Tips and Tricks
1. Cutting corners
There are many dozens of handy shortcuts to speed up your time on Android devices — some tied to the web browsers, others to using the virtual keyboard and another set related to app management. But here are a few handy ones for those who use Gmail on an Android device: While inside of a message, tap the R key to reply to the message, F to forward it, A to reply to all (to everyone in the To: and Cc: field) or Y to archive an email (this last shortcut works inside of the message or while in the main inbox view). Compose a new email by tapping Menu + C or refresh your inbox with Menu + U.
2. Flash, on demand
Unlike the iPhone, Android devices are capable of displaying websites with Flash animation, video and games. But if you don't have a generous data plan with your carrier, or if you find loading Flash is slowing down your browsing, you can launch Flash on-demand. That is, you can tap to see or interact with Flash content when you want — and if you don't tap to start it, it won't load. To do this, go to the Settings of your web browser, select Advanced and tap to change the Enable Flash and Plug-Ins tab from "Always On" to "On demand" or "Off."
3. Siri, Shmiri
If you're a seasoned Android user you likely know Google has offered voice-based search for some time, but the voice-to-text dictation feature is really strong on the phone — especially with ICS. Tap the microphone icon to the left of the spacebar while inside of a text or email and start talking. Not only will you see the words typed out as you say them — unlike Apple's Siri, which shows you the words after you're done talking — but the accuracy is outstanding and you'll find this is much faster than typing out a lengthy message. Don't forget to say punctuation requests, such as "comma,' "period" and "question mark."
4. Wild about widgets
One of the great things about an open-source platform is you can customize the look and feel of your Android's homescreen in a myriad of ways. Want "live" wallpaper that animates behind your icons? Too bad iPhone can't do that. Want to create one homescreen for work (with 9 to 5 apps) and one for play (5 to 9 apps)? Why not. Something else that separates Android from the IOS camp is Widgets, which you can add by pressing and holding down on the home screen; these can range from funky clocks and bookmarks to weather information and messages to photos and system information. Have fun exploring. If you're running ICS you can also resize these widgets on the fly.
5. Screen dream
Before ICS, it wasn't easy to snap a picture of what you're seeing on the device's display. To take a screenshot of a game, website, message or anything else, Android 4.x users can simply press the power and volume-down buttons at the same time. The screen will flash white, you'll hear a sound and the image be saved in your photo gallery. If you're on a non-ICS-device — such as Froyo, Gingerbread or Honeycomb — try the $5 No Root Screenshot It app, but be aware you'll need to connect your device to a computer via a USB cable to enable screenshots each time you restart the phone.
6. Freeze frame
You're likely aware there are a few photo effects built into your Android camera app. If not, from the photo gallery, simply tap Edit from the dropdown menu and you can brighten up a dark shot, add a film grain look, remove red-eye or tweak color (better yet, download the free Instagram app). But did you know ICS has another cool photo feature: when you're shooting a video with your Android device, tap the frame and it'll take a still snapshot and automatically dump it into your camera roll. Those running older Android devices can download an app, like Frame Grabber from Google Play (formerly Android Market), that do the same thing -- but you'll have to grab a still after the video has been shot.
7. Later gator
About to go on a long flight without any Internet connectivity? Those on an ICS device can save web content to read at a later time — without needing an app to do it (like Pocket). If you're inside the browser and come across something interesting you want to read at a later time, tap the menu tab and select "Save for offline reading" instead of "Bookmark," as the latter will require an Internet connection. This is also a good tip in case you're nearing your monthly data limit and want to queue up a few things to read offline.
8. Know when to fold 'em
If you need to clean up a messy desktop, perhaps littered with multiple app icons over multiple pages, you can press and hold on an app, drag it onto another one and it will create a folder and place them both in there. You can then tap and hold to rename the folder to something relevant ("Music Apps"), add more apps to the folder, if you like, and then rearrange where they go on your homescreen. You can also drag and drop shortcuts into folders, too, if you like, but not widgets.
