Category: How To

What is Smart Lock and How To Enable It on Your Chromebook

One of the great features of Chrome OS is one that few people actually use.  It’s called Smart Lock and while technically still a beta feature in the Stable channel of Chrome, it is a quick and easy way to unlock your Chromebook using your Android phone.  No longer do you have to type in your password on your Chromebook but rather, can simply walk into the room with your unlocked Android phone or click your account photo on your Chromebook to unlock it.  Setting it up is pretty easy and it can save you some time, especially if you have your phone setup as a Trusted Agent.

First, what is Smart Lock?  As the name suggests, it is a way to quickly and easily unlock your Chrome OS device by using your Android phone.  To do this, your phone and your Chromebook have to be linked and trusted with each other which is a quick five minute process.  It is a feature that has been in the Settings of Chrome OS since last year and requires that your phone be within 100 feet of your Chromebook to work.  In this How To, I’ll show you how to set it up and use it.

How to Microsoft Your Android Phone

One of the biggest benefits to Android as a platform is its flexibility.  Google, much to their credit, has made it very easy for developers – including companies that compete with them – to produce apps for Android to sell or give away.  Microsoft, much to their credit too, has taken advantage of this openness.  The Redmond, Washington company as certainly competed with Google and more directly Android but equally, have produced great apps that allow you to stay within the Microsoft ecosystem without too much pain.  In fact, really no pain.

If you are new to Android but your personal and/or work life is surrounded by Microsoft applications, take heart.  You will find that Android is more than capable of giving you a rich, powerful Microsoft experience without the sacrifices in other areas.  I’m of course referring to Windows Phone.  Clearly the Microsoft experience on Windows Phone was outstanding but even the apps on that now all-but-dead platform lacked when you compared them to those for Android or even iOS.

In this How To I’m going to highlight some of the key apps from Microsoft that will make your Android phone (and in most cases tablets) a solid performing and excellent user experience for those who have their digital work or personal lives in Office 365, OneDrive and other apps.  While those apps are expected, it is the other apps that Microsoft offers that may be a surprise to you.

How To Enable Audible Confirmation on Google Home

Google Home has some impressive microphones built into it and can hear you for a good distance away depending on the ambient noise level of your home. Sometimes, however, it would be nice to get some sort of acknowledgement that Home actually heard your command.  Sure you have the swirling lights at the top but what if you aren’t looking at it or are even out of sight of your Home?  Fortunately there is an easy way around this and it all comes down to a setting inside the Home app.

In this How To I’ll show you how to set up your Google Home to give you an audible tone when you start or end a request.

Pro Tip: Using Google Search with Your Camera

We all know how powerful Google search is on our devices.  Whether it is by voice or by typing in a search request in the Search bar or in Chrome, getting to information is quick and easy and makes finding out things on the go simple.  But did you know that you can also do a search via the camera built into your Android phone?  It is a feature that has been there since Marshmallow and for a while was limited to the Google Now launcher.  That has gone away and whether you are on a device using the Google camera app or not, it works.  In fact, I tested it out on three different launchers (Google Now, Nextbit Launcher, Action Launcher) and all three allow you to do this type of searching.  I’m assuming it works with any combination but if you find a launcher or camera app which it doesn’t work, let me know so I can update this post.

How To Wipe Your Android’s Device Cache Partition

If you have an Android phone or tablet that is being sluggish, it can be one of the most frustrating experiences with technology.  Android, like other Operating Systems, caches app and system data to use in efforts to speed up apps and processes.  Yes, the irony wasn’t lost on me either.  The problem is that this cache can become corrupt or simply too big for the device to be able to manage effectively.  Every OS suffers from this – Android, iOS, Windows and MacOS.  Perhaps the only real notable exception is Chrome OS.

The good news is, on Android, there are two things you can do on any device that will help you clear out the cache and restore order to your particular world.  One is found in Settings while the more aggressive step requires you get your device into Recovery mode.  In this How To I will show you how to do both.

How To Enable and Use Multi-Window View in Android Nougat

It may sound a little harsh but reality is reality. The Android experience on tablets has been, well, sucky.  The problem for the most part is that Android, when it comes to larger display devices, simply “blows up” the screen to make it work for that form factor. That’s not 100% true to be fair but it is by-and-large and that means that apps, especially under KitKat and Lollipop were ugly at best on Android tablets. Marshmallow improved things a lot and developers were also developing tablet versions of apps which helped at the same time.

The other big issues was productivity. Although you have more screen real estate on a tablet, Android was never really able to take full advantage of it. You could only view one app at a time which meant you were constantly having to use the Recent button on your table to navigate between apps. Productivity, which better than on a phone, was still hamstrung when it came to reaching its full potential.

