How-To Geek

Lesson 2: Managing Your Installed Applications

Android 2

Our first real stop on the road to mastering Android is to help you understand how to manage and organize your installed applications, deal with settings and permissions, or get rid of applications you don’t want.

Managing your applications means not allowing your apps get the most of your system. Sometimes things get a little haywire and we install a whole bunch of stuff that we probably don’t even use. Not only can that make your app drawer and home screen(s) look cluttered and confusing, but all those apps take up space. That said, if you want to keep everything you install, you can take definitive measures to streamline and make things look more organized.

We also discuss managing your account from Google Play. You may not know that much about app permissions, so we’ll explain that, and we’ll also explain how to turn auto-updates off.

Finally, we’ll actually dig deep into the application settings to show you the amount of power that Android gives you over your apps. There’s so much there that you probably don’t know even know about. You can force apps to stop, clear out the data cache, and other useful stuff.

Let’s start off our discussion of shortcuts and all the ways you can use them to better manage your Android apps.


You are probably quite familiar with shortcuts, or at least the concept. Shortcuts are also called “symbolic links” and basically all that means is that you can open an application using a symbol that links to the actual program. All the icons you see in your app drawer and on your home screens are shortcuts. The actual programs are stored elsewhere on your device, you simply use shortcuts so that you can have access to your stuff without creating many copies of it.

Dragging shortcuts from the app drawer to the home screen

You can quickly create shortcuts on your home screens. First open the app drawer, then touch and hold the app you want to pin. The app drawer will fade from view and you will see you home screen.

Drag the shortcut to the screen edge if you want to place your shortcut on a different home screen.


Once you’ve chosen where you want to place the shortcut, simply release your finger.

Google Now

Google Now is sort of a personal digital assistant that learns your preferences, likes, and habits, and helps make recommendation on the information that it collects on you. Google Now, and the applicable Google Now launcher, comes included with some Android handsets. For others, it is a downloadable feature you can get in the Google Play store.


We mention this because if you install the Google Now package and use the launcher, instead of the old five home screen design many are accustomed to, you now have one main home screen. You can create subsequent home screens to the right, but Google Now is always accessible on the adjacent screen left of the main home screen. You cannot have home screens to the left of your main one so if you aren’t happy with this arrangement, you can revert to old style using the “Home” settings.


Note, the options available to you may be different than what you see here.

If you’d like to install Google Now on your Samsung device you should check out this article.

Arranging shortcuts

If you simply want to rearrange shortcuts so they’re in a certain order, then you can easily move them around. Simply choose the shortcut you want to move. In the following example, we choose the “Drive” shortcut. We press and hold and see that the “Drive” shortcut’s outline can be seen where it will be placed if you were to release it at that moment.


If you want to move a shortcut to where another shortcut already resides, simply “nudge” the one you want to supplant out of the way. As you can see, the “Facebook” shortcut moves to an open spot when the “Drive” shortcut is placed there.


Removing shortcuts

To remove shortcuts from your home screen, simply press and hold the one you want to delete, and then drag it to the X to “Remove.”


Creating shortcut groups

Shortcut groups are a great way to clean up similar types of shortcuts and place them in a group. When you tap on the group, it will expand open and you can pick the app you want to launch, kind of like having mini app drawers on your home screen.

To create a shortcut group, you must have at least two shortcuts you want to group. In this example, we’ll take all the Google apps and group them in a shortcut group. First we drag one shortcut over the top of another and release it when a white halo appears around the bottom shortcut.


You’ll then see that it forms a group, which you can then add more apps to and then move around and order as you see fit.


You can also give the group a name by tapping on “Unnamed Folder,” the system will allow you to personalize it. In the following example, we give our new Google group the apt name “Google.”


Grouping apps in the App Tray

Grouping apps in the app tray works the same as any other app group you’d form only this group will be persistent across all your home screens and thus always within reach of your thumb tips.


To create a group in the app tray, follow the same procedure as outlined above, only drag your apps to the tray instead of the home screen.


You can also rename the group to something appropriate.

Note on the Samsung interface, you can tap the menu button and then “create folder” to accomplish the same thing as app groups on Android.


Google Play

Google Play is Google’s app store, with over one million apps as of July 2013, you’re sure to find something you need. For every iOS app out there, there is almost always an Android equivalent. When you first open the Play Store, it will display categories of apps you can download, Play favorites, and more. You can search for any specific app by clicking on the search icon.


What we really want to concentrate on though is the stuff associated with your account, specifically the apps associated with your account, their permissions, and how apps update.

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Matt Klein is an aspiring Florida beach bum, displaced honorary Texan, and died-in-wool Ohio State Buckeye, who fancies himself a nerd-of-all-trades. His favorite topics might include operating systems, BBQ, roller skating, and trying to figure out how to explain quantum computers.

  • Published 04/22/14

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