9. Keep tabs on your data
Lots of Android users are on unmetered data plans – for example, the Sprint and Verizon networks in the US have unlimited plans (though the latter, only if you've been grandfathered in). But the rest of us has to live with only a certain amount of data each month, and the overage charges can be pretty punitive.
Fortunately, it's fairly easy to make sure you're living within your means, data-wise. Ice Cream Sandwich gives you a built-in way to keep tabs on your data. Just head over to the "Data usage" section of settings. In addition to showing you how much mobile data each app has used, it'll also let you set a warning when your data usage approaches a certain limit and a hard stop when it reaches a particular threshold. Let's say you're on a standard 2GB/month plan. You could set a warning when you reach 1.5GB, and a limit on data when you get to 1.9GB.
For Froyo, Gingerbread, and Honeycomb, try the free Onavo app. It actually has a few more features than Ice Cream Sandwich's data monitor, including the ability to set limits for individual apps and/or restrict them to Wi-Fi only.
10. Live video effects
Here's another entry in the "not super useful, but definitely super fun" category: Ice Cream Sandwich gives you a few nifty effects to employ when you're taking a video. Add a background to make it look like you're in space or standing in front of a sunset. Or give yourself huge eyes, a swollen nose, or a scrunched head. The effects all work surprisingly well – they're a good way to make a goofy video for a friend. Just select the options menu from the camera app and you'll find the effects nestled in there with other controls like color and exposure.
If you're not on Ice Cream Sandwich, check out the free Videocam Illusion app – it'll give you a lot of the same features.
11. Break out battery usage by task/app
If you're having trouble getting your Android device to last through the day on a charge, Android makes it easy to figure out where to get power savings. Head over to the battery section of the settings screen. You'll see a graph of the battery's discharge rate, and a list of running apps and services ordered by how much power they've been sipping (or guzzling). On many Android devices, the screen is the biggest culprit, so maybe you'll want to turn down the brightness to save some juice. Or perhaps there's one app that's chugging away in the background, chewing up battery, that you'll want to kill. Just click on that app, and click "Force stop" on the following screen.
12. Dropbox folders from home screen
You might already know about DropBox, a service that gives you 2GB of free cloud storage (more if you refer other people to the service, or if you pay a monthly fee) to keep your files synced online and between devices. Install it on your laptop and your phone – any files you put into it on one device are automatically synced over to the other. It even works with pictures: the Android app can automatically send photos from your phone's camera to a Dropbox folder for later sorting and posting.
You can also add individual Dropbox folders to your phone's homescreen as widgets for quick access. Once you've installed the Dropbox app, you can drag as many different folders as you want to a homescreen to get at whatever's inside at a moment's notice.
13. Control your computer with your phone (or tablet)
This nifty app lets you control your computer with your phone. It's really two programs: a client that runs on your laptop or desktop, and a lightweight remote app for your phone or tablet. Once you've got everything up and running, you can create customized remotes to control just about everything on your computer. Out of the box you get mouse and keyboard support, volume and media control, and the ability to bend programs like Spotify and Windows Media Player to your will. Upgrade to the premium version ($4), and you can control just about everything – including your browser and media player of choice.
14. How to Extend your Battery Life
Making the battery last as long as possible is high on the Android tablet owner's list. Android keeps working even when the tablet is sleeping, and while usually a good thing, that can use up the battery even when the tablet is not being used.
A good way to extend battery life on Android devices is to put the Wi-Fi polling to bed when the tablet is not being used. Simply go to the main Settings menu and select the Wireless & Networks > Wireless Settings > WiFi Sleep Policy and choose the option to sleep "when the screen turns off". The tablet will immediately reactivate the Wi-Fi when the tablet is wakened for business.
15.Personalize your Tablet
The Android browser is full featured, including settings that let the user tailor the user experience to individual preferences. There are a number of ways to do that, including this hidden method that works like some desktop browsers.
