Google's Android 6.0 Marshmallow release may have been announced last October -- but if you're like the majority of Android users, it's probably pretty new to you right about now. Heck, you might even still be waiting to receive it! (The joys of Android upgrades, eh?)
Whether you're a Marshmallow newbie or an Android 6.0 veteran, though, there's plenty to be learned about Google's latest major mobile effort. Check out these tips and see what new tricks you can teach your favorite Android phone or tablet.
(Note that these tips are written specifically as they apply to Google's core Android 6.0 software. Many device manufacturers modify the operating system to put their own spin on the features and interface, which could result in some elements looking different or even being absent altogether on certain devices.)
1. Take full advantage of Now on Tap
One of Marshmallow's most promising features is something called Now on Tap -- an expanded version of Google's virtual assistant that provides contextual info tied to whatever's on your screen at any given moment. To use it, just tap and hold your device's Home key and see what comes up.
Now on Tap can do some genuinely useful things, and its powers have continued to expand since Marshmallow's initial release. If you activate it while an airline flight number is on your screen, for instance -- say, in a text message -- Now on Tap will show you that flight's status without forcing you to switch apps or interrupt what you're doing. If you activate it while looking at the tracking number for an online purchase, meanwhile, the system will give you the current status of your package delivery.
You can also use Now on Tap to get directions to a business or street address, info and reviews about a restaurant, or reviews and show times for a movie. As long as the subject is mentioned on your screen, tapping and holding the Home button should do the trick.
2. Or turn off Tap altogether
For all of Now on Tap's potential, the truth is that the feature is still useful only in a small and relatively limited number of scenarios. For some people, it just isn't versatile enough to justify its system-wide placement on the Home key -- particularly since in previous versions of Android, that same spot was reserved for a universal shortcut to the full Google Now interface.
The good news, though, is that Now on Tap is super-easy to disable. And once you turn it off, tapping and holding your Home key will once again take you to Google Now from anywhere in the system.
If you want to tap out of Now on Tap, go to the Google section of your system settings. Select "Search & Now," then "Now on Tap" -- then uncheck the toggle on the screen that appears. If you decide you want to give Now on Tap another whirl at some point in the future, just repeat these steps and switch the toggle on.
3. Customize your Quick Settings panel
Wish you could change what shortcuts appear in your device's Quick Settings panel -- you know, the pull-down menu filled with links for things like toggling your Wi-Fi or Bluetooth and enabling airplane mode? With Android 6.0, you can.
The power is hidden in a new advanced feature called System UI Tuner. To activate it, first swipe down twice from the top of your screen (or swipe down once with two fingers) to open the Quick Settings panel. Touch and hold the little gear icon in the upper-right corner until it starts spinning, then let go -- and you should see a message confirming that System UI Tuner is enabled and waiting for your command.
Now just head into your main system settings and scroll all the way down to the bottom of the list. Tap the newly present line labeled "System UI Tuner," throw on the nearest Indiana Jones costume and start exploring.
4. Take your tuning up a notch
If you're feeling especially ambitious, check out a third-party app called Custom Quick Settings. It goes even further than Marshmallow's native Tuner tool and lets you add all sorts of custom shortcuts into the Quick Settings panel.
Just be warned: The app isn't exactly user-friendly. Proceed only if you have the patience and know-how for next-level tinkering.
5. Crank up the volume (without cringing)
Remember how annoying it was to adjust volume levels in Android 5.0? Well, thank your lucky stars: That's all fixed in Marshmallow. You can now access all of the system volume controls -- for your ringer and notifications, music, and alarms -- anytime, regardless of what you're doing.
When you first press your device's volume-up or volume-down key, Marshmallow will pull up the control most relevant to your current activity -- for instance, if you're playing music it'll bring up the music volume slider. If you want to adjust the volume for a different function, just tap the little down-facing caret at the right side of the volume slider. That'll expand the volume controls so you can see all the different sliders and adjust whatever you need.
