Make Tech Easier » Android http://www.maketecheasier.com Uncomplicating the complicated, making life easier Thu, 07 Nov 2013 06:45:24 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.7.1 Switchr Task Switcher: “Alt + Tab” For Your Android Phonehttp://www.maketecheasier.com/switchr-task-switcher-android/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/switchr-task-switcher-android/#comments Mon, 04 Nov 2013 00:25:56 +0000 http://www.maketecheasier.com/?p=81814 Desktop users can press "Alt + Tab" to switch apps. Switchr Task Switcher for Android gives you the "Alt + Tab" feel on your Android phone.

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switchr-thumbUsing a smartphone of any kind these days means you have apps and lots of them. While a lot of the devices out there have some method to change from one app to the other, many people don’t know how to do this quickly. Usually it’s head back to the home screen, and click the app to open. The other common way is to go to the app drawer, sift through the sea of apps to find what you are looking for.

Going through the Google Play Store, you can find a few task switcher apps to help you change from one app to another. They have varying degrees of ease of use. Switchr is a really easy to use task switcher app for Android to help you change your apps quickly and easily with a swipe of your finger. Let’s take a look at how you can use Switchr to be more efficient.

Head on over to the Google Play Store and download Switchr. When you have it up and running, you can walk through the quick tutorial. The tutorial will show you the basics of operating Switchr.

Using Switcher to change apps is pretty smooth. The free version doesn’t let you change the active edge so you’ll be touching the upper left edge of your screen.

switchr-active-edge

You’ll see that area flash when exiting the wizard. To change apps, swipe from the upper left of the screen toward the middle. That’s all there is to it.

All of the apps you’ve previously opened will be accessible to the free version of Switchr.

switchr-no-running-apps

With the upgrade, you can access more apps and also whitelist and blacklist app that might appear in the list. If you swipe to switch an app and it isn’t the one you want, you can zig-zag your finger on the screen touching the active edge, then to the center, then back to the active edge and back to the center without lifting your finger.

switchr-change-apps

When you are switching apps, you will see a semi-see through image of the app icon so you know which app you are changing to. The free version offers only one view.

switchr-layout

Related: Swapps: An Alternative Multitasking App For Android

You might not think that an app switcher is useful in Android. Let me give you a couple of examples on how you might use an app switcher to be more efficient.

1.If you are on the web and need to quickly change back and forth to your calendar or note taking app to copy and paste information.

2. Laptop users many times like to use the keyboard shortcuts. Since there really aren’t keyboard shortcuts on Androids, this will be like your “Alt + Tab” keyboard shortcut.

3. You have other apps on your Android which use gestures like Dolphin browser and want to carry that into other areas of your device.

Overall, I thought Switchr worked great. I played with the sensitivity a little to make it less sensitive so I didn’t activate it accidentally. Once I got the hang of using it intentionally, I really started to see the benefit. I liked using it to quickly from whatever I was doing to change to an IM then back. I usually have a lot of apps open so I rarely need to go to my home screen anymore.

How do you quickly change from app to app?

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Is Android 4.4 Worth Buying a New Phone?http://www.maketecheasier.com/android-4-4-worth-buying-a-new-phone/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/android-4-4-worth-buying-a-new-phone/#comments Fri, 01 Nov 2013 23:25:44 +0000 http://www.maketecheasier.com/?p=82985 Android 4.4 took the world with its new set of features and promising performance improvements. But is this new OS really worth getting a new phone for? Let's take a look!

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android-kitkat-thumbAndroid 4.4′s announcement took the world by storm with its new set of features and promising performance improvements. But is this operating system really worth getting a new phone for? Or will it suffice to wait for an update from the manufacturer of your current older phone? We’ll discuss this and also include some of the tasty features that make Android 4.4 live up to its delicious name (Kit Kat).

I personally didn’t like Android’s previous iterations since they seemed to be only marginally less bloated than their predecessors, and I’m still not sure how much the processing power boost that new phones have arrived with actually helped. Some would say that higher-end phones and tablets are the reason why people have had better experiences with new versions of Android. I think the performance increases were there, but not necessarily disruptive enough to broaden the spectrum for mid-range consumers.

That said, Android 4.4 has concentrated heavily on decreasing its resource usage while still maintaining the same feature-rich interface that Android users have enjoyed in previous versions. In fact, its focus on performance is more pronounced by its new memory monitoring interface, which allows you to more precisely manage your memory usage.

android4.4 - system memory

Most of the performance increase comes from the unification of certain system aspects. A lot of regular functions of Android have been consolidated into one unified set, as opposed to treating each object separately. It would be difficult for me to break this down, but just know that Android has cleaned house a bit on lots of its bloated areas, making the interface much smoother even on older mid-range and even some low-range devices.

Besides routine improvements such as minimized battery usage, Android 4.4 brings with it a new set of features that may or may not be interesting, depending on your subjective needs:

  • Wireless printing is now a possibility without the help of third-party methods.
  • The status bar is no longer black. It goes off on a gradient, meaning that you’ll have just a teeny bit more screen real estate to play around with.
  • Communications apps are more unified. The default SMS app merges with Google Hangouts.
  • A new launcher makes Android look less cluttered.
  • Searches through Google Now will lead you into a third-party app, if available.

These are just a few of the many features that Android has added to its repertoire. It’s up to you to judge how relevant they are to you. If you notice, though, there’s a significant focus on converging different apps and getting them to interact with one another in different manners (such as Google Now’s new search feature and the SMS/Hangouts fusion).

Maybe not. First, get in touch with your mobile device’s manufacturer and ask them if they will offer an Android 4.4 update. If they say no, you may continue pondering getting a new phone. Otherwise, why get a new one when the new OS appears on your current device?

So, if your manufacturer says no, is a new device worth it? Is a few new and fancy features worth a few hundred dollars? Or maybe you’re looking for a performance upgrade from a slightly sluggish phone that’s struggling to keep up with current apps. Either way, the decision is not going to be easy. But at least you know exactly what to expect out of the OS. And with this information, you’ll have the ability to make a more informed choice.

What is your opinion?

Note: There is a poll embedded within this post, please visit the site to participate in this post's poll.

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Use TOR On Android to Protect Your Privacyhttp://www.maketecheasier.com/use-tor-android-protect-privacy/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/use-tor-android-protect-privacy/#respond Thu, 24 Oct 2013 23:25:56 +0000 http://www.maketecheasier.com/?p=80222 It is easy to connect to TOR network on the desktop, but what about Android? How can you run Tor on Android and protect your privacy? We'll show you how.

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orbot-android-logoWe have shown you how to connect to TOR network so you can surf privately and anonymously, but what if you are surfing mostly on your Android phone? What can you do to protect your privacy?

Using Orbot to connect to the TOR network is a way to hide your identity online. Using TOR on Android will change your IP address through the use of a proxy server to better hide your identity. This system will work with searches, social network accounts and other things you might do in your digital life. You don’t need a rooted phone for this to work, but you will have a greater level of anonymity if your pphone is rooted.

There are several ways to download Orbot. If you are concerned about where you are downloading the app, you can choose the Google Play Store or the Guardian Project site itself. It is also available on Amazon Appstore and F-Droid. All of them offer the exact same download, but you can choose the source that is most convenient and trustworthy.

Once you have installed the app, you’ll want to start with the wizard. The wizard is pretty straight forward and walks you through the steps of what apps work well with Orbot.

TOR-set-up-wizard

You will also be given many different options, especially if your device is rooted, like having all of the applications run through Orbot or only specific ones.

