Tablets

Five tips for improving your tablet experience

If you need more than a smartphone but less than a laptop, you may be a happy tablet user. But there are still some peculiarities to work around and new habits to develop.

If you've adopted tablet technology, you know just how versatile these devices can be. I have to confess I was a skeptic at first. But after using the Motorola Xoom (from Verizon Wireless), I realized I was wrong. Tablets are certainly going to be a big part of the future of computing.

That doesn't mean that every PC user is going to hit the ground running with tablets. They do take a bit of acclimating to get the most from the experience. Here are a few tips to make your tablet experience much better out of the starting gate.

1: Use a syncing service or app

I highly recommend using a service (such as Dropbox) that will allow you to access remote files and folders. Without using such a service, you will find yourself having to email documents back and forth. If you don't want to bother with a cloud-based service, you can add a tool that allows the connection between the tablet and an SMB server (such as Samba). Probably the best of these tools I have found is AndSMB. Both Dropbox and AndSMB can be found in the Android Market and are simple to install and use.

2: Install a bookmark syncing tool

I have found that most browsers on the mobile platforms have crappy bookmark managers. So bad are these bookmark managers, I tend to ignore them. But some browsers, such as the mobile version of Firefox 4, let you sync mobile and desktop bookmarks with ease. With this tool in action, any bookmark created or saved on the desktop will automatically sync on the mobile version. That is infinitely easier than typing lengthy addresses and then managing the bookmarks into some semblance of order.

3: Purchase a USB keyboard

I have heard over and over again (from fanboys and commercials) that the keyboards on various tablets are fine for writing papers, documents, and (in some cases) even novels. Well, as a writer, I can promise you that a tablet keyboard is no place to be composing any documents of length. I have fairly small hands and have trouble typing anything beyond a paragraph (a short one that that). The big issue isn't the key size on the hardware, but human physiognomy. The size of the tablet will place the wrists in such a position that any document of length will quickly start to cause discomfort in the wrists.

4: Keep it smudge free

How many times do you clean your tablet screen a day? If you are plagued with oily skin, you are most likely cleaning that glass off constantly. There are products out there that claim to help keep the smudges at a minimum. Try a product like Monster ScreenClean (not for regular computer screens) to help keep smudges down. If you don't like the idea of spraying a product on that glass, just keep a nice dust-free cloth at the ready. The best type of cloth to use is the microfiber cloth used to clean glasses. Although the cloth will not prevent smudges, it will quickly get rid of them with a few swipes. Also, don't use that tablet on lunch break -- especially if lunch consists of greasy foods held with the fingers.

5: Buy a convertible case

There are times when you want or need to use your tablet hands-free (NOT in the car, by the way). I have seen many iPad and Xoom users drop their devices when trying to prop them up on their laps. Seeing as how a case is always a good idea for such devices, why not tackle two issues at once and purchase a case the doubles as a stand? The Incase Book Jacket Case might well be the best one for the iPad, and I highly recommend the Motorola Portfolio Case for the Xoom. Not only will these accessories allow hands-free viewing of your tablet, they will also protect them from the elements such as Earth, Window, and Klutz.

More tips?

Tablets make mobile life much easier. As devices that live in the nebulous zone between smartphones and laptops, they are perfect for those needing more than a smartphone and less than a laptop. But just because you are accustomed to using your laptop doesn't mean that use will automatically translate to tablet. These tips should help you start tablet-ing away with confidence. What other suggestions do you have for those who are starting to embrace tablet use?

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

6 comments
secretsecretary
secretsecretary

I have had a Galaxy Tab and luv it! Was only thinking about getting a USB keyboard the other day, as it can be annoying writing emails in particular without it. Although the 'swype' text feature is unreal! Doesn't affect your wrists at all.Can you recommend a place to start to find a USB keyboard that is compact as well?

michvand
michvand

I am thinking of buying a tablet soon. What is the best tablet on the market now if we take in account : memory, processor, screen, Photo (front and rear), weight, number of applications available, access to the web, etc. ?

arwen_in_nj
arwen_in_nj

I got a NookColor and rooted it, as I wasn't sure if I would use a full-blown tablet enough to justify the cost. As 95% of what I do on my laptop is e-mail and web surfing, I quickly discovered I was hardly touching my laptop anymore! Have since upgraded my tablet to an HTC Flyer and I love it. The size is just right for taking with me everywhere; I am using it now to compose this post from outside my office on my lunch break! With an RDP client I can even have remote access to my server at work from just about anywhere. I found a predictive keyboard such as SwiftKey is indispensable for fast or sustained typing on a tablet.

fhrivers
fhrivers

However I was in need of an e-reader that could read periodicals and for light web use. So I bought a Nook Color and it's doing the job so far.

tkejlboom
tkejlboom

I prefer wireless for mobile. You don't need to worry about tripping over the wire and sending both your keyboard AND your tablet flying. The motorola keyboard for the Xoom is quite nice and should work with any of them. I use it often with my Xoom, even with Swype. It's especially useful when configuring switches and using shell commands, as Swype doesn't think those commands are words. :-P New feature request for Swype, app specific user dictionaries. That said, Asus Transformer Prime is in the mail.

RockerGeek!
RockerGeek!

I use it on my Android phone... I imagine it's a little more accurate on the tablet, I would try Amazon.com, TigerDirect.com, or NewEgg.com for a good USB keyboard