Roku SDK Documentation : Remote Control Buttons

The Roku remote is unique to our platform, with a specific set of buttons each triggering different commands. Some buttons, like the dPad, are likely familiar to any user or developer. Other buttons, like the Instant Replay or Star buttons, might seem a little more unique. Below is an overview of the buttons on the Roku remote, how they work, and the standard behavior users expect when pressing them.

4-way Directional Pad (dPad)
Conventional uses of the Roku Remote's buttons:

  • While on a standard UI screen:
    • Use the directional pad to move the onscreen focus highlight up/down/left/right from one screen element to another.
    • Alternatively, in a "fixed-focus" model, use it to move the content or choices into the focus highlight.
  • During video playback:
    • dPad left/right: Pauses the video, reveals a horizontal row of BIFs or video key-frames, and users can navigate backwards/left and forward/right through the video via these key-frames: 


    • A single dPad pressed for left or right moves 1 key-frame in the corresponding direction. Continual press and hold of the left/right key scrolls horizontally through the row of key-frames. Pressing OK or Play/Pause resumes video playback from the key-frame in focus.
    • dPad up/down: Some Channels with playlists use up/down key to navigate to the previous or the next video.


  • While on a standard UI screen:
    • Selects or activates the item in focus.
  • During video playback:
    • Preferred: OK button should reveal a Heads Up Display (HUD) containing video-relevant information and actions (which should dismiss when it times out or when the Back button is pressed).
    • Alternative: Toggle between video play and pause.


  • While on a standard UI screen:
    • Navigate users to a previous screen. Note that there are at least two different back-navigation schemes:
      • Hierarchical: Navigate to the screen that is one level up in the UI hierarchy.
      • Historical: Navigate to the previously viewed screen, regardless of where that screen is within the UI's map/hierarchy.
      • Users expect and more easily understand the 'historical' model. Where it is important to navigate to other screens or levels of the UI hierarchy, offer better on-screen navigation choices.
    • While users can press the Back button to exit a popup dialog, Back is not used to navigate from a screen to a popup dialog.
  • While on your Channel's home screen:
    • It is critical that people be allowed to exit your Channel via the remote's Back button. This ensures they can get to the original Roku UI screen from which they launched into your Channel.
    • Consistent exit strategy: Users can press the Back button enough times to eventually get to your Channel's home screen. From there, one more press of the Back button should reveal an "exit opportunity". For example:
      • A Popup Dialog asking for exit confirmation.
      • A menu offering "exit" as a choice.
    • Hence, pressing Back from your Channel's home screen should either exit your Channel or reveal a way to exit your Channel (E.g., A popup dialog confirming a user's intent to exit).
  • During video playback:
    • Exit video playback and return to the referring screen (E.g., Content details page).

Instant Replay/Skip-back

  • While on a standard UI screen:
    • No system-response
  • During video playback:
    • Auto rewind the video ~20 seconds and resume playback.
    • The amount of time required to rewind takes into account that users may need to reach for a remote, find, and then press the Instant Replay button.
    • Note that within the Roku settings users can set Closed Captioning to be on during instant replay. The idea here is that most people skip back because they didn't hear what was said. Hence, when Instant Replay is pressed, the last 20 seconds are replayed with Closed Captioning on only during that replayed portion of the video.
    • Some Roku remotes do not have an Instant Replay button. If you want the functionality to be available consistently, you could also offer it via the first dPad left press during video playback. If users press dPad left more than once in rapid succession, then revert to standard dPad behavior during video playback.


  • While on a standard UI screen:
    • It is used to access a popup menu of contextual and/or global options or information.
    • Options can be contextual to the screen and/or the screen item in focus.
    • Global options can be navigational (E.g., Home, Search) or features/settings.
    • While the popup menu is visible, pressing the Star button again should dismiss it.
  • During full-screen video playback:
    • Only video is displayed:
      • The Star button reveals a Roku options menu offering users standard options, like Closed Captioning, and audio tracks.
    • Channel UI/HUDs displayed over video:
      • The Star button is passed to the Channel to handle and decide what to do.
      • For example, Channel is displaying a mini-EPG over a video, so the Star button press would be handled by the Channel.


  • While on standard UI screen:
    • Can be used as a shortcut to activate or play something.
      • For example, showing a featured item elsewhere on the screen and activating/selecting it without having to move the focus highlight to it.
      • For example, when highlighting a movie poster within a grid, pressing OK would select it and take you to the movie's details page, but Play could just play the movie or its trailer.
  • During content video playback:
    • If the video is playing, a button press pauses the video (and reveals BIFs).
    • If the video is paused, a button press resumes video playback.
    • If the video is rewinding or fast-forwarding, pressing the Play button switches to video playback at the current rewind or fast-forward position.
  • During ad video playback:
    • Allow users to play/pause advertisements.
    • Play/pause behavior should be the same as with content video.


  • While on a standard UI screen:
    • When focus is on a vertical or horizontal list of text or images: 
      • Rewind: Vertical pages list up and horizontal pages list left. 
      • Fast-forward: Vertical pages list down and horizontal pages list right.
  • During content video playback:
    • For long-form content (E.g., 30 minute TV show), usually 3 rewind/fast-forward speeds are offered.
    • For short-form content, it's okay to reduce the number of speeds to 2 or just 1.
    • Each press of the rewind button increments the rewinding speed by one step: Current state >> Rew x 1 >> Rew x 2 >> Rew x 3 >> Rew x 1 >> Rew x 2 >> etc.
    • Each press of the fast-forward button increments the forwarding speed by one step: Current state >> Ffwd x 1 >> Ffwd x 2 >> Ffwd x 3 >> Ffwd x 1 >> Ffwd x 2 >> etc.
    • Pressing and holding the rewind or the fast-forward button accelerates the video to the fastest speed: Current state >> Rew x 3 or Current state >> Ffwd x 3.
    • Note that in all the cases above, the "current state" could be: video paused, video playing, rewinding, or fast-forwarding.
  • During ad playback:
    • Usually, users are not allowed to fast-forward an ad that is playing.
    • Users should be allowed to rewind within an ad, and even rewind past the ad back into the content video.
    • If users are rewinding or fast-forwarding from content video playback, they must be allowed to go past any point an ad would normally play. For example, users can fast-forward from the 5-minute mark to the 45-minute mark, passing by several ad play points.
    • If they do fast-forward past an ad play point, when playback is resumed the system can play an ad first before resuming the content video (As compensation for having fast-forwarded over an ad).