TOR-proxy-setting

If you have your device rooted, you’ll need to grant Orbot superuser access all of the time. Otherwise, when you start an app like DuckDuckGo, the connection might not be there.

TOR-superuser-access

Without changing any settings, the Google Chrome search widget did not work initially. I need to reboot my tablet for the other apps to be rerouted through the proxy server. Once everything is reset, you can open a web browser and go to a site that checks your IP address and see if the IP address shows a different location than where you actually are. Since my tablet is rooted, even the preinstalled Google Chrome browser and search widget goes through a proxy server.

TOR-ip-address

Some of the applications like Firefox and Twitter may need  to be configured or have add-ons. This is more for the non-rooted users or those choosing not to use the transparent proxy feature. With Twitter, go to the Settings and select Proxy. In this tab, you’ll be asked to enable this option as well as set the proxy host and proxy port.

TOR-twitter-settings

With Firefox, you simply need to download an addon.

TOR-firefox-add-on

If you would like other apps specifically made to work with the system, there is a web browser, DuckDuckGo search engine and an Instant Messenger as well as Twitter and Firefox. These applications and addons can be downloaded directly from the setup wizard or you can always go to The Guardian Project website and download them.

TOR-compatible-apps

A point to note is that to install the APK files you downloaded, you have to enable the option to install apps not from the Google Play Store, just like you would if you install something from the Amazon app store.

TOR-download-apk

Once everything is configured, you should be able to use applications like normal. While you are using your Android , the IP address will periodically change to better hide your personal information and keep your connections more secure.

TOR-ip-address-2

For Android users without rooted devices, you will need to install the applications like DuckDuckGo, make adjustments to the Official Twitter app, and use either the Firefox browser or the Orweb browser or you will not be protected and just have another app running in the background.

While there are some limitations to this privacy and security option, especially for non-root users, there are some great advantages as well. If you are the type of person that connects to every single free WiFi available to help limit data usage, you might be an easier target than someone else. By having a little added security, you can definitely feel a little more at ease.

How do you keep your personal information private?

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Move Your Game Progress Between Android Deviceshttp://www.maketecheasier.com/move-game-progress-between-android-devices/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/move-game-progress-between-android-devices/#respond Wed, 23 Oct 2013 23:25:47 +0000 http://www.maketecheasier.com/?p=81998 On a new Android device, do you prefer to continue your game, or start over again from level one? We'll show you how you can move game progress across devices.

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helium-logoThese days many of us seem to accumulate mobile devices in both smartphone and tablet form. That’s a good problem to have, but only to an extent, as moving game progress and other data, can throw a big problem right up in front of us. After all, who wants to start over from Angry Birds Star Wars level one?

Fortunately, it isn’t as dire as I have made it sound – there are ways to transfer that progress from your phone to your tablet (or phone to phone, tablet to tablet, etc.).

Theree are tons of solutions for a rooted Android phone, but for a non-rooted phone, this is one of the method that I know to work. Helium (formerly named Carbon) is a free (there is a premium $4.99 version as well) app that can back up and restore individual app as well as the entire device. When we say “restore”, it refers to the data as well, which means you can move game progress from one device and continue it on another device.

helium-app-store

You will need to install the app on both of the devices you are using for this transfer, and you will also need the Helium desktop app, which works with Windows, Mac and Linux. In addition, you need the Windows Android drivers installed on your PC.

Once everything is installed it’s time to plug-in your device (in this case both devices) to your PC via USB and open both Helium desktop and Helium mobile. Allow a few seconds for the connection to be made. You will need to repeat this step each time your device is rebooted — its’s one of a couple of strange quirks in Helium.

helium-enabled

By default, Helium backs up to the device’s SD card, which doesn’t work so well for our purposes here, so instead we will be using one of the two other methods available.

If you wish to keep this project on the free side, then you can click the menu “…” a the top right of the mobile app and choose PC Download. This presents you with a local network address – 192.168.1.5:5000, for example. Punch it into your computer browser and choose the apps you wish to backup. Restore can be done the same way.

However, I opted to pay the $4.99 for the premium service, which allows for cloud storage using your choice of Box, Dropbox and Google Drive. I opted for Box, but all work the same. You will need to log into whichever account you choose, but this is only necessary the first time around.

helium-backup

Every app installed on the Galaxy Nexus is listed, alphabetically, and you can tap each to place a checkmark in the box, designating it for backup.

This is essentially a mirror of the above process, and like any mirror, the image is reversed. Go to the device you wish to restore your game progress on and follow the same initial setup process as before — meaning you will need to hook the device to the computer to enable Helium.

Click the Restore tab at the top of the Helium app screen and navigate to your storage location — in this case Box. You will have to log in again, as you need to authorize each device.

helium-restore

Check the boxes for each app you wish to move, and then click the button at the bottom right of the screen. If you do not have a tremendous amount of data then this should go quickly – it’s a fast app.

Last summer, Rovio promised a new account login system would eliminate this need on their popular Angry Birds franchise, but have only added the feature to the original game so far. Other game developers seem to have no plans for transferring game progress among devices, despite the need to do so. For now, Helium is by far the best option for this, plus it can be used for other non-game apps as well.

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Tracking Your Movement? 4 Free Android Pedometer Apps You Should Check Outhttp://www.maketecheasier.com/free-android-pedometer-apps/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/free-android-pedometer-apps/#comments Sat, 19 Oct 2013 21:25:36 +0000 http://www.maketecheasier.com/?p=81469 For those who want to keep track of every step you take, here are four Android pedometer apps you can install to turn your phone into a pedometer.

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You could go out and buy a dedicated pedometer to monitor your steps, but you have to remember to take it with you for it to be of any use. Yet chances are you already have a device that goes with you every time you leave the house – your smartphone. There is enough technology packed inside that device to perform the same task, so by just installing an app, you can turn it into a pedometer that you will actually remember to keep nearby. Here are four Android pedometer apps you can install that help you keep track of every step you take.

Pedometers-Moves

ProtoGeo recently ported Moves from iOS to Android, an app that distinguishes itself by being easy to use, distraction-free, and useful. It has a clean interface that uses circles of different sizes to represent how many steps you’ve taken, how many minutes you’ve biked, or how many miles you’ve run. It tracks your activity each day and has a map where you can view where you’ve been. There isn’t much in the way of settings here, but sometimes that’s a good thing.

Pedometers-Runtastic

Runtastic Pedometer goes more in-depth. This app not only tell you how many steps you’ve taken, but also how frequently you take a step, how fast you’re going, and how far you’ve traveled. Unlike Moves, the free version is ad-supported, but there’s a paid version with more features and no-ads for 99 cents. If you find that you enjoy this app, Runtastic also has a suite of other additional apps available to whip you into shape.

Pedometers-Accupedo

Like the other apps on this list, Accupedo Pedometer is just that, a pedometer, so you already know what it does. This particular offering is known for its widget that sits on your home screen, giving you a constant look at the steps you’ve taken. It’s configurable, so you can see steps, distance, minutes, calories, and more in a manner that suits you best.

Pedometers-Noom-Walk

Noom Walk has an interface that’s sparse and clean. The app claims to use less than 2% of your battery, consuming as much juice over 22 hours as 20 minutes of screen time or just three minutes of GPS usage. The app lets friends encourage each other by giving virtual high fives. It’s entirely free to use, which is also a plus.

