Jack Wallen offers some tips and tricks for making multitasking on the Android platform almost as easy as it is on your desktop.
In a recent post by Toni Bowers, she asked the TechRepublic community if you all think that women are better at multitasking than men. Regardless of any study results or your own personal beliefs, Android doesn't show gender preference or favoritism. Whether you're a man or a woman, Android actually does true multitasking, unlike the "other" mobile OS.
When you open a task in Android, it remains open until you actually close it - you know, sort of like a desktop PC. This is very much evident with tablets (such as the Motorola Xoom, offered by Verizon Wireless), but on smaller handsets (like the Droid X and Samsung Captivate), multitasking isn't so obvious. However, with a few tips, tricks, and an extra app (for good measure), multitasking on the Android platform can be almost as easy as it is on your desktop.
Let's take a look at these tips as well as an outstanding application that makes multitasking a no-brainer (as it should be).
So, you know all those tasks are running on your phone somewhere. You're staring at your Droid X desktop and all you see are icons and widgets. How do you get to a list of all currently running applications so that you can either open one back up or close one to free up some memory? That, my friend, is simple. If you press and hold the Home button on your handset, the Android "Task Manager" will open, allowing you to select which app you want to go back to (see Figure A).Figure A
Tap the app you want to use and it will immediately open.
Back to task
This one is pretty nifty. If you have a few apps open (the ones you usually use), don't hit the Home button to open one of the other tasks. Instead, use the above Home key trick to open the Task Manager, and then select the other app. Now, if you want to go back to the previous app, hit the Back button and you will go right back the app you previously had open. This doesn't work if you hit the Home button and then open the next app, because the Back button will assume the most recent action was the Home screen, which is exactly where you will be when you hit the Back button.
Make use of widgets
Obviously, you can create shortcuts to launch applications and then use those applications as per normal. But some applications offer widgets that can be placed on the desktop that give the same functionality but allow for the application to not have to be opened up to use. Instead, the widget resides on your desktop, displaying whatever you need to see or know.
Unfortunately, not all applications have widgets. The best way to find out is to long-press the Home screen (this may vary depending upon the handset and provider) and then select Widget. Scroll around the listing to see what widgets are available. If the widget you want isn't there, the best thing to do is to go to the Android Market and do a search for "widget" (no quotes) and scroll around to find what you need.
For those of you who love the HTC widgets but don't have an HTC handset, give Beautiful Widgets a go. It'll set you back $2.88 (USD), but it's worth it for the clock/weather widget alone.
The Smart Taskbar is one heck of an application that allows quick access to all applications, running tasks, running widgets, create quick launch buttons, and more. This app can be found from the Android Market and, once installed, will place a tiny arrow on the right side of your home screen (see Figure B). Tap that arrow to reveal the Smart Taskbar tool.Figure B
Tapping the small left-pointing arrow will open Smart Taskbar.
Once Smart Taskbar is open (see Figure C) you will see icons for all your installed applications. Tap on the Tasks tab and then tap on the running app you want to switch to.Figure C
To configure Smart Taskbar, tap the configure button (the gear button) and then click Preferences.
With Smart Taskbar, it's also possible to create five quick launch buttons. These buttons live just over the tabs (you can see I have a Kindle app launcher, Web browser launcher, Google Docs launcher, Pumpkins and Monsters launcher, and FM Radio launcher). When there are no launchers present, each location will have a "+" button. Tap the "+" button, and then locate the launcher you want.
Smart Taskbar can do quite a bit more than this. I highly recommend you install it and then play around with the app to find out what it does that suits your needs best. Also note there are two versions: Free and Paid. The paid version will unlock the task killer, backup, allow you to build custom action button, and remove the ads.
It's true that Android does handle multitasking much better than the competition. With a few tweaks and/or tips, you can have your Android device multitasking as it was designed to do.