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Helpful tips and tricks for your Nexus 7

Google’s Nexus 7 tablet is in hot demand right now. This unassuming 7-inch Android tablet is finding its way into millions of homes worldwide. Featuring a great set of specs that represent real value for money, the Asus-manufactured device delivers quality on a budget. If you’ve been unable to resist its charms, then you might be on the lookout for some handy Nexus 7 tips.

Before we dive in you might be interested to check out our Nexus 7 review, or our Nexus 7 (2013) review, or find some great Android tablets apps and Android tablet games. We also have a brief guide on how to take a screenshot on the Nexus 7 and a guide to fixing common Nexus 7 problems.

The guide below starts out simple, but the tips escalate in complexity.

How to rotate your orientation

By default, your new Nexus 7 will be locked to portrait orientation. To switch to landscape, pull down the notification bar and then tap on the orientation icon next to the date. You can also unlock the orientation via Settings > Accessibility > Auto-rotate.

How to turn off system sounds

You’ll notice audio cues every time you tap on the screen of the Nexus 7, but you can turn them off. Go to Settings > Sound and uncheck the boxes next to Touch sounds and Screen lock sounds if desired.

How to turn off keyboard sounds

If you’re irritated by the sound feedback when you type on the keyboard you can always turn that off as well. Go to Settings > Language & input > Android keyboard settings and uncheck the box next to Sound on keypress.

How to use gestures with the notifications menu

There are a couple of handy gestures you can use when you pull the Notifications bar down from the top of your Nexus 7 screen. You can simply swipe them off to the right to get rid of individual notifications. You can also pinch to minimize some notifications and reverse the gesture to maximize them. If you find notifications that won’t disappear when you swipe right, you’ll need to go into the related app and check the settings menu to disable them.

How to access ‘Recent apps’

Press the button to the right of the Home button to get a pop up list of your most recently opened apps. You can tap on them to re-launch, swipe them off to the right to close them, and you can press and hold your finger on them to access more info or bring up the full app menu. The full app menu lets you choose to uninstall or clear data, among other things.

How to shop for apps

Once you have registered your Nexus 7 on your Google account, you can browse Google Play from anywhere and, as long as you are signed in, you can select apps to automatically download to your tablet. This means you can shop for new apps and games on your desktop at work, just don’t get caught doing it!

Need more storage space?

The Nexus 7 has limited storage so you should take advantage of cloud services. Start with Google Music where you can store up to 20,000 songs and stream them to your device. You can also use cloud storage services like Google Drive and Dropbox to store all kinds of files and share them easily and wirelessly between your laptop, smartphone, and other devices.

You could also invest in an OTG or USB Host cable which plugs into your Micro USB port and offers a full-size USB port at the other end. This will allow you to use a Flash drive as extra storage space for movies or other files. You could also use it with a USB SD card reader, and you may need the Nexus Media Importer app.

How to watch video and stream via DLNA

The native Android video app is unlikely to support every video file or format that you want to play on your Nexus 7, especially if you have a movie collection on your computer that you want to play on your tablet. There are quite a few apps you might consider such as MX Player or DicePlayer. (Some apps, such as MX Player, have not yet been optimized for Android 4.3, so, if you encounter problems then keep an eye out for an update.)

You may also want to grab a DLNA app from the Google Play Store so you can wirelessly stream photos, audio, and video to and from your Nexus 7 to other DLNA devices such as your HDTV, PlayStation 3, or music system. We like Skifta because it’s super easy to use.

How to stay secure

You should go to Settings > Security and consider which precautions you want to take with your Nexus 7 carefully. You can choose a Screen lock method as a password, a pattern, face unlock, or just allow swipe to unlock. If you’re only using your Nexus 7 around the house and you don’t intend to keep anything sensitive on it then there’s no need to worry, but if you’ll be taking your tablet out and about then it’s wise to set a password.

You also have the extra secure option of encrypting the data on your tablet so it requires a PIN or password when it is powered on. This is not recommended for most people though.

Installing apps from outside the Google Play Store

There is a risk involved in installing apps from outside Google Play, but there are plenty of legitimate alternative Android app stores. You may also find that certain apps are listed as incompatible with your device, but it is still possible to install them from other sources (sometimes called sideloading).