There you have it, four Android Pedometer apps that are just raring for you to get out of that office chair and go jogging around the neighborhood, grocery shopping, or just in circles around the house. A pedometer doesn’t require you to change your life or make a habit to visit the gym, it encourages you to be more active by just pushing you to take a few more steps than you did yesterday. There’s just something about counting your steps that feels like beating a high score.

Image credit: A Woman Checks Her Pedometer While Walking Outdoors by BigStockPhoto

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What’s The Difference Between Google Drive And Quickoffice, And Which Should You Use?http://www.maketecheasier.com/google-drive-vs-quickoffice/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/google-drive-vs-quickoffice/#comments Thu, 10 Oct 2013 14:50:41 +0000 http://www.maketecheasier.com/?p=81471 The newly released Quickoffice comes with features similar to Google Drive. So what are the differences between them and which one shoud you use?

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Quickoffice Vs Google DriveQuickoffice was a very popular cross-platform office suite for mobile platforms that supported importing, editing, and exporting files in Microsoft’s ubiquitous .doc and .docx formats. The company, and therefore the app, was eventually bought by Google last year and went MIA for many months. But just last month, Google released an updated version of Quickoffice into the Play Store and made the app free to download. Great, but here’s the thing – Google already has an office suite called Google Drive, and by releasing a separate app into the Play Store, the two office suites now compete with each other. What sets these apps apart, and which should you choose?

Quickoffice Vs Google Drive - Quickoffice Store

Quickoffice’s largest advantage is its ability to edit Microsoft Office documents that aren’t stored on Google Drive. It can pull files directly off your phone’s internal memory. Before being bought by Google, the app supported many providers such as Dropbox, SugarSync, and others. While that’s no longer the case, the ability to load local files still means Quickoffice can load from more sources than the Google Drive app can. So if you don’t want to store your documents on Google’s servers, the issue’s resolved already. Quickoffice is the option for you.

And as far as being a competent document editor goes, Quickoffice is still the superior app. Google Drive is no slouch, but Quickoffice simply offers more features. If you have to create a document on the go that contains tables, images, colors, and charts, you will have better luck using Quickoffice to crank it out. Not only is the interface easier to handle, but since the editing takes place offline, it’s going to provide a smoother experience.

Quickoffice Vs Google Drive - Quickoffice

But Quickoffice has a serious drawback. It can load Microsoft Office files saved to Google Drive, but it displays Google Documents as PDFs – unless you have the Google Drive app installed, in which case it will load that instead.

Quickoffice Vs Google Drive - Drive Store

If you’re content with working with Google Documents, then the Google Drive app is a solid mobile companion. It’s nothing intensive, and it’s not as feature-rich as the desktop version, but it’s capable of getting by in a pinch. If all you need is something to type out a few paragraphs on or even a lengthy, text-heavy paper, you should be fine.

Quickoffice Vs Google Drive - Drive

Google Drive in a desktop web browser can import and export Microsoft Office files just fine, but if you try to load such a file using the mobile app, you’re provided with read-only access. But with the Google Drive app, creating and editing documents is only half of the point. Perhaps the app’s strongest advantage is the ability to collaborate with others. It can show how many other people are looking at the open document at the same time, where they’ve placed their cursor, and the changes they make as they make them. Users can leave comments for others to read, and there’s a certain pleasure pulling out your phone to edit a document a colleague has open on their desktop.

Neither Quickoffice or Drive are limited just to word processing. Both can handle spreadsheets and presentations as well, but the commentary dished out above is the same across the board. Quickoffice is a more capable option for people who need to do more intense work using their Android devices or want to work with documents saved to internal storage. Drive is good for people with solid internet connections who aren’t put off by saving data to Google’s servers. The latter app also has nice collaboration features that could make it worth using on its own. But at the end of the day, these two apps work better together than they do alone. If you have the space available to run both (and with most modern phones, you more than likely do), then that’s your best bet.

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Check What is Hogging Your Android Storage Space With DiskUsagehttp://www.maketecheasier.com/check-android-storage-space/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/check-android-storage-space/#respond Fri, 27 Sep 2013 14:25:20 +0000 http://www.maketecheasier.com/?p=81014 Do you often receive the low space notification on your Android phone, what do you do then? Thankfully, the DiskUsage app makes it easy to see precisely what is taking up your Android storage space.

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disk-usage-logoHigh-end smartphones and tablets now typically come with 16, 32, or even 64GB of internal memory to work with. While this is smaller than the hard drives on most PCs, it’s large enough to store a sizable amount of apps and a great deal of files. But having more space can also make us more inclined to fill it up. Just because you used to get by using an 8GB phone, that doesn’t mean you won’t potentially run out of space after making the jump to 32GB. So once you get a low space notification, what do you do then? While I could point you towards a number of apps that offer to clean up your phone for you, it’s safer to take this type of task into your own hands. Thankfully, the DiskUsage app by Ivan Volosyuk makes it easy to see precisely what is taking up your Android storage space.

First up, head over to the Play Store and download DiskUsage. It’s completely free, so you don’t have to worry about making room in your budget for this one.

When you first open DiskUsage, it will ask which storage destination you would like to view. The default option will most likely be a “storage card,” even if your device doesn’t have a MicroSD card slot. Android is designed in a way that leads many apps to view internal memory as an SD card. It’s not a problem. Just select the option and let DiskUsage do its work.

DiskUsage-Scanning

Afterwards, you will be presented with a visual report of all of the data on your device.

DiskUsage-Storage

From here, you can select any specific app on your device. Clicking on Google Play Music shows how much space it’s consuming and how much of that is going towards app data. In this case, basically all of it. This is usually the case for most apps.

DiskUsage-Specific-App

If an app is taking up too much space, you can try clearing the app’s data, emptying out its cache, or uninstalling the app entirely. You can do this by clicking on the “Show” button in the top right corner. This button it will take you to the app’s settings. From here you can clear up much of the space, if not all of it. Unfortunately, some apps cannot be uninstalled entirely unless you’ve rooted your device.

DiskUsage-App-Settings

This approach can be somewhat extreme, and it may not be necessary for certain apps. If you have a podcast manager installed, read a lot of ebooks, or subscribe to digital magazines, it would be better to personally manage what content remains downloaded to your device. You can do this quickly by looking at the media section in DiskUsage’s grid. Clicking on it shows which apps and folders contain content that’s consuming the most space. You can then go to these apps and manually delete the files you no longer wish to keep on your device.

DiskUsage-Media

DiskUsage isn’t a comprehensive tool that will take care of cleaning your Android device for you. Instead, it gives you a birds-eye-view of what’s stored where and points you in the right direction. In the end, though, it’s up to you to know what to do with the visual data it presents you with. If you make a habit of firing up DiskUsage to keep a check on things, you may just find that your Android phone will be more organized and that the annoying low space warning won’t pop up nearly as much.

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Grab Tilt-Shift Photos on Android with Awesome Miniaturehttp://www.maketecheasier.com/tilt-shift-photos-on-android/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/tilt-shift-photos-on-android/#respond Thu, 19 Sep 2013 23:25:59 +0000 http://www.maketecheasier.com/?p=80601 One of the more unique image photo types is called "tilt-shift" and is used to create images that come out looking almost like tiny models, and it is generally thought of as being used with small and medium-format cameras. If you have an Android device, then there is an app that can simulate the style when shooting pictures.

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awesome-miniature-logoOne of the more unique image photo types is called “tilt-shift” and is used to create images that come out looking almost like tiny models, and it is generally thought of as being used with small and medium-format cameras. If you have an Android device, then there is an app that can simulate the style when shooting pictures.