In the address bar of the Android browser, type "about:debug" as shown in the image. Hit return and a new Debug Menu is activated in the main browser settings for changing a number of preferences in the way the the browser operates.
16. How to view full versions of Web Sites
The Android browser identifies itself to web sites as an Android browser, which sometimes results in getting a mobile version of the site instead of the full web page as might be expected. This can be changed on some tablets in the settings if a UA setting is availble. Just change it to Desktop to stop getting mobile versions of web pages on that big tablet screen.
If your tablet lacks that UA setting, as does my Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, fear not. This setting is activated through the hidden debug menu as described in the previous tip. Once it is activated the UA selection menu in the image allows changing the setting to desktop or one of the other settings as desired.
The setting remains as selected until manually changed in the future.
17. How to Enable Quick Controls
Since Honeycomb, the Android browser has included a Labs area for providing advanced functionality. One such function is the enabling of quick controls, as shown on the right side of the displayed web page (blue wheel).
Once activated in the Labs, the entire screen is dedicated to displaying web pages. To access the wheel, simply swipe in from either the left or right edge of the screen. Hold your finger in place once the wheel appears, and slide it over the desired control. When you raise your finger the selected function is executed.
18. How to Manage Applications Easily
Android has the Manage Applications section in the settings which is where you uninstall applications no longer needed.
In Honeycomb, there is a much easier method to uninstall them. With the main Applications screen displayed, tap and hold the app you wish to delete from the tablet. Drag it to the trash can and boom, it's gone.
Note: that dragging app icons to the trash from the home screen does not delete them, only doing it from the application launcher screen.
19. Dolphin Browser and Add Ons
The Android browser is pretty good, but the free Dolphin Browser HD (available in the Android Market) is the best mobile browser on any platform. It has a long list of features that set it ahead of the pack, and one of the most useful is the ability to use add-ons like many desktop browsers.
I use Evernote heavily in my work to capture information during research, and the free add-on for the Dolphin Browser makes that as easy as tapping an icon on the screen. The web page is saved to my Evernote notebook in the cloud, accessible on any device I may be using at a given time.
20. Video chat
So your tablet isn't a phone - so what. That doesn't mean you can't call your friends or family for a nice chat. Provided your tablet has a front-facing camera, you can use a video-chat app, such as Fring, which is completely free to use. The app enables you to call up to three other people at the same time, so it's good for arranging a global meeting. The quality of the video adjusts to your connection, so if it's 3G then quality will suffer a touch but you should still get streaming without any annoying transmission delays.
1. Create folders
iOS supports folders. To create a folder all you need to do is tap and hold on an app until they all start to wiggle, then drag one app over another and release. Your iPad will create a folder with both the apps in. The folder will be named according to the category of the apps it contains, but you can rename it as you like.
2. Access all running apps
Double-click the Home button to show all the apps that are running on your iPad in a bar along the bottom of the screen. To switch to a running app just tap on it here in this bar. Just swipe the screen downwards to remove this bar To close these apps in this bar (specially if you are noticing a rapid battery drain) tap and hold on an app until they start to wiggle then tap the minus sign.
3. Use an Apple keyboard
Any Apple Wireless Keyboard will work with the iPad or any Bluetooth keyboard. Some iPad cases have a keyboard built in, which is not to shabby.
4. Passcode Denied… DELETE ALL!
If you're carrying around sensitive data, you can now enable a feature that'll erase all the data on the device if someone inputs the incorrect passcode 10 times. Navigate to Settings > General > Passcode Lock > Erase Data.
5. iPad is flat and won't charge
If your iPad battery is completely flat then it can take a while for the red battery symbol to appear when you plug it in to charge, indicating that it is charging. Don't panic, just leave it plugged in and wait - the charging symbol will appear eventually.
6. Control iPad notifications
Have you ever been playing a game or watching something on your iPhone? Then you know how annoying notifications can be. These messages can show up on the iPad as well. but you can control them. Go to Settings, Notifications, and configure which alerts and sounds will appear.
