Digital Crave

10 cool things to try with your tablet

Whether you received a shiny new tablet as a recent gift or decided to treat yourself to one (and why not), chances are you’ve figured out a few of the neat things this super slender device can do.

Oh sure, you’re already aware your new portable pal is ideal for browsing the web, reading ebooks, watching video, viewing photos, playing games, listening to music and snapping photos -- all by tapping, swiping and flicking with your fingertips.

But just like our brains, it’s estimated we only use about 10 percent of what our tablet can do. And so the following are 10 additional features and apps you might not know about.

Control your home theater: Many Android tablets today, such as the Galaxy- and Xperia-branded tablets have an integrated IR (infrared) sensor, therefore you’re able to use your device to control your television, cable/satellite box, DVD or Blu-ray player, and more. Look for a preinstalled “TV Remote” app to tap or download one of the many free third-party apps that can do the same thing. Most require a one-time setup process that walks you through each component, to ensure it can communicate with them.

Scan documents, receipts: Naturally, you don't carry around a flatbed scanner with you to digitize documents, receipts, business cards or hand-written notes and sketches. But many apps can turn your device into a powerful – and portable – scanner to accomplish these kinds of tasks, via the device’s camera. Neat, huh? It gets better: the Prizmo app for iPad and Handy Scanner Free for Android have “OCR,” or “optical character recognition,” so it’ll make the text editable and searchable, too.

Access your home computer: Your Internet-connected tablet is capable of logging into your home computer and letting you control the experience as if you were sitting in front of your PC or Mac. Whether you left an important document on your desktop before you left on a business trip or want to stream a movie residing on your hard drive, you can use apps like Splashtop 2 Remote Desktop ($2.99 to $6.99; depending on the platform) to log in securely and move the mouse via your fingertips. 


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Use it as a second monitor: Avatron's Air Display is a $9.99 app for iPad that turns your tablet into a wireless display for your Windows PC or Mac, allowing you to extend or mirror your computer screen. Simply prop up your tablet to the right or left of a computer monitor and your mouse smoothly scrolls between the two screens as if it were a dual-monitor setup. Adobe Photoshop owners, for example, might use the computer screen as the canvas and the tablet as the palette.

Use it as a phone: While you might carry around your smartphone, it might be smarter to use a free VoIP service on your tablet to make long-distance calls. Yes, you can use your tablet to make phone calls with free apps like ePhone, magicJack, NetTalk, Viber, and others. Whether you're on an Android or iPad, make free calls to any North American landline or mobile number, while some apps require you to register (also free) to get an incoming number, voicemail, and more.

Access Microsoft Office files: While only a Windows device will give you the comprehensive Microsoft Office experience, Android and iPad owners can still create, view and edit documents imported from Word (word processor), Excel (spreadsheets) and PowerPoint (presentations) – with a free app like Kingsoft Office. PDF files are also supported. All of your work can be stored locally on the tablet or accessed from “cloud” services like Dropbox, Google Drive, and others. It’s also possible to collaborate and share files with others. iPad owners can use Documents Free, Documents Unlimited Free or Files App.


Wirelessly share content with a TV: If you’ve got a Smart TV, you can probably have your Android or Windows tablet wirelessly communicate with it. Using technology like DLNA, AllShare, Miracast or Intel WiDi – check your television’s documentation to see what’s supported – you can do things like push media from your tablet to your big-screen TV (photos, videos and music), enable real-time mirroring of your devices (whatever you see on your tablet immediately shows up on your TV) or push content from your TV, such as your favorite show, to your tablet, so you can walk away and watch and someone else can change the channel. iPad owners will need Apple TV ($99) for mirroring.

Read free ebooks, even NYT Bestsellers: Of course you know you can buy ebooks and audiobooks. But guess what? You can also borrow ebooks and audiobooks, for free, from your local library – with no more late fees. As long as you have your library card and the free OverDrive Media Console app installed on your favorite tablet, you’re in business. To get going, you first download and install the app from your favorite app store (all four platforms are supported) or go to the OverDrive website and click on your device of choice. Once installed, you’ll be prompted to create an Adobe ID, if you don’t already have one, and authorize it to work with OverDrive. Now you can borrow ebooks and audiobooks wirelessly.

Listen to 100,000 radio stations: Whether you’re into music or talk, the free TuneIn Radio app is a “must have” for tablet owners. Access more than 100,000 radio stations from around the world – searchable by genre, country or popularity – on an Android, iOS, Windows or BlackBerry device. Tap into local AM/FM programming or listen to Internet-only stations, as well as hundreds of thousands of new and archived podcasts. Browse by category, such as genre or country, add bookmarks as favorites and play your programs in the background while you use other apps. TuneIn Radio Pro, which costs $3.99, lets you record content to listen to later on, and offline, if desired.

iPad gesture shortcuts: Given the fact Apple’s iPad remains the no. 1 selling tablet, the last tip is on iOS multi-touch gestures to get more done in less time. If you're inside of an app and want to close it quickly, simply place four or five fingertips on your iPad screen and pinch inwards. Bringing your outstretched fingers together will back you out to the home screen. Or, if you've got a few apps open — such as a game, music and live sports score app — you can quickly view all open apps by swiping your four or five fingers left or right on the screen. This instantly switches to other open programs. Finally, if you're having trouble holding the iPad and typing on its virtual keyboard at the same time, press your thumbs down on each side of the keyboard and swipe towards the edges and it'll conveniently split your keyboard into two, making it easier for your thumbs to reach all the letters.


Yahoo Digital Crave readers, have any of your own tablet tips, tricks and apps you'd like to share? Do tell!

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