Grabbing an image of this type can be difficult with a real camera, as it requires rather precise steps, but smartphones are equipped with apps making the process easy for anyone to pull off.

Awesome Miniature is a free app available from Google Play and it features three blur effects, live blur and 30 different filters to choose from.

There are two versions of Awesome Miniature – free and paid. Likely free, which I am using here is more than enough for most users. The paid option retails for $3.99 and packs in a few additional features.

awesome-miniature-play-page

The app opens to the camera, and you will note a number of options available, including, not only take a photo, but also load a photo, user manual and settings. Other icons appear across the bottom of the screen, but those come into play later.

awesome-miniature-photo-choices

You probably didn’t get this app to edit old image, but instead to capture new memories and that’s what we going to do here. Tilt-shift works best from elevation, though for this example, I don’t have that luxury. When you first click “take a photo”, you will be prompted to choose the camera you wish to utilize, and a display of all available on your device is listed.

Once you have captured your image, you have three options for procession – fast (360×640), normal (576×1024) and pro (720×1280). The latter requires the pro version of the app. We will go with normal here.

Now you have some hard choices to make – how to edit that picture to make it just right. There are easy option like crop and rotate, but much harder ones when it comes to other choices – blue, fx, exposure, color, white balance – its a mountain of decisions, but good to have the choices.

awesome-miniature-photo-edit

The blur and fx are likely the most important aspects here. Blur allows you to tap and drag to choose the focus area, meaning the outside of that line will blur, much like a DSLR in portrait mode. You then have the option to apply blur strength, using a sliding scale.

As for fx, the options feel almost limitless. FX is a movie term for effect, as in “special effects” and it works much the same as filter in Instagram, but much cooler because it can do a lot more (even more if you pony up for the Pro version of the app).

Awesome Miniature hold tremendous potential for budding photographers.  Not only can it utilize the camera apps on your device, including top ones like Camera 360 and Camera FX, but can also edit and filter. There is a lot you can do here and it is a fun learning experience and guide to perhaps being able to one day pull these shots off with a point and shoot.

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Get Your Android to Read Out SMS For A Total Hands-free Experiencehttp://www.maketecheasier.com/read-out-sms-android/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/read-out-sms-android/#comments Thu, 05 Sep 2013 23:25:44 +0000 http://www.maketecheasier.com/?p=79637 It can be a distraction to view your SMS while driving. ReadItToMe for Android can read out SMS so you can have a total hands-free experience.

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ReadItToMe-logoPolice are really cracking down on the use of phones while driving. Everything on your phone is really a distraction, be it your navigation, music player, having a conversation or texting. One way to eliminate some of the distraction is to have your Android read out the SMS to you. ReadItToMe is just the app to do that for you. The name kind of gives away what the app is all about, but there are some really cool and helpful features available in the free version and even more in the paid version.

The first thing I noticed is a feature I disliked other apps for not having. You can choose when you’d like the messages read. For example, you can have the messages read to you when you only have your headphones in. An example of this being handy is if you are a working out and don’t want to break your rhythm to see if the arriving message is the one you are waiting for. Similarly, you can have the messages only read to you when you are hooked up to a Bluetooth device. Make sure you are comfortable with anyone in your car hearing your messages being read aloud if you use Bluetooth in your vehicle.

Another really handy option is to be able to choose the delivery method for each contact individually. This lets you set the global setting to do not read but have messages from important people like your spouse or kids read aloud.

ReadItToMe-headphones

To get started using ReadItToMe, download the app from the Google Play Store. Once installed and started, you will be asked if you want to learn to use ReadItToMe or just wing it. Take the time to go through the tutorial. It really explains the basics and you can see how easy it is to use and what it can do for you.

ReadItToMe-tutorial

Go through the settings and tick the boxes you’d like to enable. Here is a screen shot of what I chose.

ReadItToMe-settings

The settings are pretty well laid out. You will see different tabs. Accessing them is a simple scroll left or right to get to the column you’d like to see. Some of the tabs are only accessible with the pro version. The pro version opens up access to other apps. What I mean is, if you have the pro version, you can have your messages read in your third-party apps like Google Hangout. Also, you can reply via voice with the pro version.

ReadItToMe-voice

I tried out ReadItToMe for a few days before starting the review. What I found was, it worked really well overall. I had no troubles with the Bluetooth and headphone only options. I also used it for specific contacts who I chat with a lot. It worked well.

What I found was, there were times when I didn’t want to have the messages spoke to me but forgot to turn off ReadItToMe. Also, I had some troubles with ReadItToMe still speaking the name of the person when I asked it not to in the settings. The voice reply and everything else worked well for me.

Do you use an app for safely messaging or having your messages read to you? What is your reasoning for using an app like this?

Image credit: Asian man sitting in car with mobile phone in hand texting while driving by BigStockPhoto

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Everything Home Changes the Homescreen Automatically When You Do a Search [Android]http://www.maketecheasier.com/everything-home-launcher-android/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/everything-home-launcher-android/#comments Wed, 04 Sep 2013 14:50:33 +0000 http://www.maketecheasier.com/?p=79635 Fancy an intelligent Android home launcher that can automatically modify your phone to suit your needs when you need it? Everything Home is a dynamic Android Home launcher that changes your homescreen instantly when you do a search.

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everything-home-logoLet’s face it, there are a lot of home screen launchers out there. Something all of these launchers have in common is, you need to decide what apps are on the home screens and what the background image is. When you want to change how you are using a home screen, you need to make the changes manually. Well, until now that is.

When sifting through apps in the Google Play Store recently, I came across a pretty neat home screen launcher. It’s called Everything Home. What Everything Home does is change the icons and look of your home screens based on your search terms. Pretty interesting huh? Let’s take a look at how it works.

You will obviously need to download Everything Home from the Google Play Store. Once you download it and open it, you will be asked if you’d like to have it as your main home screen launcher. If you do, set it as your default and move on to the fun. That’s really all the setup you’ll have to endure.

everything-home-default-launcher

You can make adjustments to your home screen like it were any other home screen launcher out there. Add widgets, folders and other items to your home screens. They will be momentarily replaced when you receive your search results.

To get the full value from Everything Home, you need to use the search bar at the top of the screen. In this example, I searched for the generic term “soccer”. As you can see in the screen grab below, the background image and all of the icons are different and geared toward soccer in some way. Pretty cool huh?

everything-home-soccer

Here are some other searches:

New York City

everything-home-nyc

See how the icons changed to shortcuts you might find useful while navigating through NYC?

Cross Country Trip

everything-home-trip-planning

Take a look at the options you are given here. Would they help you plan a trip across the country?

Eating Healthy

everything-home-healthy-eating

There are some pretty good resources here for eating better in my opinion.

Summer Activities for Kids

everything-home-kids-activities

If you are asked to babysit and need some ideas for activities, these would surely help.

As you can see, Everything Home can be really useful when using your Android to search for pretty much anything on the web, not just certain things.

When making a search, you might need to better direct Everything Home. Select whether you’d like to have your results reflect Web search, images or other options.

everything-home-refine

You can also refine your searches if you press the three vertical dots at the top right of the search results. As you know, narrowing your results in Google can be really helpful to get the information you are in search of.

Something else worth mentioning is, apps are placed into categories and folders. This helps make more sense of the mess we call our app drawer.

everything-home-smart-folders

When the results are shown for your search and the home screen is changed, you will see app suggestions as well.

