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10 awesome Android tablet tips and tricks

There are a lot of Android tablets in the market, it seems like a new one is launched each week. Android 4.0, aka Ice Cream Sandwich is only just appearing on tablets, so most in owner's hands are running Honeycomb. These ten tips and tricks can be used to get better use out of Honeycomb tablets, and most should work on Ice Cream Sandwich too.
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Topic: Laptops
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1 of 11 James Kendrick/ZDNet

This collection of tips and tricks for Android tablets range from settings to make them run better, to special features that can be unlocked by those who know about them. They work on any tablet running Honeycomb, which is most of them, and many should work on Ice Cream Sandwich, too.

Don't miss all the mobile coverage on ZDNet Mobile News

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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.

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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.

Note: the keyboard seen in the image is SwiftKey X for tablets available in the Android Market.

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Once the hidden debug menu as been activated as detailed in the last slide, it provides access to a number of settings that can be changed for a variety of reasons. This includes a couple of changes to the way pages render that can affect load times.

Experiment with the settings to decide if you want to change any of them. The UA setting and openGL are covered in the next two slides.

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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 on the last slide. 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.

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6 of 11 James Kendrick/ZDNet

If you notice a lag when entering text in dialog boxes in the browser, a setting can be changed that helps eliminate the lag.

Once the hidden debug menu has been activated as detailed in a previous slide, simple deselect the Enable OpenGL Rendering option as displayed. While this doesn't help all web sites render faster, it works for some of them so try it on an as needed basis.

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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. 

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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.

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Dropbox is a useful service for storing files either as a backup or to share with others. The files are organized in online folders to make it easier to work with them. There is an easy way to put a shortcut for any Dropbox folder on any of the Android home screens.

On any home screen tap and hold an empty spot, or hit the big + button at the top right of the display. This opens up the home screen customization display. Hit the More tab and you'll see an icon for Dropbox folders. Hit that and select your Dropbox folder you wish to have access to on your home screen. 

Once the icon has been put on a home screen, it can be positioned as desired just like any icon on the home screen. A dropbox folder icon is indicated in the image by the red square marker.

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10 of 11 James Kendrick/ZDNet

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.

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In addition to the Evernote add-on for the Dolphin Browser as detailed in the previous slide, another good one is the Skitch add-on. Evernote recently bought Skitch, and have already released a free add-on for Dolphin.

With the Skitch add-in installed (from the Android Market), images can be shared directly from the browser. Skitch has a number of useful features, the one I use most often is the annotation feature which lets me write on the captured image with my fingertip.

Capturing information couldn't be easier than using both the Skitch and Evernote add-ons for the Dolphin Browser HD.

Enjoy the full coverage of mobile tech on ZDNet Mobile News.

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