A new tablet! Whether it's a Galaxy Note, a Windows Surface or one of those iPads, a lot of folks were smiling Christmas morning when they got this particular present. The newest tablets are elegant, sleek and full of possibility.
If you're new to the world of tablets, it's not surprising that you might not know where to start. This is where I come in.
You'll hear a lot of talk about "apps." Apps are applications. Think of them as software programs customized for your tablet. They are available though an already installed app you'll find on your tablet. It's the "App Store" on iPads or the "Google Play" on Android tablets. Microsoft calls theirs the "Windows Store."
As time goes on, you'll find the apps that get the tablet to do what you want it to do. Right now, here are a few to get started. I've tried to balance three considerations: usefulness, the wow factor and unlocking your tablet's possibilities.
There is no app with a greater Gee Whiz factor! Google Earth (www.google.com/earth/) is a massive collection of satellite photos, seamlessly stitched together. The result? You have the ability to zoom all over our Earth, swooping in to see everything from your childhood home to the Taj Mahal.
Google sky view
If the earth isn't enough for you, download Sky View (www.google.com/sky/), which gives you a dizzying view of the heavens: stars, planets and constellations, all nicely labeled. Poke around and you can even find the International Space Station.
One thing you'll quickly discover is that there's a lot of stuff out there to read! What you really need, though, is a way to easily read the news you choose. Flipboard (https://flipboard.com/) is a delightful and easy-to-use app that brings together the news sources you select from Facebook posts, Instagram photos, YouTube videos and anything else you'd like, all in a fun and responsive magazine format.
For regular book reading, there's no cleaner reader than the Kindle app (www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html?docId=1000493771). It's available on every platform you can think of, including smartphones. And the Kindle reader keeps your place for you, too, no matter what you're reading it on.
Netflix or Hulu
Those beautiful screens are there for a reason. Netflix (https://signup.netflix.com/) and Hulu (www.hulu.com/) give you great movies and TV shows to watch on them. Netflix requires a streaming subscription; the movie selection is so-so, but the TV back catalog is pretty extensive.
Evernote (https://evernote.com/) takes your notes and puts them in the cloud, so they're accessible from any other device you care to sync to it. Text, photos, and even audio, Evernote can handle it. If you are trying to get organized, this will help you make it happen.
You might have heard about "Skyping," but might not understand exactly what that means. Skype (www.skype.com/en/) is a quick and easy way to have video chats with friends and family all over the word. Best of all, your calls are free. Download the app and sign up for an account. Then start hunting for friends.
Tablets are a great place to edit pictures. All you need is a good app to work with. Adobe's Photoshop Express (www.photoshop.com/products/photoshopexpress) does the job. It's a (very) light but extremely useful version of its famous high-end product, Photoshop. You'll find it gives you the tools you need to lighten backgrounds, adjust colors and crop photos.
Tablets can showcase the artist inside all of us. Right now, it seems many of the most acclaimed drawing and painting apps work on Apple products with one exception. Sketchbook Express, (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/sketchbook-express/id404243625?mt=12) available for both Apple and Android tablets, has a dense palette of brushes, colors and textures to work with, all from the moves of your fingers on the tablet's purchase. It's great for artists of all ages.
One of the biggest drains on the battery is your tablet's bright high-definition screen. Keeping the screen slightly dimmed can add hours of battery life.
You'll also want to turn off your gadget's wireless communications when you don't need them. That includes cellular, Wi-Fi, GPS and Bluetooth signals, which are constantly roaming and eating into battery life. Use a free app like Battery Saver, (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.antutu.powersaver&hl=en) to sniff out power-hogging apps and programs.
Kim Komando hosts the nation's largest talk radio show about consumer electronics, computers and the Internet. Hear it locally at 94.3 WSC News Radio noon-3 p.m. Sundays. For more information, go to www.komando.com.
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