I've been knee deep into the Android ecosystem for a long time now, using the Google platform all day, every day. One of my goals has been to reach a state of productiveness such that working with a mobile platform doesn't get in the way of being productive. I believe I've finally reached that milestone, and I wanted to share with you my best tips on how you too can be as productive as possible when working with the Android platform.
These tips should be universal, so regardless of Android release you work with, they should help. You should also find these tips to be easily accessible for all levels of users — pass them around to your end users, so they can be as productive as possible.
1. Clean out the unwanted
This task is somewhat time consuming but, in the end, it will boost your productivity by making your device far simpler to manage. During your life with Android, you will collect apps. As you install those apps, they'll appear in your app drawer. The more apps you have in your app drawer, the longer you'll spend looking for the apps you actually use. Do yourself a favor and uninstall all of the apps you no longer require. That will not only clear out your app drawer, it will give you the added bonus of gaining you precious space on your device.
This cleanup also applies to your contacts. A double-edge sword that Android carries is that it allows you to sync all of your contacts from multiple services and locations. You'll have contacts from Google, Facebook, and any other third-party apps you may have installed. Depending on the size of, say, your Facebook contacts listing, this could cause your Contacts list to be immense. I suggest removing the contacts from accounts you don't need from the Contacts app (in some instances called People). To do this, follow these steps:
- Open the Contacts app (or People, depending on your device)
- Tap the menu button, and tap Contacts to display
- Tap to select which contacts you want to display (Figure A)
Selecting the contacts to be displayed on a Verizon-branded Droid Turbo.
There are some instances (such as with Facebook Messenger) where you must disable contact syncing from within the app.
2. Default to Google tools
Within the Android ecosystem, every app or task has multiple apps ready to help you. The thing is, you should always consider using the Google default app for that task. Why? Each of the Google apps enjoys a level of interactivity with one another that makes these defaults apps much more productive. For example, using Google Keep (instead of, say, Evernote) means you can enjoy Gmail and Google Now interaction. Create reminders in Keep or Inbox, and they'll appear in Now.
As Google continues to improve Google Now, you'll find even more interaction between the Google apps and the powerhouse search tool. You should know, however, that Gmail and Inbox have varying degrees of integration. Each has their pros and cons, so it'll be up to your personal tastes which is best. I prefer Inbox for the ability to easily snooze emails for later reading and quickly create reminders (that pop up in both Inbox and Google Now).
3. Make Google Now your go-to tool
Google Now is a very powerful tool. In fact, of all the apps on your Android device, you may find this one of the single most productive tools available. Get information about your commute, stay apprised of sports scores and stocks, set reminders for yourself, gain hands-free usage for emailing, messaging, searching, etc.... and so much more.
What's important here is that you start using it. Google Now doesn't really get productive until you make it a part of your everyday mobile life. Not only will you learn the ins and outs of Now's usage — the more you use it to search, the more it will be able to predict your tastes/needs.
4. Find a home screen launcher that best suits your needs
Not every Android home screen launcher is created equal. Some are all about eye candy, while others are all about efficiency. There are certain users that require the most efficient space available to work with any level of productivity, but some users like to have a bit of "flash" while they work. No matter where you fall, you'll be surprised at how helpful having the "right" home screen launcher for you will increase your productivity.
For example, I prefer Nova Launcher Prime because of the added gesture support. With the extra gestures, I can quickly set Inbox to open with a "pinch in," and I can set the Email app to open and with a "ping out." I can also hide apps from view in the app drawer and set other productive options.
I highly recommend you give various home screen launchers a try until you find the one that helps you interact with your device and apps more productively. There are quite a few to choose from on the Google Play Store.
5. Get the hang of copy/paste
Knowing how to effectively copy and paste doesn't seem like something you'd have to work on. But within the world of mobility, copy and paste isn't always as easy as it is on the desktop environment. To that end, spend some time getting accustomed to how copy and paste works on your device. You can also install a hand app like Clipper (Figure B), which serves as a clipboard manager. These types of devices can really save the day when you need to copy and paste multiple items efficiently. Apps like Clipper give you a clipboard history that you can pick and choose from (making copying and pasting multiple entries far easier).
Clipper with multiple entries ready to paste.
You might think that copy/paste is second nature. The truth of the matter is, it can get a bit less than productive on mobile devices. Spend the time necessary to develop a system that enables you to copy and paste productively (even if that means using a third-party app).
Reaching a level of productivity suitable for a busy, on-the-go life with your Android device isn't nearly as challenging as you might think. With just the slightest bit of care and possibly a shift in the tools you use, you can make Android the most productive platform in your toolkit.
What ways have you found to make Android more productive? Share your experience in the discussion thread below.
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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 jackwallen.com.