7. Take an iPad screenshot
You can take a screenshot on your iPad/iPhone by pressing Home and then the Sleep/Wake button. The screen will flash and you'll hear a click, indicating that a photo has been taken. Your screen shots are saved automatically in your Photos gallery.
8. Stop asking to join Wi-Fi networks
If you're tired of getting messages asking you to join this or that Wi- Fi network all you have to do is go to Settings, Wi-Fi and turn off Ask to Join Networks. You can still join any network that will have you from this same screen, it just won't bug you when the opportunity arises.
9. Turn battery percentage off
Do you find the battery charge percentage distracting? The good news is you can turn it off very easily. Go to Settings, General, Usage and you can turn it off here or if your's doen't give you the percentage of battery life you may do the same thing and turn it on.
10. Quick volume mute
Apple has given you the choice of using the lock switch to mute the sound or lock the iPad's orientation. Either way, a good tip for quickly muting your iPad is to press and hold the Volume-down button on the side of the iPad.
11. Orientation Lock or Mute?
Head to Settings > General to choose between Lock Rotation and Mute. Once you choose the "Lock Rotation" remember to actually flip the the switch on the iPad to actually lock the rotation.
12. Connect to an HD TV
You can connect the iPad 2 to your HD television using Apple's Digital AV Adapter (which connects from your 30-pin Dock adaptor to a HDMI port) or your 30-pin Dock adaptor to a plain old VGA Adaptor. Both are available online from the Apple Store. The iPad 2 supports video mirroring, so it is possible to view your entire Home screen on the TV, not just the videos you play.
13. AirPlay: Stream movies, photos and music
Whenever you see the AirPlay icon on your iPad it means you can stream whatever media you're viewing to your Apple TV, which is usually connected to your living room TV. All you need to do is tap the AirPlay icon (which looks like a rectangle with a triangle in it) and it starts playing automatically - it's so simple as long as the network allows sharing between devices!
14. Go VPN
The iPad supports a VPN connection. Will need I.T. permission for this.
15. Avoid underpowered USB docks
The iPad does not charge when you connect it to some USB ports, even certain ports on some notebooks. Instead, plug in to a powered USB port (check you computer's specs, or use a powered USB dock). On some PCs, USB ports on the front of the computer are lower power, so you will need to plug into one on the back.
16. Copy and paste
You can quickly copy and paste text by tapping and holding, then choose the exact portion of text you'd like to copy. Next tap Copy, then go to where you want to paste the copied text, and tap and hold again, then tap Paste from the menu that appears.
17. Restrict your Spotlight searches
Swipe to the right on your Home screen to reveal the Spotlight search. By default it searches everything including songs in your iPod, podcasts, apps and events. To restrict the the searches, look in Settings > General > Spotlight Search.
18. Add a Google Calendar
You can add your Google Calendar to the iPad's Calendar app? In Settings open Mail, Contacts, Calendars. Add an account and tap on Other. Tap on Add CalDAV Account and enter your Google Account information (the Server is www.google.com). Exit the Settings app and tap on the Calendar app and your events should appear. By default all calendars are displayed, but you can tap on the Calendars button to choose which ones are shown.
19. Find My iPhone (or iPad) is now free
Apple's Find My iPad works for MobileMe subscribers, but you can set it up for free on your iPad. In Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars tap the Add Account button and select MobileMe.
If you have an iTunes or MobileMe account then enter it here. Alternatively, tap on Create Free Apple ID. You may need to check your inbox and verify your account. Return to the MobileMe screen and switch on Find My iPad. Now sign into me.com to see your iPad on a map, or install the Find My iPhone app from the App Store.
20. Use AirPrint
You can print right from your iPad, provided you've got a compatible printer. If you've got an AirPrint ready printer then you just choose Print from the Share menu for any open document. AirPrint works with the new range of printers from HP. HP also makes an app ,HP ePrint, just for their wireless printers so that you can print to some of their existing wireless printers without AirPrint.