Apps are contained in packages called APK files and if you want to install them you need to go to Settings > Security > Unknown Sources and check the box. You can now download APK files from other app stores, directly from websites, or even email them or copy them across via something like Dropbox. Simply tap on the APK file on your Nexus 7 and you’ll be prompted to install with the usual information on permissions.

If you do intend to do this, it’s a good idea to install a top Android security app first to prevent any malware from sneaking onto your tablet.

How to install Flash

Flash is not supported by default on the Nexus 7 or by the Chrome browser, but you can get it working.

First, you’ll want to install an alternative browser, Firefox or Dolphin is recommended. Then you’ll need to grab the Adobe Flash Player APK from outside of Google Play. Here’s a link to get it at the XDA Developer’s Forum. You will need the “install from unknown sources” option enabled as described above. Once Flash is installed, you should be able to play Flash content on your Nexus 7. (You may have to request the desktop version of websites; you can do this in Firefox by entering the menu then Settings > More and check the box next to Request Desktop Site.)

How to use the camera

The original Nexus 7 does have a front-facing camera, but it doesn’t have a dedicated camera app. Most people use an app called Camera Starter which you’ll find in Google Play. It’s completely free.

The new Nexus 7 (2013) model also has a rear-facing 5-megapixel camera and it comes with the stock Android camera app which is packed with handy features.

How to use Google Now

Your friendly digital assistant will try to offer you handy information. There are a couple of quick ways to activate Google Now. Hold any of the bottom menu buttons and drag your finger to the Google logo. You can launch it straight from the lock screen as well by once again sliding your finger to the Google logo.

Once Google Now is running, you can say “Google” or touch the microphone icon and then ask it questions or tell it to do things for you. There are lots of potential commands and requests like “Set alarm for 8.30” or “Search for Digital Trends” or “Is it going to rain today?” or “Navigate to Boda Bar in Edinburgh.” You can find a good list of potential Google Now voice commands at XDA Developer’s Forum.

How to disable pre-installed apps

Every device comes with apps pre-installed that you may not want, and if you don’t intend to use them then they could be unnecessarily draining your battery. You can’t uninstall them, but you can ‘disable’ them. Go to Settings > Apps and swipe to the All tab to find the app you want to disable. Tap on the app, select ‘disable,’ then click OK. The app will hibernate and the icon will be removed from your home screen and the app drawer.

If you find that you want to re-activate it for any reason, just go back to Settings > Apps, swipe to All, then scroll to the bottom to find disabled apps.

How to use Google Maps offline

You can’t always be connected, and if you want to use your Nexus 7 to navigate, then it can be handy to load up the maps you need for use offline. When you have the Maps app open and you’re looking at the area you want, tap the menu button at the top right, choose Make available offline, and select the area you want by moving the borders. Tap Done when you’re happy with your selection and it will download and be usable for offline navigation.

How to block ads

Google has actually removed ad-blocking apps from the Play Store, but you can still get them for your Nexus 7 if you are willing to jump through a few hoops. If you root your Android tablet and head to F-Droid you can download an app called AdAway. You’ll also find Adblock Plus if you search online, which can be used without rooting, but it does require you to set up a proxy manually (you’ll find instructions on the website).

How to stay up to date with the latest Nexus 7 news

If you want to access all of the latest news about the Nexus 7, including recommended apps, forthcoming updates, and user guides, then you should check out the free Ultimate Google Nexus 7 App at the Play Store.

How to stream YouTube or Netflix to your HDTV

We brought you the news on Google’s new $35 device, Chromecast which plugs into an HDMI slot on your HDTV and allows you to stream content from apps like Netflix, Chrome, and YouTube on your Nexus 7. It’s definitely the easy way to stream content and use your Nexus 7 as a remote control. If you order the device then you’ll also need the Chromecast app.

You could also consider getting a SlimPort to HDMI adapter which plugs into the micro-USB port and allows you to plug your Nexus 7 directly into your HDTV.

More Nexus 7 tips

If you want to find more basic Nexus 7 tips, then you should go to Google Play and search for the Nexus 7 Guidebook by Google in Play Books. It’s completely free and worth a look.

If you have any more useful Nexus 7 tricks or handy tips of your own to suggest then please post a comment and share them.

Updated on 8/01/2013 by Simon Hill: Added additional details to several tips and added a new batch of tips at the end.

Simon Hill
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Simon Hill is an experienced technology journalist and editor who loves all things tech. He is currently the Associate Mobile…
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