Google Play offers plenty of good apps to choose from -- but where do you start? Jack Wallen lists five useful tools to get you going.
You finally purchased that new Android device you've had your eye on. Now it stares back at you, waiting for you to give it a task. You've connected it to your Google Account, so all your Gmail messages, Google Calendar items, and Contacts are in sync. Where do you go from here?
Naturally, that depends upon the intended use of the device. But certain applications will come in handy no matter how you plan to use the device. Here are five tools that should be among the first you install. These applications range in scope, but each offers a solid solution to help you get your work done.
Note: This article is also available as an image gallery and a video hosted by TechRepublic columnist Tom Merritt.
1: Google Drive
Google Drive is one of those apps that should be installed by default. I can't understand why the developers of Android haven't added the single best tool for accessing Google Drive accounts. For many users, this app is a necessity, especially when trying to work on the road. It provides access to photos, documents, videos, and any other files stored on your Google Drive account. You can also upload files, create files (Figure A), share files, and access files shared with you by other Google Drive users.
Google Drive accommodates the creation of documents with tables, comments, and rich text formatting. The interface is optimized for tablets but works well on smartphone devices too.
2: WPS Office (formerly Kingsoft Office)
WPS Office is by far the best office suite available for the Android platform. Not only can it handle a large number of file formats (with built-in support for 23 file types), it has an efficient interface, Google Drive and Dropbox support (Figure B), a file manager, email client integration, and much more.
With WPS Office, you can manage documents, memos, spreadsheets, and presentations. What I really like about WPS Office is that it doesn't matter if you're using it on a tablet or phone -- the interface works well with both). Add to the long list of features the fact that WPS Office is free, and you can see why it should be among the first apps you install.
3: ASTRO File Manager
ASTRO File Manager is one of those apps you'll be grateful you have. By default, some Android devices (such as the Samsung Galaxy line) come preinstalled with a file manager. Others do not. But even the Samsung My Files app isn't nearly as powerful as ASTRO File Manager.
ASTRO gives you easy access to your files (Figure C) and lets you move, delete, and copy. There are also add-ons available from the Google Play Store, which extend the features. This version of ASTRO File Manager is free. You can purchase the Pro version ($3.99 USD), which removes the ads.
4: All-in-One Toolbox
All-In-OneToolbox is a set of 29 tools ranging from various cleaners to status reports to SD card managers to package managers. It's a must-have for any Android device, for any level of user. One of the easiest cleaners, All-In-One will clean cache, history, call/SMS, SD card, Apks, and App leftovers (Figure D).
If you're looking for a single tool that will do the best job of keeping your Android device clean and running smoothly, this tool is it. All-In-One Toolbox also gives you quick access to your device info, and plug-ins are available from the Google Play Store that will extend the feature list in numerous handy ways. For example, you'll find plug-ins for Ad-detect, Applock, Compass, Flashlight, Permission Check, QR and Barcode scanner, Sensor Box, Timer, and Volume Settings.
WeatherBug isn't just an app for weather geeks. Anyone who depends on knowing the forecast (or just enjoys knowing what to expect) will find WeatherBug to be the finest in its category. This particular take on the weather app is a real-time tool that offers 2.6 million locations worldwide. You can view today's conditions and extended forecasts (Figure E) as well as multiple locations.
Of all the weather apps I've used, WeatherBug has done the best job of providing essential updates. With the help of detailed severe weather information and alerts, you can always be prepared. This app also includes enhanced interactive maps with multiple layers (Doppler radar, humidity, pressure, wind speed, high/low forecast, traffic, and so on). WeatherBug also includes a handy widget so you can get quick access to reports and alerts.
A good foundation
There are many outstanding applications to choose from in the Google Play Store. Although everyone's needs will vary, these five apps should all be no-brainers for most Android users. Once you've installed these apps, you can move on to create an app collection specific to your own needs.
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I can't believe you left ___ off this list!