While there isn’t a lot to show with Everything Home, it is something you can really have fun trying out. When I first downloaded it, I tried a lot of different searches to see what popped up for shortcuts and what it chose for a background image. I thought there were a lot of really good images and the icons really were helpful and sped up the process when doing some research.

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Discover and Listen to Music For Free With Torch Music For Androidhttp://www.maketecheasier.com/listen-to-music-for-free-with-torch-music-android/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/listen-to-music-for-free-with-torch-music-android/#comments Tue, 03 Sep 2013 23:25:07 +0000 http://www.maketecheasier.com/?p=80108 If you are looking for a great source of music and can't pay the monthly fees that services such as Google Music All Access charge, then Torch Music is a great option.

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torch-music-thumbTorch, a web browser based on Google’s Chrome platform, has been growing in popularity thanks to the features it brings along to the users. One of those is the great music integration, with ability to easily find and play almost any song or video on demand. Now the developers are branching out to the mobile market, not with the browser, but with a stand-alone music app designed for Android devices.

To get started, grab the free app that is now in the Google Play store. Upon first launch you will have the option to log in with Facebook, but it isn’t necessary – you can simply click “no thanks” and move on into the app.

Torch opens to what is a rather cluttered looking screen, especially if you are using a smartphone, though it isn’t much better on my Nexus 7 either. The good side of that mess is all of the music that is right there before your eyes, ready to be streamed. Even better, this is only a very small snapshot of what the app offers – just a reminder of a few of the more popular choices available, and its just the top portion of an endlessly populating scroll that you can move down through.

torch-music-main

Endless scrolling, however, is a tough way to find that tune that is stuck in your head and it is near useless if you are looking for something of a more obscure nature. Let’s face it, you can swipe your finger up the screen all day and you will not be able to find someone like the Stone Roses.

Thankfully there is a simple Search option that allows you to query the service by artist, album title or song. Results are displayed that change in real-time as you type your term. Final results are broken down into categories – for instance, my search for Stone Roses lists first the artist, then their two albums and finally their top tracks, with a link to display a more complete song list.

torch-music-search

Tap a track or album to begin play. Controls are found at the screen bottom and consist simply of Play/Pause, Skip Forward and Skip Backward. Albums can be played as a whole or you can pick and choose tracks to your tastes.

Clicking on the artist name brings up a larger display of albums attributed to them, complete with cover art. To the right is an option for “Related Artists” and, as the name implies, this displays more musicians from the genre and aims to introduce you to others whom you may like to hear.

torch-music-artist

If you are looking for a great source of music and can’t pay the monthly fees that services such as Google Music All Access charge, then Torch Music is a great option. A few of the bells and whistles may be missing – there is no browsing by genre, no ability to create playlists and no personal radio stations. That’s all fine though. The old saying is that you get what you pay for, but in this case you are paying for nothing, but still getting quite a bit in return. That’s a deal that can not be beat.

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Using Google Now Like a Prohttp://www.maketecheasier.com/using-google-now-like-pro/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/using-google-now-like-pro/#comments Sun, 01 Sep 2013 14:50:02 +0000 http://www.maketecheasier.com/?p=79629 Most Android users don't even know the existence of Google Now, nor are using them to the fullest. Check these tricks out to use Google Now like a pro.

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Most Android usersgoogle-now-thumb I know admit they aren’t using their smart phones to near the potential they could. Well, as a pretty active Android user, I thought I would let you in on some of the coolness that you can do with Google Now. Most of the newer devices have it installed. If not, you can download the Google Search app to get Google Now.

Google Now is like a concierge built into Google Search for Android. You can ask Google Now to do various tasks for you. Tasks can range from setting an alarm, sending a SMS to someone or many other useful things. I am sure you can think of some reasons why you may want to complete tasks with your voice.

google-now-walkthrough

Google Now  has several different parts to it. As I mentioned, it is part of Google Search so the Google Search widget is a good place for us to start. Most devices have the Google Search widget on your homescreen. To start using Google Now, press the microphone icon in the widget.

google-now-activate

Now, you have a couple of choices here. First press the music note at the bottom right of the box. This will listen for music being played nearby and tells you the artist and song. Also, you can quickly buy the song from Google Play Store.

google-now-music

After you’ve tried that, let’s move on to the other cool things you can do. Press the microphone on the Google Search widget again. This time, scroll down a little. If you haven’t used Google Now until now, you can see a list of a lot of actions it can perform for you. You may have seen the older Google commercials where people were asking their Google Nexus questions. This is one of the options.

So is saying things like, “Remind me to pick up milk at 5PM.” Or Send a text to Chad saying “Let’s meet for lunch today.”

google-now-speak

Here is a quick list of possible tasks.

  • Send SMS.
  • Ask Google a question.
  • Make a phone call.
  • Ask for directions.
  • Set alarms.
  • Set reminders.
  • Make calendar appointments.
  • Navigate to a web page.
  • Play music or other media in your Google Play account.

Another part of Google Now is the information cards. The cards show timely information about things you are interested in. Also, the more you use your phone and Google Search, the more detailed the cards will get. Some things to start on are your favorite sports team schedule. I am a soccer fan and follow the Portland Timbers in the MLS. I have my Google Now setup to show a card when they have an upcoming game.

google-now-sports-card

Other cards will show things like your flight information and if the flight is on time or not. If you let Google Now know important places or have addresses on your Google Calendar appointments, you will be notified of the time it should take you to get there from your current location and how the traffic is on the preferred route.

google-now-directions

For people who travel, there is a card showing nearby events. This is really handy if you are looking for something to do while on a business trip or vacation or if you are just bored on a Saturday afternoon.

Weather is another card. Depending on the device, you will have different options here. Generally, you will see the temperature, humidity, potential for precipitation and the forecast for the next few days. You can set your home location to always show. You can also see the weather for your current location for when you are away from your home location.

What I like about using Google Now for Notes is you are not limited to using Google Keep to store notes. You can set the default note app to be whatever you use a lot. For example, you can use Evernote to store the notes you speak into Google Now .

google-now-note

This makes it easier for you to integrate Google Now and voice actions into your daily routine.

Are you using your Android to its full potential? What are your thoughts on Google Now and using voice inputting your commands?

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Turn An Old Android Device Into A Chromecast By Using CheapCasthttp://www.maketecheasier.com/turn-android-into-chromecast/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/turn-android-into-chromecast/#respond Wed, 28 Aug 2013 23:25:50 +0000 http://www.maketecheasier.com/?p=80013 If you are interested in the Chromecast capability, but not the hardware, here is how you can turn your Android device into a Chromecast.

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CheapCast-logoYou’ve probably heard of the Chromecast by now. It’s an inexpensive USB dongle the size of a flash drive that plugs into a TV. We’ve already covered six unconventional ways of using the device that aren’t immediately obvious. We followed that up with a piece onstreaming local media to the Chromecast, functionality that is enabled out of the box but not exactly advertised. Both of these posts assume that you either have or want a Chromecast.

First, head over to the Play Store and download CheapCast. It’s a free app, so it already lives up to its name out of the box. The app should install just fine, even on devices that aren’t capable of utilizing it. Once it’s up and running, you will be greeted by a screen that looks like this.

CheapCast-Options

CheapCast may be performing a relatively complex task, but this is hidden from the user. The options displayed above are all there is to see, and none of them have to be toggled to start using the device. Just press the “Start Service” button to turn your device into a Chromecast.