If there is a banner feature that represents the entire Android Nougat release, it is multi-window viewing. Google, in this case, is very much catching up to Apple’s iOS for iPads as those devices have had the ability to view two apps at once for about a year now. However, what Google has done is fully and properly implemented this for tablets and phones that truly makes productivity much easier than it ever has been on an Android powered tablet.

In this How To, I will show you how to enter into multi-window view in Android Nougat and how to switch between apps once you are in multi-windows mode.  Once you get the hang of it, it is pretty straight forward.

How To Configure Emergency Information in Android Nougat

For most people, user profiles in Android is a rarely thought of or configured feature of the platform.  To be fair, in Android Lollipop and Android Marshmallow, outside of a work environment configuration, profiles did not have a lot of bang or, frankly, use.  That changes for the better in Android Nougat.  Like many features in this evolution of Android, the team at Google took something already in the Operating System and improved it.  In this case, significantly.

For those who aren’t familiar, User profiles allow you to have different users use the same device.  Let say you want to have a profile for the kids and one for yourself that has different apps installed.  It is a pretty cool feature but just not something most people need.

In Nougat however there is a good reason to go and fill out the Owner user profile for your phone or tablet.  You can now add emergency information to your profile and that information can be accessed through the emergency dialer on the phone should you be incapacitated.  In this How To, I’ll show you where to access this information, how to fill out the details and how to access it in an emergency.  It could make a big difference for first responders should you be unresponsive.

How To – Enable Power Notifications Controls in Nougat

One big change in Android Nougat is the ability to adjust the urgency of notification.  In Android Marshmallow, you can you somewhat have a binary decision when it came to notifications.  With Nougat, you have far more granular controls around notifications and, in fact, have six levels of notifications that you can set for applications.  The nice thing is that you can set this for each and every app on your device should you want to go through that process.

In this How To I will show you how to access the Power Notifications Controls and how to configure them for applications.

How To Tweak Travel Times in Google Now

One of the big benefits of Google Now is getting travel time information to your next appointment.  It is really handing in planning your journey time as it takes into account things like travel time itself but also things like traffic on along your route thanks to its Google Maps integration.  That travel time can be adjusted depending on your mode of transportation:  Car, bike, bus or public transit or walking and, in some place, car sharing services like Uber.

There is another small but important feature that this service in Now offers and that is the ability to adjust your arrival time regardless of your transportation mode.  I, for example, generally like to be at a meeting place about 5 minutes before the actual start time of the meeting.  Old habits die hard, what can I say?  Within the travel time information in Google Now, you can adjust when you want to arrive at your destination which, in turn, adjust the time in which you need to leave.  In this How To, I’ll show you how to tweak this little feature so you can show up at the time you want to show up for your next appointment.

How To Enable Event Based Do Not Disturb in Android

One of the more powerful features of Android is the Do Not Disturb function.  It is a feature that has grown in functionality over the life of Android Lollipop and Marshmallow (spoiler alert:  It gets further tweaks in N) for keeping your phone quite while you sleep, at the theater or in a meeting.  Did you know though that you can set up a DND for events from your calendar?  It is a feature that is handy by not requiring you to manually turn on Do Not Disturb before a meeting begins.  In this How To I’ll show you how to set it up.

How To Turn Off Keyboard Vibrations in Android

There are a lot of things I love about Android, obviously, but there are a few things now-and-again that make me kinda batty.  One of these things, and it is a simple thing, is the vibration that you get when you type on your keyboard when using your phone.  Don’t ask me why it bothers me so much, but it does.  It is one of the first things I turn off when I setup a new phone or have refreshed one anew.  It struck me however that finding this setting is a bit difficult if you are new to Android or just simply haven’t dug into a least commonly accessed area in Settings, Language & input.  In this How To I’ll show you where this setting is and how you can disable it if you too don’t like the haptic feedback when you type on your Android phone.

How To Use The Google Photos Free Up Device Storage Feature

One of the challenges of today’s smartphones is… their camera. Yes, you heard me right.  The cameras in many of today’s phones are amazingly good, fast and because our phones are always with us, gives us the freedom to snap a photo whenever and wherever we want.  The challenge of course is that your phone doesn’t have unlimited storage and at some point you will have to clear off some photos from the device to get some space back for apps and other data.  If you are a user of Google Photos, there is a built in tool that makes this easy and worry free.

In this How To I’m going to go over the Free Up Space feature in Google Photos for Android and for iOS.  I’ll walk you through how to access it and what it does exactly with the photos on your phone.