21. Use a Smart Cover
Apple's new iPad Smart Cover is a must have iPad accessory - it's not just a dumb cover. When you draw it over the iPad's screen it puts it to sleep for you, and wakes it up when you open it. Also, it latches onto special magnets built into the side of the iPad 2, so it's a perfect fit.
22. Share from Pages
Transferring Pages documents from your iPad to your Mac or PC is a hassle. It's much quicker to use the Share menu to email the finished document to wher you need itm, also, you can email it as a Word or PDF document.
23. Turn iPad caps lock on
To type a capital letter on the onscreen keyboard you tap the left or right shift key, then the letter. If you need to type a whole word in caps just double tap on either shift key.
24. Use Multitasking Gestures
Multitasking Gestures, which utilize four and five finger gestures, are available in Settings only to iPad owners who have installed Xcode on a Mac. You need to buy Xcode from the Mac App Store and install it, then from the Xcode homescreen, select your iPad and click on the Use for Development button. You'll be asked for your developer account details, but if you click on Cancel at this stage it still works.
25. Replace a word
When you hold down on a word to copy it, choose Select, then you will see a new option: Replace. Tap this and, you can see suggestions for alternative words that have similar spellings. It's a good way of quickly correcting typos.
26. Quick quotes
Another hidden gem is .Hold over the ? key and a quotation mark will appear, which you can select by moving your finger upwards.
27. Hidden apostrophe key on the keyboard
Rather than having to go to the second screen of the keyboard every time you want to type an apostrophe just tap and hold on the ! key and a apostrophe option will appear. Jjust slide your finger up to access it.
28. Add a period to a sentence
Doubletap the space bar at the end of a sentence or abbreviation. This will add a period and a space for you, which can be enormously time-saving when you're typing long articles.
29. Dim your iBooks
The iBooks app has its own brightness slider, which you can use to lower the level of brightness while reading more conveniently.
30. Change days
There's no way to swipe to change days in the Calendar, but you have the navigation bar along the bottom of the screen. This can be used to switch to different days, weeks or months, depending on the view you've chosen. The current day is always shown in blue, or you can just tap the Today button to return to the current day.
31. Street View in Maps
The Maps app running Google's Street View is one cool feature for the iPad, yet accessing it is so confusing few people even know it's there. To access Street View you need to have placed a red pin on the map (which happens when you do a search). You then tap the red and white icon of a person to enter Street View.
32. Directions in Maps
There's no free sat nav for the iPad yet, but directions in Maps are a substitute. Just tap Directions on the top left of Maps and the iPad will even work out where you are at that moment, then takes you step-by-step through your journey.
33. Display PDFs
There are a few ways to display PDFs on your iPad: you can email them to your iPad, in which case you get an Open in iBooks button, or you can sync PDFs from your Mac or PC via the Books tab in iTunes.
Just drag and drop the PDF into iTunes, then when you sync your iPad click on the Books tab and select the PDFs you'd like to sync. Then in iBooks you can click on PDFs in your library to see the PDFs you have ready to display. You can also download the free Adobe Reader app for IOS and you can load your PDF's into DropBox and open them from there.
34. Camera focus and meter
In the Camera app, tap on your subject to both focus on and meter the light properly. In this shot, notice how the chair is dark and the boy outside is properly metered. You can reverse that by simply tapping on the chair.
35. Get a grip
You'll probably hold the iPad by its sides, but it'll rotate to put the shutter button at the bottom, making you shake the iPad when you reach for it. So use the orientation lock to put the shutter where you can easily thumb it, then just rotate your images or videos afterward in the built in image editor.
36. Take charge in FaceTime
Once you've started a video call, you can move the picture-in-picture window that shows you by simply dragging it around with your finger.
37. Photo Booth fun
Simply tap the 'twirly camera' icon in the bottom right. to use the camera on the back You can also snap pictures by hitting the shutter button, remember Photo Booth doesn't do video.
38. Download photos straight from your camera to your iPad
You can purchase the iPad Camera Connection kit from Apple. With this device attached you can transfer photos straight from your camera's memory card.
