The Steam community overlay is an in-game interface that allows access to many Steam Community features while playing games. The default keybind of Shift+Tab will open the overlay in any game where it is supported and enabled.
Beyond giving access to Steam community features, many games utilize the overlay in the background to support in-game features that require Steam. You may not even realize that a game is using the overlay in these cases.
Because the Steam overlay is a customizable Steamworks feature, games will use it differently depending on which features it supports and how the developer incorporated it. More detailed information can be found in the Steam community or by contacting specific game developers.
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