screen of your phone. However, if you’re not yet familiar with a particular app and you are faced with a plethora of icons, most of which are not labeled, how do you know what they are and how you should be handling them?

(And believe me, if you have this problem, you’re not the only one — I can’t tell you how many times I’ve hit a mysterious icon out of curiosity and then started yelling, “I didn’t want to do that!” at the screen....)

So I’m going to go over the icons you will probably see as a viewer on your TikTok homescreen and various other screens. Keep in mind that apps are very changeable; it’s possible that the icons that I’m seeing today may have been changed a month or even a week from when this was written. But hopefully, there will still be enough info here to help.

Bottom of the screen

Luckily, most of the icons at the bottom of your homescreen are, in fact, labeled, but I thought I’d run through them just in case. From left to right:

TikTok icons, left to right: Home, Now, Add, Inbox, Profile.
TikTok icons, left to right: Home, Now, Add, Inbox, Profile.

Home: this will take you back to your home screen — although, of course, not necessarily the same video you were watching before. Tiktok is anything but predictable.

Now: when BeReal — which has its users send out short videos at random moments — became a thing, it was almost inevitable that TikTok would want to become part of that. The Now feature, when activated, sends you daily notices to capture and send out photos taken with your front and back cameras.

Add: that big plus sign in the middle is, of course, where you go to add a new TikTok video. Sorry, I know it’s obvious, but it’s got to be part of this rundown.

Inbox: where you can check all your recent activities, although the layout can be a little confusing. There is an Activities section that offers info on such things as how many people viewed your profile and available videos on how to use TikTok. A Messages section lets you know if you have new followers and if you’ve shared any videos. You can also pick out people from your contacts list or from a list of “people you may know” to follow.

Profile: takes you to your profile page. When they go there, people will see your user name, a short bio, a count of how many people are following you and whom you are following, and all the public videos you’ve created.

What you will see on your own profile page is a little different. Instead of just your own videos, you can access your photo collections, any videos you have created but not made public, any videos, sounds, effects, or other aspects that you’ve marked as a favorite, and all the videos you’ve “liked.”

Right side of the screen

TikTok right side icons: Creator, Like, Comments, Add to Favorites, Share, Sound.
TikTok right side icons: Creator, Like, Comments, Add to Favorites, Share, Sound.

These icons are not labeled, but once you know what they’re for, they’re pretty easy to remember. What you may see are numbers, which show how many people have liked, commented on, or favorited the video.

Top icon: the symbol for the creator who made the video. A small plus symbol at the bottom of the icon lets you follow that creator.

Heart icon: you like this video! And you may notice that, if you tap on that, the heart doesn’t only turn red, but the Share icon (three icons down) will show the symbol of your chosen social media service — under the assumption that, if you like it, you may want to share it.

Icon with three dots: this leads to the comments section for that video. Note that tapping on the comments icon will not stop the video from running, so if that irritates you (it does me), make sure to pause the video first.

Flag icon: adds the video to your collection of favorites. When you tap on this, a pop-up window will show you that it’s been added to your favorites; if you tap on Manage on the right side of the pop-up, you can add it to an existing collection of favorites or start a new one.

Share icon: gives you access not only to a variety of ways to share the video with friends and followers but also to some other features. For example, you can report the video (if you feel there’s something problematic), tap Not interested (to hopefully inform the algorithm that you don’t want to see any more like this), save it, or create a Duet (in which you react via split screen to that video).

The bottom icon will let you see all the other videos that use that sound and can allow you to save and use that sound as well.

Top of the screen

If you look at the top of the screen, from left to right, you’ll find some icons that will help you switch your viewing:

Live: tap the Live icon (which looks a bit like a TV set), and you will be switched to TikTok Live, where you can watch a live feed with (or without) comments (and gifts) from viewers. If you don’t like the live video you’re watching, tap on Explore on the top right, and you can find more. And if you follow some specific TikTokers, they will often let you know when they can be found in a Live feed.

Following: allows you to swipe through all the feeds you’re actively following; a red dot next to it indicates that there is new material available.

For You: the basic TikTok experience; you’ll be fed a variety of videos depending on what the TikTok algorithm decides you’ll like to see


There is actually an icon that often appears on the left side of the screen that is easily overlooked. It is the Caption icon, and because it is almost transparent, it can be hard to spot. If the video creator has enabled captions for the video, they will appear if you tap on the icon. If you want to hide the captions again, tap on one of the captions, and you will see a Hide captions button.

TikTok screen showing baby on lawn
The just-visible square (lower left, just above the creator’s name) indicates there are captions available.
TikTok still of baby on lawn with closed captions.
If you click on a caption, you can hide it again.