39. Quicker websites
Save time typing web addresses in Safari by using the iPad's ".com" key when typing in a URL. If you hold down the .com key you get access to a sub menu that offers a .co.uk and other options.
40. Quick Safari scroll
You can jump up to the top of any web site - or any list - by tapping on the top of the title window.
41. Zoom in on websites
You can zoom in on any website, document, or image by pinching out with two fingers on the screen. This also makes it easier to select words and links. To zoom out again, just pinch in with two fingers. Double-tap on any text or image to auto-zoom so it fills the screen.
42. Turn on Bookmarks bar in Safari
You can tap the bookmarks icon in the Safari toolbar to access your bookmarks or you can turn on your Safari Bookmarks Bar permanently. In the Settings app, tap Safari, then turn Always Show Bookmarks Bar to ON.
43. Clear browsing history in Safari
Need to cover your tracks online? You can delete your Safari browser history in a flash. Just open the Settings app, then tap Safari and tap on Clear History. Note you can also wipe your Cookies and clear your Cache here too.
44. Open Safari links in a new page
You can open links in a new Safari window, rather than always opening them in the current one. Just tap and hold on the link and a sub menu appears giving you the option to open the link in a new page.
45. Find text on a page
You can search for a particular word on an open page in Safari. Type your word into the Google search box. You'll see a list of suggestions and at the bottom you'll see "On This Page", showing how many times that word appears on the page. Tap the Find option to go to the first instance of the word.
46. Turn off iPad email alert chimes
You can turn off the chime for new emails. Go to Settings, then General, then Sounds and turn off the New Mail sound. You can also adjust sound levels here.
47. Preview more of your emails
The iPad's Mail app defaults to previewing two lines of each email before you tap on it. Sometimes however it would be handier to be able to see more of an email before loading the whole thing in, especially if you are on a slow connection. To do this open the Settings app, then tap on Mail, Contacts, Calendars and change the Preview options to add more lines.
48. Turn off iPad push mail
Most mail accounts default to Push as a delivery mechanism, if available. This automatically 'pushes' any new emails your way as soon as they are available. If you find this annoying or distracting you can set your Mail accounts to check for new messages at intervals, or manually so they only check for new messages when you tap the Refresh button. To turn off Push, select the Settings app and Mail, Contacts, Calendars and choose Fetch New Data, then turn Push on or off.
49. Make an iPad backup
If you want to make sure your iPad's data is properly backed up you can force iTunes to back it up. When you're conencted to your Mac or PC, open up iTunes and right-click on your iPad in the Devices list and select Back up.
50. Home Sharing
First, turn on Home Sharing in iTunes (Advanced menu) and on your iPad (Settings > iPod and enter your Apple ID). Next, launch the iPod app on your iPad. In the left column, find the little house with "Library" next to it. Tap on that and then on one of the Shared Libraries. It might take a few minutes to update, but then you can watch and listen to all of that Library's media on your iPad.
1. The charms bar:
I'm finding the charms bar (which appears on the right side of the screen if you click or swipe there) to be much more helpful than I'd originally thought. For example, click or tap Settings, then Power to put the computer to sleep. The charms bar has icons for setting preferences, searching, sharing, and switching between the Metro environment and the Windows 7 desktop.
2. Microsoft Store:
I love that I can get Metro apps from the store for my PC now just like I do for my Windows Phone.
3. Windows Reader:
With this built-in app, I can open a PDF and highlight paragraphs or use the stylus on a tablet to make notes in the file. Speaking of PDFs, you can also bring PDFs into the forthcoming Word 2013 and work with their text in Word.
4. Live syncing:
I like that you can log into your Windows Live account when logging onto your PC and have your personalization settings follow you from one device to another (assuming they use the same Live account).
5. Storage spaces:
This feature helps to protect you from a drive failure by letting you pool multiple drives, à la RAID redundancy.