6. Get some peace and quiet
As part of Android's volume system revamp, Marshmallow introduces a much more user-friendly Do Not Disturb mode.
When you want to be left alone for a while, just tap the "Do Not Disturb" tile in the Quick Settings panel. You'll be able to turn off all sounds and vibrations either indefinitely or for a set amount of time -- or opt to turn off everything except alarms or everything except high-priority notifications (more on those in a minute).
7. Silence the simple way
If you don't want to think about options and just need to hush your phone in a hurry, hold your device's volume-down key until it shows a vibrate-only icon -- then let go and press the key one more time.
That'll put Android into a silent mode, which will allow any set alarms to sound but won't let any other noises through. (If you ever tried to quickly silence your phone with Lollipop, you know why this option is worth celebrating!)
8. Have your phone hush itself
Save yourself some effort and let your phone keep itself quiet when you know you'll be busy -- or maybe just sleeping. Hey, they don't call it a smartphone for nothing!
Take advantage of Android 6.0's enhanced brains by going into the "Sound & notification" section of your system settings and tapping the line labeled "Do not disturb." There, Marshmallow has the newly present ability to create a variety of rules for when your phone will automatically stay silent -- based on factors like the day and time or the presence of specific types of active calendar events.
9. Set your priorities
Sometimes you don't want to be bothered with every ping and ding your smartphone may sing, but you do want to be sure certain important notifications can still get through and grab your attention. That's where Android 6.0's priority notification system comes into play.
Before you use it, you'll need to take a moment to set the feature up the way you want. Start by moseying back into the "Do not disturb" menu within the "Sound & notification" section of your system settings and then tapping the line labeled "Priority only allows."
There, you'll find a list of notification types you can designate as high-priority -- reminders, events, and certain types of calls or messages. You can even opt to allow a caller through if she rings you twice within the same 15-minute window (hi, Mom!).
Once you have everything configured, just activate the "Priority Only" mode of Do Not Disturb, as described in tip number 6, and rest easy knowing you'll only be bothered if it's something (allegedly) really important.
10. Take control of notifications
Another annoyance introduced with Android 5.0 was the use of obtrusive and nonfunctional notifications known as "heads-up" or "peek" notifications. The large card-based alerts saw some improvements with Android 5.1, but they often still got in the way without adding anything of extra value.
Don't you fret, my peace-seeking friend: With Marshmallow, you can take full control of your notifications and determine for yourself which apps can send those pesky pop-ups and which will be limited to good old-fashioned status bar alerts.
Skip merrily over to the "Sound & notification" section of your system settings and look for the line labeled "App notifications," then select the app you want to adjust from the list. A menu of options will appear, including one to prevent "peek"-style notifications and -- bonus alert! -- one to treat the app as "priority" so its alerts will always be allowed through when the Do Not Disturb "Priority Only" mode is on.
11. Show your apps who's boss
While we're on the subject of app control, Android 6.0 makes it easier than ever to watch your apps and keep tabs on what they're doing. Head into the "Apps" section of your system settings and select an app to see all the possibilities.
After tapping an app, you'll be able to view its precise storage and data use, and refine what types of access it's granted. You'll also find a detailed overview of its memory and battery usage, which can be a helpful way to pinpoint programs that are quietly draining your device's resources (hint: Look carefully at Google Photos and Facebook).
12. Supercharge your text selector
Marshmallow's text selection tool is much easier to use than what we've seen on Android in the past, but there's actually more to it than meets the eye: The new text selector also opens the door for third-party apps to get involved in some pretty interesting ways.
Install Google Translate and Wikipedia -- two apps already taking advantage of the new system -- and then select some text to see what the fuss is all about. With those two apps in place, you'll find options for on-demand language translations and encyclopedia info in the small menu that appears near selected text (alongside "Cut," "Copy" and so forth). Tap either option, and you'll get the appropriate result in a pop-up that won't take you away from what you're doing.
Comment aimez-vous les pommes, Monsieur ou Madame?
This story, "Master Marshmallow: 12 useful tips for Android 6.0" was originally published by Computerworld.