Android users have not been dealt a great hand when it comes managing their devices from Windows. Different manufacturers provide device management tools ranging from the mediocre to the just plain bad – Kies, I’m looking at you. But I have discovered SnapPea, one of the easiest ways to manage, control and backup Android from Windows.
iTunes may have improved somewhat in its most recent incarnation, but it is still one of the least appealing aspects of being a fan of portable Apple devices. If you’re an iPad, iPod or iPhone user you may wax lyrical about the operating system you are using, the quality of your hardware and the range of apps available – I have been included in this number at times – but you still have to contend with iTunes. It’s just not a great piece of software by any stretch of the imagination.
SnapPea is a different beast altogether. This is a desktop tool that can be used to organize and backup your Android tablet or phone from Windows (although there’s also a Mac version available), and despite the fact it’s currently in beta, it is already shaping up to be something very solid.
Make the SnapPea Connection
Getting up and running with SnapPea is a multi-step process. You will first need to grab yourself a copy of the desktop software from the software website, but there’s also an app that will need to be installed on your mobile device.
The phone version of the app can be downloaded from Google Play , but if you are planning on working with a tablet you will need to visit another site to download the software you need – the tablet version is not available for download through Google Play at the moment.
Run through the installation of the desktop program first and then install the mobile app on your Android device. In order to establish a connection you will need to put your phone or tablet in USB Debugging mode – if you don’t know how to do this, instructions are provided in the desktop app for various versions of Android.
With this done, make sure you have the Windows version of SnapPea running and then connect your Android device. Follow the instructions to install drivers and you’ll be ready to go in just a few moments.
SnapPea will immediately invite you to link the device to your computer so that backups will be automatically created. Just click Link or ‘Don’t link’ – you can change the setting later on if you change your mind.
The links down the left hand side of the program window should be fairly self-explanatory; click the Apps link to access the apps you have installed, Contacts to manage your contacts, and so on.
Starting off in the Apps section, it is possible to not only view a list of the apps you have installed, but also uninstall any you no longer need and move between internal storage and an SD card. While these are tasks easily performed on your device, if you want to work with several apps at the same time, SnapPea makes this possible.
You also have the option of backing up apps. This involves little more than copying the relevant APK files from your device to your computer and it’s a good idea before performing any major app upgrades. Should you decide that the latest version of a particular title is not for you, you can revert to your backup version instead.
To backup, select one or more apps by ticking the boxes next to them and then click the Export button at the top of the program window. When the time comes to reinstall, just click the ‘Install apps’ button and select your backup folder; you can install swathes of apps in one fell swoop in this way.
It is worth noting that only APKs are backed up, not app data – you will have to export this separately yourself.
Almost every Android device is home to a raft of media files. Few phones are not used to store scores of photos, and both tablets and phones are used for video and music playback. In the Video, Music and Pictures section, the Export option is once again available for backup purposes. Files can also be imported.
You can click any picture to view it in full screen mode, and standard slideshow controls are available at the bottom of the screen. In addition to deletion and rotation options, you will also find a couple of buttons to set an image as your Android wallpaper or to share via Facebook.
Music management works in much the same way, and there is a nice feature available to anyone who has used, or is still using, iTunes to manage a music collection. To the upper right of the Music section, click the ‘Import iTunes music’ button to do just that – you will just have to choose which of the available libraries should be imported.
Backup and More
If you are using SnapPea to work with a phone rather than a tablet, the Contacts and Messages section of the program provide you with a useful way to create, edit and delete address book entries as well as send the occasional SMS using a regular keyboard.
Click the Welcome link in the left hand navigation bar to return to the main screen. Tucked out of the way down to the bottom right of the window you will find another Backup option. This can be used to quickly backup all of your apps, contacts and messages – they’ll be stored in one zip file that you can browse manually or reinstate using the Restore button.
At the Welcome screen you will also find another handy tool. Screen capturing is something that varies from one Android device to another. On my HTC phone, it’s a simple matter of holding the power button and tapping home, while my tablet requires a button combination I always forget that involves the volume control and only works half of the time.
Click the little arrow to the right of the Capture button in the center of the window and you can choose between taking ‘Screen only’ screenshots – which I would recommend – or ‘normal’ ones. Selecting the latter option results in very small grabs with a device-specific border.
SnapPea also includes full screen display mirroring. You can opt to show the output of your phone or tablet on your computer monitor; this is great for showing off photos or giving presentations. This button can be found to the right of the Capture button and whatever is displayed on your Android will also be displayed on your monitor – albeit with a slight lag (you are not going to want to use this option for full screen gaming).
This is a great little tool that I would recommend to any Android user. SnapPea is wonderfully simple to use, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.
What tools do you use to backup and manage your Android phone or tablet? Let us know in the comments below.
Mark Wilson is a software fiend and a fan of the new, shiny and intriguing. Never afraid to get his hands dirty with some full-scale geekery, he’s always trying out the latest apps, hacks and tweaks. He can be found on Twitter.
- Published 02/4/13