Well, it will just reverse the normals direction of all selected faces. Note that this allows you to precisely control the direction (not the orientation, which is always perpendicular to the face) of your normals, as only selected ones are flipped.
These tools will recalculate the normals of selected faces so that they point outside (respectively inside) the volume that the face belongs to. This volume do not need to be closed. In fact, this means that the face of interest must be adjacent with at least one non-coplanar other face. For example, with a Grid primitive, recalculating normals does not have a meaningful result.
For Visualization in Edit Mode see Normals.