CheapCast-Enable

Now, when you return to whichever device you want to stream media from – whether that be a desktop, laptop, tablet, or smartphone – it should be able to detect your device running CheapCast in the list of Chromecasts on your network. Select it as you would any other, and the video or audio should start streaming to whichever TV or monitor your device is plugged into.

The top option, which reads “Friendly Name,” gives you the ability to rename your device to something that may be more recognizable. If your device is going to be stationary, you can name it after the room it’s in, making it easy to keep track with where you’re projecting your media. On the other hand, if your device is going to be mobile, it may help to name it accordingly.

CheapCast-Rename

First things first, you will need an Android device that can output to HDMI. If you don’t have one, then the cost of getting your hands on such a tablet or handset could cost more than the price of the Chromecast itself. On the other hand, there are Android media sticks available out there that, while more expensive than a Chromecast, aren’t much larger and cost significantly less than a tablet or phone. Either way, using CheapCast is going to require more effort than just buying a Chromecast, even if only marginally so. And without a decent amount of work, this solution probably won’t look as elegant. A Chromecast generally disappears behind the TV it’s plugged into in a way that a tablet won’t.

Still, if you can get CheapCast up and running (and your mileage may vary depending on what device you’re trying to set up), it’s a great tool. It’s obviously aimed at tinkerers and more hands-on users who are already aware of the limitations of a solution like this and aren’t deterred.

A Chromecast is a cheap and user-friendly media streaming experience. CheapCast replicates its behavior, but at the same time, it empowers you to create a media streaming solution of your own by relying on whatever hardware you see fit. Have fun, and feel free to share you experience with us in the comments below.

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How to Show Notifications in the Lockscreen in Androidhttp://www.maketecheasier.com/show-notification-in-lockscreen-android/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/show-notification-in-lockscreen-android/#respond Wed, 28 Aug 2013 14:50:44 +0000 http://www.maketecheasier.com/?p=80051 While Android doesn't show notification on the lockscreen by default, that doesn't mean you can't add the feature in. NiLS Notification Lock Screen is a useful Android app that can show notifications in the lockscreen and allows you to take necessary actions in it, without unlocking the phone.

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lockscreen-notification-logoIf you choose to lockdown your Android phone, either with the password or pattern security, you will find that accessing your notifications can be quite a hassle. Android doesn’t show notification on the lockscreen by default and you have to unlock the phone everytime to be able to access the notifications. Won’t it be great if you can view notifications directly in the lock screen and take necessary actions in it, without unlocking the phone?

NiLS Notifications Lock Screen is an Android app that can show notification in the lockscreen. It is, in fact, a widget that you add to your lockscreen and it checks and displays notifications on the lockscreen. NiLS Notification LockScreen only works for handset with Android 4.2 and above.

1. Install NiLS Notification Lock Screen from the Play Store. It is currently in beta version, but it has been working fine on my phone without any issue.

2. Open the NiLS app and click the first “Service” option to activate the service.

lockscreen-notification-activation

3. Next, lock your phone and turn it back on again to reach the lockscreen. Click the “+” button to add the notification widget. Ideally, you would want to remove the default clock widget and replace it with this notification widget, so that your notification will show up in the first screen. If you want, you can also swipe left/right to reveal empty area to add the notification widget.

4. Once you have added the widget, it will start to show your notification in the lockscreen.

lockscreen-notification-in-action

To configure the appearance of the notification, you can go back to its app and select the “Widget” option. Here you can configure the appearance of the clock as well as the notification widget. You can make the notification small, normal or large and even add a “Clear All” button to get rid of all the notifications at once.

lockscreen-notification-clock-configuration

lockscreen-notification-configuration

NiLS Notifications Lock Screen is a simple app that does simple thing, but filled a gap that is sorely missed in Android. Until Google decide to add this feature to the Android core, this is one useful app that you can use to show notification in your lockscreen.

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Pocket Casts: Easily the Best Podcast App For Androidhttp://www.maketecheasier.com/pocket-casts-android-podcast-app/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/pocket-casts-android-podcast-app/#respond Sat, 24 Aug 2013 14:50:52 +0000 http://www.maketecheasier.com/?p=79631 Most of the existing podcast apps are either lacking in features or too complicated to use. Pocket Casts is the best Android podcast app you can get.

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pocketcast-logoWith the death of Google Reader, I decided to switch to listening to podcasts rather than reading news feeds. The problem was, there weren’t really any good choices readily available for a podcast aggregator. Most of the existing Android podcast apps are either lacking in features or too complicated to use. What I was looking for was something like Google Reader, but for podcasts. I needed a player and something that will check for new podcasts as well as sync with other devices.

In my hunt, I came across the app Pocket Casts. Yes it is a paid app. We don’t usually talk about the paid apps if there is a free version of something that will do an equally good job. In my opinion, this is the best Android podcast app you can find in Google Play.

What I like is the ability to import a list of previously accumulated podcasts. There is an option to import an OPML file. This saves a lot of time if you are using another feed reader or were using Google’s Listen app.

If you are just starting out, you can easily add podcasts by searching for the website. Another option is to search for a keyword like “Major League Soccer”. The results will pull up all the possibilities out there.

pocketcast-search

When clicking on the podcast, you will see the description, recent episodes and the option to add it to your list.

pocketcast-podcast-details

When subscribed, you will see the latest episode and have the option to download it to your device. What’s nice is, you can also stream it using Pocket Casts or in an external player.

pocketcast-stream

In the settings, you have several choices to set up how the podcasts are downloaded and played. One nice feature I have not come across before is being able to start several seconds in to avoid having to listen to the intro or intro music.

Another good option is to have the app check for new episodes once a day. This will save on battery life. Also, you can find options to delete the downloaded files after the episode has been played to help save space and clutter on your device.

pocketcast-settings

If you know you’d like all of the newest episodes of a podcast to download, you can set this up to do it automatically. Be careful not to have too many download automatically or you could go through a lot of data or fill up your phone storage quickly.

One of the features that really sold me was the syncing from device to device. There is a free account needed which I gladly signed up for. The syncing is really useful for me. Sometimes I am listening to a podcast on the commute home from work and resume it on my tablet when I arrive home. I don’t need to figure out where I was in the episode when I move to a different device.

Overall, this is the best Android podcast aggregator I have tried to date. Unless something goes horribly awry with it, I won’t be looking for other alternatives. With all of the basic features handled, including a good looking and easy to use player with controls on the lock screen, there leaves little to desire for my needs. The added features like the smart playlists are all a plus when it comes to listening to several different sites.

Do you listen to podcasts regularly? What apps do you use on your Android to find and listen to them?

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Find Your Lost Android Phones with Device Managerhttp://www.maketecheasier.com/find-lost-android-phones-with-device-manager/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/find-lost-android-phones-with-device-manager/#respond Fri, 23 Aug 2013 14:50:33 +0000 http://www.maketecheasier.com/?p=79646 Google came out with its own solution to help you find lost Android phones and tablets. This is certainly cutting into the business developers such as Seek Droid, Find My Droid and others. So, what is Google offering and can it compete with those existing apps in the market?

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android-device-manager-thumbAlmost since the smartphone became the carry-around device of choice, developers have scrambled to find a way to help users locate misplaced handsets. While many good ones have come to market, Google has now decided to release its own solution to help you find lost Android phones, and tablets as well.

Simply having the search giant and Android maker jump into the market certainly is capable cutting into the business developers such as Seek Droid, Find My Droid and others. So, what is Google offering and can it compete with those existing apps in the market?

