Android Quick Start Guide

The Desktop

The Android desktop is composed of multiple homescreen panels. What goes on the homescreens is up to you. You can fill the space with any combination of shortcuts, widgets, and folders. Short-cuts are small icons that let you load apps or other functions on your phone; they function much like the ones you see on a PC desktop. Widgets are dynamic programs that operate directly on your homescreen. They can perform any number of functions-giving you the latest weather, for example, or letting you play music from either your personal collection or from the Internet. Should you want more, you can download additional widgets from the Google Play Store.

Adding a Shortcut

To add a shortcut, simply press and hold your finger on any open space on your home screen, and select Shortcuts from the resulting pop-up menu. From there, select Applications (to add an app), or Direct dial or Direct message (to create a shortcut for calling or texting a friend), or Bookmark (to open a Web page), or Directions (to activate turn-by-turn navigation to a specific destination).

Adding a Widget

To add a widget, press and hold your finger on an open space, as you would to create a shortcut (above). This time, though, select the Widgets option from the pop-up menu. Even if you haven't downloaded anything from the Android Market, you should have a handful of options built into your phone. Start by adding the Power Control widget; it creates a handy dandy one-touch toggle control for you phone's Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, data syncing, and screen brightness.

Getting Around

Android phones have four standard keys: a Back button, a Menu button, a Home button, and a Search button. Pressing the Back key takes you back one step to whatever you were doing prior to the beginning of your current step. It works in Web navigation, e-mail navigation, or navigation to a previously open program. Pressing the Menu key brings up a list of options relevant to the area of the phone you're currently using. When you press it on the homescreen, it permits you to access your phone's settings and other customization options. The Home key has two functions: If you press it once, it takes you back to your home screen. If you press and hold it, it allows you to multitask and switch to other programs you've recently used. Pressing the Search key produces different results depending on where you are in Android at the time. From your home screen, it brings up a Quick Search Box that you can use to search the Web and your phone at the same time (Android will return the most relevant results from either domain as you type). From within an app, the Search key typically starts a search specific to that program-enabling you to search exclusively within your e-mail, for example, or within your contacts list.

The App Launcher

You can always find all of your apps in the app launcher. To open the launcher, simply tap the square icon at the bottom of the screen. Within the app launcher, you can tap any app's icon to run the program, or press and hold it to drag it directly onto the home screen as a shortcut.


Android's notification panel puts incoming information at your fingertips, no matter what you're doing. Notifications can come from many different places: e-mail, voicemail, text messaging, even social network and news applications. When you get a new notification, an icon will appear at the top-left of your screen. You can pull down the panel to see detailed information about the notification and then take action if you wish. Check the settings of various applications to see what kind of notifications they offer, and then customize them to work for you.

Transferring files to an Android device

  1. Connect your Android device to your computer using the microUSB to USB cable.
  2. If you are using a PC, you will see an installation bubble pop up in the bottom right of your screen. Wait for the computer to successfully complete installation.
  3. On your Android phone, pull down the notification window and tap USB connected.
  4. A notification window will appear. Tap Mount. Your phone will enter USB storage mode.
  5. Find the removable storage drive.
    • On a PC, navigate to My Computer and look for a new removable storage drive.
    • On a Mac, the drive will appear on your desktop.
  6. Drag-and-drop the desired file(s) to the drive.
  7. In your phone’s notification window, tap Turn off USB storage.
  8. Unplug your phone and you’re all set.

Opening a PowerPoint/Spreadsheet

There are several office suites in the Google Play Store, most of which allow viewing an editing of presentations, documents and spreadsheets. A roundup of the best suites can be found here.

Connecting to an External Monitor/Projector

Some android devices come with a mini-HDMI port, with a mini-HDMI to HDMI cable; you can use this to connect to a monitor with HDMI support. If the Android device doesn't have a mini-HDMI port, there are adapters to convert micro-usb to VGA or HDMI.