The Beginners Guide to Android
Learning to use your new Android device
Google’s Android OS is quite the capable operating system, but to get the most out of it, you need to know where to begin. Compared to the iPhone’s simplistic grid interface, the Android operating system gives you an overwhelming amount of room for customization and control. So, to help you get started, here’s a step-by-step guide to getting the most out of your Android device.
The Android Homescreen
One of the first things you’ll notice about Google’s Android operating system is that its main homescreen differs from those on other major smartphone platforms like iOS and Windows Phone. You have plenty of freedom to customize and tailor the experience to suit your needs, and you aren’t limited to five simplistic rows of perfectly-aligned square icons. Inevitably, you can customize the Android desktop to reflect your interests, and you can make it as full and dynamic as you desire.
The main Android desktop is composed of multiple homescreen panels. Depending on the version of Android that your phone is running and on whether your device has a specialized custom overlay such as MotoBlur (from Motorola) or Sense (from HTC), you may have five to seven homescreen panels.
When you power up your phone for the first time, you’ll see the main homescreen panel. This panel is typically centered, and you can access additional panels on either side of the main one by swiping your finger left or right. What goes on the homescreens is completely up to you. You can fill the space with any combination of widgets, folders and shortcuts.
As you’d expect, short-cuts are small icons that let you load apps or other functions on your phone, They act very similar to the way your PC desktop icons function. You can set a shortcut to do anything from opening a program to linking to a specific Web page to initiating a phone call.
To add a shortcut, simply press and hold your finger on any open space on your home screen, and select Shortcuts from the resulting pop-up menu. From there, select Applications (to add an app), or Direct dial or Direct message (to create a shortcut for calling or texting a friend), or Bookmark (to open a Web page), or Directions (to activate turn-by-turn navigation to a specific destination). Most newer devices allow you to simply open the app drawer (discussed later), press and hold on an icon. The drawer will close and you will still be touching the screen, allowing you to drop the selected icon onto your homescreen in whichever area you please.
In addition to shortcuts, users can add various widgets to the desktop. Widgets are dynamic programs that operate directly on your homescreen. They can perform any number of functions-giving you the latest weather, for example, or letting you play music from either your personal collection or from the Internet. Options are endless, and should want more, you can always download additional widgets from the Play Store.
To add a widget, press and hold your finger on an open space, as you would to create a shortcut (above). This time, though, select the Widgets option from the pop-up menu. Even if you haven’t downloaded anything from the Android Market, you should have a handful of options built into your phone. Start by adding the Power Control widget; it creates a handy dandy one-touch toggle control for you phone’s Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, data syncing, and screen brightness.
Folders are a good way to keep your content organized while simultaneously expanding your homescreen space. A folder lets you group multiple shortcuts in a single space. When you tap on a folder, a box pops up showing all of the shortcut icons inside that folder. You can fill one folder with one-touch dialing shortcuts to all of your favorite contacts, and another, perhaps, with various phone-number lookup utilities. Folders help you add many useful things to your homescreens without eating up a lot of space.
To add one, press and hold your finger on an open space. Select Folders, and then New Folders. Then drag and drop as many shortcuts into the folder as you wish. To give it a custom name, tap the folder once to open it, and then hold your finger along the top bar until the Rename folder dialog box appears on your screen. To move any shortcut, widget, or folder, simply touch and hold your finger to it. After a couple of seconds, it will seem to lift up from the screen. You can then drag it anywhere, including to another panel and drop it wherever you like. As you drag and drop, you’ll also see a trash symbol at the bottom-center of the screen; slide any icon down onto the trash symbol to remove it from the homescreen altogether.
Android devices have at least three standard keys: a Home button, a Back button and a Multitasking button. Some Android phones also have a Menu button and a Search button. These keys will help you navigate through your smartphone more easily, no matter what program or process you’re running.
Pressing the Back key takes you back one step to whatever you were doing prior to the beginning of your current step. It works in Web navigation, e-mail navigation, or navigation to a previously open program.
The Home key is pretty self-explanatory. Pressing it will take you back to your homescreen. Devices that don’t have a multitasking button utilize the Home key to bring up the recent apps list. If you press and hold it, it allows you to multitask and switch to other programs you’ve recently used.
Pressing the Menu key brings up a list of options relevant to the area of the phone you’re currently using. When you press it on the homescreen, it permits you to access your phone’s settings and other customization options.
Pressing the Search key produces different results depending on where you are in Android at the time. From your home screen, it brings up a Quick Search Box that you can use to search the Web and your phone at the same time (Android will return the most relevant results from either domain as you type). From within an app, the Search key typically starts a search specific to that program-enabling you to search exclusively within your e-mail, for example, or within your contacts list.
The App Launcher
The app launcher is designed to be a unified destination where you can find all of your applications. To open the launcher, simply tap the launcher icon at the bottom of the homescreen. The launcher looks different depending on what version of Android you are running, and whether or not your phone has a custom overlay.
Within the app launcher, you can tap any app’s icon to run the program, or press and hold it to drag it directly onto the home screen as a shortcut. Naturally, swiping to the right will bring up the next page of the launcher.
Android’s notification panel puts incoming information at your fingertips, no matter what you’re doing. Notifications can come from many different places: e-mail, voicemail, text messaging, even social network and news applications. When you get a new notification, an icon will appear at the top-left of your screen. You can pull down the panel to see detailed information about the notification and then take action if you wish.
If you choose to dismiss a notification, you can do so by simply swiping it away to the left or right. This will remove the alert from your notification tray. Check the settings of various applications to see what kind of notifications they offer, and then customize them to work for you.
These features are the core of the Android OS and are what separate it from any other mobile OS on the market. Now that you have a grasp on the basic functionality of Android, be sure to check out "Android Help & How To" in order to find some more in-depth walkthroughs so that you may unleash the true potential of your Android device.
Posted May 18 '13 @ 5:15 AM
The Beginners Guide to Android
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