Yes, you read that correctly – you do not need to install any software on your device. Every Android device requires that you activate using your Google account. The company, therefore, already knows what you have. There are exceptions to this – for instance, the service does not work with my Kindle Fire HD. This is because Amazon’s tablets run a highly specialized version of Android, and setup requires your Amazon account information, not Google’s.

The search giant also runs what is arguably the besting mapping system in the world. Combining these two factors makes Google uniquely qualified to handle the task, perhaps better than any other company.

Before you get hype up, we must inform you that this feature is only available for Android version 4.3 and above. Head to your device settings. Scroll down to find “Security” and click to open it. Then select “Device administrators” and then select “Android device administrators” and choose “Activate”. Now you are ready to move on.

Google has set up a special Device Manager web site to make all of this work. When you arrive on the site, you will be greeted with a large full-screen Google Map (in my case North America). It will then attempt to locate your device and pinpoint it on the map. This all takes place surprisingly quickly.

android-device-manager-map

As the map zooms all the way in, it will pinpoint your location or, rather, the location of your device. This has been surprisingly accurate in all of my tests.

Once you are pinpointed on the map, the boxes on the left will populate with more detailed information. In the upper box, you will find a drop-down list of all of your devices, with an option to the right to rename a particular phone or tablet. This is followed by the name of your location (nearest town) and a message telling you that Google feels it has you within 25 meters. That last bit changes, though I have never seen it exceed 100 meters.

android-device-manager-device-details

Finally, at the bottom, there are two buttons – the left is designed to “ring” (yes this works for tablets also) your chosen device. The right one is labeled “erase device”, but is greyed out. This is because I have not enabled “factory reset” on my devices. The lower box explains this and gives the option to  send the enable option to the phone or tablet.

This is by far the simplest solution for lost and stolen devices, and its all free and easy to use, no matter how many devices you own. No mobile app to install, incredible accuracy and, given that it’s Android, Google is far less likely to suddenly decide to kill it off, as they have done with so many other seemingly good ideas like Reader.

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Easily Transfer Files From PC to PC With Any Sendhttp://www.maketecheasier.com/transfer-files-from-pc-to-pc-with-any-send/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/transfer-files-from-pc-to-pc-with-any-send/#comments Thu, 22 Aug 2013 14:50:37 +0000 http://www.maketecheasier.com/?p=79762 While you can transfer files from PC to PC using a USB drive, it can be a troublesome task to plug in and remove the thumb drive again and again. Any Send makes it easier by allowing you to send files over the WiFi network.

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anysend_teaserIt’s not all that long since we took a look at a free tool called AnySend that can be used to send large files to people without the need to use email attachments. Now we’re going to show you another tool that has almost the same name but works in a slightly different way. This time, this focus is on transferring files from PC to PC that are connected to the same network.

Any Send (this time featuring an all-important space in the name!) is a great little tool that makes it easy to transfer files between computers over a WiFi connection, and it’s available for Windows, OS X and Android (an iOS version is promised for some time in the near future).

Things are very similar in the PC and Mac versions of the app, and for the purposes of this article we’re going to focus on Windows and Android – transferring between devices running the same OS, and also between platforms.

Start by visiting the AnySend website, scroll down to the bottom of the page and click the Windows logo followed by the “Windows” button. Save the zip file to a folder of your choice and then extract the contents.

anysend_download

In the folder, you’ll find setup files for the 32- and 64-bit versions of the app, so make sure you work with the right one according to the version of Windows you have installed.

Run through the installer. There’s nothing unusual here, but you will need to install Bonjour alongside the app itself. Once the installation is complete, launch the program.

anysend_install

As Any Send requires access to the internet, you’ll find that a Windows Security Alert pops up asking whether the app should be allowed network access. The software is safe, so click “Allow access”.

anysend_firewall

You’ll then be greeted by a brief tutorial which you are free to work through or skip as you see fit. It’s a good idea to play through the tutorial as when you reach the end you’ll not only have a better idea of how the program works, but you can also opt to have it run at system startup – you can change this setting later as well, so don’t worry if you miss it.

Now you will need to install the app on another computer that is connected to the same network as your first one. Run through the same installation process again. Once you are up and running, it’s a good time to look at some preferences.

Right click the system tray icon for the program and select the “Preferences” option.

anysend_preferences

You may decide that you don’t want to change many, or any, of the settings here, but you can make your computer easier to identify on the network by assigning it a meaningful name. If you haven’t done so already, you can also opt to have the program start automatically with Windows, and decide whether or not sound be played.

The process of actually copying files from one computer to another is very simple. Select the file you would like to send and copy it to the clipboard by pressing “Ctrl + c” (or right click and select “Copy”). Click the Any Send icon and then select the computer you would like to send to – that’s all there is to it!

anysend_send

You can easily access any files that are sent in this way by clicking the small folder icon in the Any Send popup menu – this will take you directly to the transfer folder

While Any Send is great for sending files between computers, it is also great for transferring files between your computer and phone or tablet. The Android version of Any Send can be downloaded from Google Play free of charge.

anysend_android

The mobile app works in much the same way as the desktop version, and once you have it installed, you will notice that your phone or tablet appears in the list of available devices.

When you want to send a file from your Android to your computer, things are done in the reverse order. Launch the app and select the computer you would like to send to. You can then choose from a number of available apps and use this list to choose the data or files you would like to transfer.

anysend_android_send

This is a simple app, but it is a great alternative to fiddling with cables or using sync software to move files from one place to another.

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Make Your Android Look Like A Windows Phone 8http://www.maketecheasier.com/make-android-look-like-windows-phone-8/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/make-android-look-like-windows-phone-8/#comments Wed, 21 Aug 2013 14:50:24 +0000 http://www.maketecheasier.com/?p=79429 The good thing about Android is that you can customize everything to your liking. If you own an Android phone, but love the Windows Phone 8 interface, here's how you can make Android look like Windows Phone 8.

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arikui-launcher-logoSince I got myself an Android phone, I had little urge to get an iPhone or anything Microsoft put out in the last few years. However, I must admit that the live tiles and the way Windows Phone 8 works is pretty slick. The other day I was looking through the Google Play Store and came across some apps and themes to make my Android look like Windows phone 8. Then I came across Ariku Launcher.

Ariku Launcher is a cool launcher with a lot of different settings to give you the look of a Windows 8 device. Let’s take a look at how it works.

You will need to head over to the Google Play Store and download the launcher and install it. To start messing around the launcher, press the home button and make it the default launcher. If you are just trying it out, depending on the Android version you are using, you could use the “Just once” option.

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You will be at the default layout. Your wallpaper will remain the same, but the screen will be covered mainly by the tiles. With the tiles, it is pretty hard to see so possibly changing it to a solid color might lend to a more appealing layout. From here you can make changes like most home screens to customize it how you’d like to use it.

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You should see a wrench in the bottom left corner. This is where you get to the settings. If your device has a menu button, it will get you there too. The settings menu lets you change all kinds of goodies. Click on the tab for what you’d like to make adjustments to.