6. File history:
This new, simplified way of saving copies of your files lets you get previous versions back if the current file is lost or damaged, similar to OS X's Time Machine utility.
7. The new task manager:
The revamped task manager provides a more detailed, more readable view of running processes. Admins and power users will love it.
8. Start screen search: Do you need to find a file or an app fast? Head over to the Metro Start screen and begin typing. Windows will automatically search for what you type and show you the results quickly. There's no need to open a search box.
9. "Power user" menu: Place the cursor in the lower left of the Windows Desktop screen (a hot corner) -- to the left and below any application tiles -- and right-click the thumbnail image that appears. You can now open the new "power user" menu that gives you quick access to some of the most used features in Windows for techies and enthusiasts. Note: You can also press Windows-X to bring up this menu, but there is no touch gesture to invoke it on a tablet.
10. Shutdown and sleep: One of the most confusing aspects to Windows 8 is how to shut it down or put it to sleep. From the charms bar, click or tap Settings, then Power in the pane that appears. You then get options to sleep, shut down, or restart. If you have a physical keyboard, you can also press the traditional Ctrl-Alt-Del to bring up these options.
11. Picture password: On touch-enabled devices, you can choose a picture and a gesture (or mouse movement) you apply on it to be your password. To set that picture password, choose Settings in the charms bar, click or tap Change PC Settings, and select Users in the pane that appears. From the charms bar, select Settings > Change PC Settings > Users, followed by Create a Picture Password.
12. Show admin applications on the Metro Start screen: In the Metro Start screen, open the charms bar, click or tap Settings, and select Tiles. Move the Show Administrative Tools switch from No to Yes. Now, your Metro Start screen has tiles for all those admin apps!
13. Organize Metro Start screen tiles into groups: You can "semantic zoom" (using a pinch gesture on screen or mouse pad, or using your trackball) out of your normal Smart Screen to view all app groups. You can move your groups around as a block. Right-click the block and give your groups a name.
14. Increase The DPI
It's worth noting that Microsoft attempts to make Windows 7 more touch-friendly right out of the box. For example, the taskbar icons are big enough for most fingers. Plus, Windows 7 invisibly increases the touch area for buttons by 25% to make tapping and swiping it easier. Of course that doesn’t change application menus or window controls, which can be finicky, and reducing the screen resolution to make everything look bigger can make your screen look blurry. Instead, increase the DPI setting in Windows and you’ll get larger text so it’s easier to click links, larger window controls so you can minimize or close them and bigger scroll bars if you have an app that doesn’t finger scroll well (though most do). You will see fewer things on screen – fewer items in the Start menu for example – and you do have to log off and back into Windows for the change to take effect. In the Appearance and Personalization control panel choose ‘Make text or other items smaller or larger’ and then either pick 125% or click "Set custom text size (DPI)" from the list on the left and type in a percentage. The Windows XP setting here only applies if you’re setting your DPI above 144. That’s only worth doing if you have a really high resolution, but if you do, you should turn this on if you end up with blurry text in some older apps.
15. Finger-Flicking for Navigation and Shortcuts
As well as scrolling and panning with your finger, you can ‘flick’ your finger (or the pen/stylus, if you get one with your tablet) across the screen to move up and down. That’s not particularly useful when you can finger scroll already. Flicking left and right takes you back and forward in the browser (or any app with back and forward buttons). This can be incredibly useful, but maybe it would feel more natural to flick to the right to move back? You can change what the flick gestures do – and turn on and customize four diagonal flicks that are initially set to copy, paste, delete and undo (but again you can customize them).
You should see the Flicks icon in the Activity Center to the right of the taskbar, but if you don't then open the Pen and Touch control panel and choose the Flicks tab. Change the radio button to ‘Navigational flicks and Editing flicks’ and the four gestures for flicking diagonally will appear. Click the ‘Practice using flicks’ link to try out the gestures before you start adjusting how they’re recognized.