The tiles tab lets you adjust colors and transparencies. The desktop tab lets you make adjustments like having a screen lock (locking the tiles to the screen) , scroll effect and the wallpaper transparency.

windows-8-on-android-preferences

The Preferences offers a lot of things to change. What will be useful is to take a look at the gestures. Swiping up with two fingers gets you to the app drawer, down with two fingers gets you to the Preferences. To change what the gestures do, tap on the option and choose a new action for it from the list.

windows-8-on-android-gestures

The tiles are the biggest part of what makes Windows 8′s look unique. When adding an app to the home screen, the process is the same. However, when the shortcut is added, you can make some changes to it. Mainly the size. You may have a lot of room on the screen and you’d like to have it taken up by a Gallery shortcut. Press and drag the arrow in the bottom right corner to resize it. To change the color, press the pencil at the top left.

windows-8-on-android-tiles-editing

Widgets can also be added to your home screen in the same manner. edited similarly too. Further customizing can be done using Apex/Nova/Go/Adw icon packs.

What’s cool too is, you can have different home screen layouts and save them. Once saved, you can restore them later on with a few clicks.

windows-8-on-android-restore-layout

While Ariku Launcher is only cosmetic, it offers a good way to add the Windows 8 look to your Android without sacrificing all of the features you’ve come to know and love about the Android OS.

What are your opinions on the Windows 8 devices? Let us know in the comments below.

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How to Tell if Your Android Phone Was Infectedhttp://www.maketecheasier.com/how-to-tell-if-your-android-phone-was-infected/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/how-to-tell-if-your-android-phone-was-infected/#respond Mon, 19 Aug 2013 23:25:01 +0000 http://www.maketecheasier.com/?p=79694 With the growing number of malware for Android, it is getting easier for anyone's phone to get infected. But how can you find out if your Android phone was infected?

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androidmalware-thumbThe possibility of getting infected on Android has been taken seriously ever since malware started appearing on Google Play. The market is flooded daily with different malicious applications, mainly because Google doesn’t regulate its ever-growing market sufficiently. This isn’t exactly good news for you, since your phone may behave strangely one day due to an app. I got a wake-up call recently when my phone was almost infected as a website automatically downloaded an app into it. For this reason, I decided it’s a good a day as any to talk about how you can tell if you’re infected, and what to do to prevent it from happening.

If you’re calling someone and the conversation suddenly stops, try calling another number. Maybe the problem is on the other end. Call a land line. If you still get dropped calls once in awhile, you’re probably infected by malware (unless you’re calling from a tunnel). Malware has a tendency to interfere with calls when it uses your cellular antenna. Sometimes, it even records what you’re saying on the phone. This is a massive breach of privacy that must be stopped immediately.

androidmalware-sms

The day you get your phone bill, pay close attention to it. If you see a spike in SMS activity or data usage that shouldn’t be there, an app is probably sending messages or relaying data without your knowledge. Some of them send messages just once in a while, making it difficult to distinguish. Ask people on your contacts list whether they’ve seen strange messages from you. If you’re lucky, some people might actually reply to the SMS sent by the malware, demonstrating that something is sending messages on your behalf without your knowledge. Android might even show the message in the conversation window.

Just like viruses in Windows, malware in Android can cause significant drops in performance on the platform you’re using. You’ll either find the phone nearly unusable in the most extreme cases, or you’ll have difficulty switching from an app to your home screen as smoothly as you’re used to. This kind of performance drop is experienced either by a rogue application acting weirdly or malware exploiting your phone’s processing power heavily.

First of all, you should have a competent antivirus app installed on your phone. I’d recommend Avast! or Lookout. This will help you get rid of whatever malware you might have right now. To prevent any infections, take these precautions:

  • When looking at an app on Google Play, check the reviews. If you’re lucky, a few people will come out and say that it’s malware. How many people downloaded the app? If it’s not popular enough for at least 1,000 reviews, you’re taking a higher risk.
  • If the app is new and has few downloads, give it the benefit of the doubt only if the developer has other apps that have decent reviews. You can see this by clicking the developer’s name. An example of its location is depicted below.

androidmalware-aboutdeveloper

  • Go to “Settings -> All Settings -> Security -> Device Administration” and make sure that the checkbox next to “Unknown sources” is empty. I know I mentioned earlier that Google is having trouble regulating its own booming market sufficiently, but some administration is better than none. Also, this prevents applications like the one that was automatically downloaded onto my phone by some malicious site from running. Since it was downloaded from an unknown source, Android stops it in its tracks before it even gets to lay a finger on my phone’s resouces.

Let’s hear from you. If you have some advice for fellow readers on how to avoid malware, leave a comment below!

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5 Useful Android Apps to Lock Down Your Text Messages And Imageshttp://www.maketecheasier.com/lock-down-text-messages-and-images-android/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/lock-down-text-messages-and-images-android/#comments Sun, 18 Aug 2013 14:50:24 +0000 http://www.maketecheasier.com/?p=79431 If you are looking to keep your sms private from a snooping coworker or a nosey boyfriend or girlfriend, here are 5 useful Android apps to help.

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hide-sms-thumbPrivacy is a concern for most people these days. Whether you are looking to keep your information private from a snooping coworker or a nosey boyfriend or girlfriend, there are apps to help. The problem is, some of the apps are just plain awful. What I will go over today are some good apps to use for keeping texts and images from being easily accessed.

Some of the apps in this list have some built in functionality for just such a task. Others may need to be unlocked by purchasing the pro version. Others yet are made specifically for hiding SMS messages or images from any prying eyes.

GO SMS Pro is a really popular app. In fact, it is the one I have used off and on for couple of years. One feature I didn’t really know about was the ability to have private contacts. In a nutshell, you can take a contact, a potential employer for example, and place them in your private inbox. If they send you a text message, you will need to unlock the message before it can be read.

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When you have the premium version of GO SMS Pro, you can hide the private SMS inbox from the menu and unlock more of the settings to make it more difficult to access. What I like here is the ability to rename the SMS vault inbox to something a little less conspicuous.

Very recently I talked about Hi App Lock. This is a good option for locking individual Android apps for better privacy. You can easily use Hi App Lock to lock down anywhere you feel an onlooker may be able to access the information you’d like to keep private. Think about how often you leave your phone or tablet on your desk or in your car or backpack unattended. If your Android device was stolen, what would people be able to see and/or do with the information they find?

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Do you send messages to someone you aren’t supposed to? Are your work text messages or images you take with your work camera confidential? No reason for you to have information leaked just because you set your phone down.

Vault is an app that’s come a long way in the past couple of years. When I first tested it, all you could do was hide images and it wasn’t all that great at it. Now Vault has evolved into more of a privacy control center. With the free version, you can encrypt your images, you can also encrypt a limited number of text messages too.

hide-sms-vault

A feature I really thought could be helpful is the option to link your Facebook account and encrypt your Facebook messages. When you send a Facebook message to someone, they will be able to read it, but the message doesn’t show up in your conversation history.

Secrets is similar to Vault because you can hide images or other files. It’s different because the Secrets doesn’t show up in the Android app drawer. Opening Secrets is done by going to your phone dialer and typing the default 1111 and pressing send. You will be prompted to enter a code then you can see your hidden files. Having an app for just your images can be nice, especially when you might have taken or received some images you might not want anyone to know about.

hide-sms-secrets

Hide SMS is just for hiding text messages. Hiding the messages is as simple as long pressing the message and opting to move the message to the hidden inbox. When a new message arrives, You will see an inconspicuous message in your notification bar saying KeepSafe updated. When hiding a current thread, the app may not move your images over. They didn’t on my Samsung S3.

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People have many different reasons for wanting to keep their communications private. The above apps are there to help. I would recommend trying some of the all-in-one apps for an ease of use standpoint. When you have too many apps on your phone for similar tasks, it can get confusing and could even slow down or cause conflicts with each other.

Image credit: Index finger touching the screen of a smartphone by BigStockPhoto

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