You don’t have to stick with the default commands for the eight gestures either; click Customize to pick what you want from the dropdown for each direction or add your own. You can’t launch an application unless it has a keyboard shortcut, so flicks are more useful for commands like Printing and Saving. To set a flick, choose Add from the list, name the flick and press the key combination to use. Make sure you click Save before you close the box, and then that action will be an option for any of the eight directions. Watch where you use flicks! If your finger goes over the Input Panel or Windows Journal, Windows will think you’re writing rather than gesturing
16. Tweak the Tablet Input Panel
Whenever you touch the screen, you can see the tablet Input Panel show up in the top left corner of the screen. Tap it once with your finger and it slides out a little way; tap it again and it slides out all the way. Windows knows what windows and fields you can type into, and whenever you touch one with your finger the icon for the Input Panel appears too.
You can choose where the Input Panel appears on screen with the Tools, Docking dropdown. From here you can leave the panel to float, have it appear from any side of the desktop, or have it attached to the Taskbar as an icon. For the latter, go to the Input Panel, Tools, Options, Opening and tick ‘Show the icon on the taskbar’.
17. Write Gestures
The Input Panel has keys for Backspace, Delete, Tab, Enter and Space – and of course they’re on the keyboard – but you can also use gestures for these five actions. You might find that faster than moving over to the keys once you get used to using the gestures, and you can use them in any program. Just make sure there isn’t any ink or text in the input panel first.
18. Microsoft OneNote
If you’re serious about taking handwritten notes, then you need a copy of OneNote. This powerful but simple note-taking application is in all new versions of Office (apart from the free Office Starter) but it’s pre-installed on many tablet PCs as well so check your Start menu.
The great thing about OneNote is that you don’t have to convert hand-written notes into text to search them. OneNote recognizes your handwriting and stores the various alternatives it thinks you could have written, and when you search it brings up matching pages with text you’ve typed, content you’ve clipped in from other places and notes you've written in ink all together. You can also record audio that’s time-synced to your notes, so if you're wondering why you underlined something three times you can click to hear what was said just before you wrote it down.
19. Control Screen Rotation
Some tablets rotate the screen automatically as you turn them from landscape to portrait and back (or if you have a tablet PC with a keyboard like the Dell Inspiron Duo, when you slide the keyboard out or put it away). This can get a bit disconcerting if you’re handing someone your tablet to show them a Web page or just getting comfortable on your couch, so slates like the EXO PC tend not to use their accelerometer for automatic screen rotation. Some tablets have a physical button on the side to rotate the screen when you want to, or to lock it when you don’t. But whatever the tablet maker has decided to do, you can always rotate the screen yourself.
The Orientation dropdown in the Screen Resolution control panel lets you pick Landscape, Portrait and the reversed versions of each (if you find the screen more comfortable to hold the other way around, but it’s not very convenient to open all the time. Pin the Windows Mobility Center to the taskbar and you can rotate the screen from there (and control Wi-Fi, power options and more).
20. Get the Touch Pack
Tablets are a little bit smaller and lighter than even a netbook, but the main reason for getting them is that they’re fun. The apps in Microsoft’s free Touch Pack are a mix of games and gratuitous touch like the Surface Globe (Bing Maps and Google Maps both work nicely with touch, but pinching, zooming and swiping your way around the world in 2D and 3D is tons of fun.
As you can tell by names like Surface Collage and Surface Lagoon, some of the apps were originally developed for the giant Microsoft Surface touch computers. Surface Collage lets you arrange your own pictures across the screen and then save them at the right size for a desktop background. Lagoon is a screen saver or just fun to play with; dabble your fingers in the water and watch the fish scurry away. Garden Pond is also playing with water; floating origami boats around the screen and trying to stop them catching fire. Rebound is like electric pinball for your fingertips and Blackboard is one of those games where you build Rube Goldberg-style contraptions. Fun as they are, what they’re really for is getting you confident with gestures; after you’ve splashed your boat across the screen and pinched electricity into your Tesla coil, you're going to be quite comfortable scrolling through Web pages.
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