Monday, December 5, 2011

Kindle Tips: for Kindle Touch and Kindle Fire


Re the Kindle Touch:
Be sure to see the first article on what you can do with some of the features on this unit, with basic tips on the changes and certain unexpected aspects encountered when using the Kindle Touch.

  Also se the later added More tips & info (12/23-24) on using Kindle Fire and Kindle Touch.  There is actually basic and very useful info in that one also.

Encountering a screen with nothing but book text and no button icons
One thing for new users to be aware of -- you'll often be greeted with a screen of book text only, and with no clue about what to do.  I've seen that this has confused some reviewers who didn't spend enough time with the user's guide.  But it IS anti-intuitive to have no small icon anywhere to let people click to get to even a basic item like a menu.   I really like the Kindle Touch, but this has to be noted.

  Anyway, we're often finding ourselves with a page of just the text of a book (no headers or footers as with physical books) and no clues there as to what to do to get to something besides the Next and Previous page (by tapping on the left or right sides of the screen).  Note that the right 'side' or 'edge' is extended to near the center of the KTouch, probably so that a person holding the Kindle with the left hand will be able to reach the right 'edge' that way.

  When wondering "What do I do now?" (which happens to me still), here's the
  #1 action when you're reading a Kindle book on this ultra light unit.

  If you're not on the Home screen but are reading a book:
  Lightly press the top center part of the screen or the area to the left of center, and many options will come up, including the MENU button that will appear near the top right.

    If, instead you tap the middle area of the page, that will usually be interpreted by the Kindle Touch as a request for the Next Page because of the extended 'right side' that I mentioned above.

  The two most important buttons (for me)
The two most important buttons besides the dedicated, physical HOME button that looks like an air conditioning unit at the bottom of the screen are the ones seen after lightly pressing the top center of a book-text-only screen:

  . MENU -- This offers additional, important options that you don't see in the screen header and footer options that display after you press Menu

  . BACK ARROW ICON at the top left.
That makes sure you can get back to your last action before you jumped to the current page. That *doesn't* mean the last page you were on.  It means the last thing you jumped from (as in a link).
  In the case of a book I'm reading, it took me back to the Home screen, as it was the link action that took me to the book.

  NOTE: In the Kindle Store, the Back (arrow) indicator can get you back to the page of search results when you've searched on a book and have finished reading about one of them.

Summing up the basics
Main actions to remember:
  Home -- Top Center or Top Left Tap/Press -- Menu -- Back Arrow

  With those you'll have enough to 'safely' navigate around the Kindle Touch without getting the "What?!" experience (which I still get - because I'm exploring a new smart Android phone, the Kindle Fire, the Kindle Touch, and a larger tablet, all with somewhat different methods of navigation because the makers want theirs to be a unique experience.

  The possible upside?  Studies have shown that making ourselves learn new things, new methods, puzzling out odd situations -- any of that will help to protect us from dementia later on.  It's the equivalent of physical exercise, and the mind itself is physical.

It also helps when the makers remember it's better to avoid confusing the customer too much and to come up with consistent designs, where possible, in the interface.

Making the small text on WEB pages and in PDFs readable, for the most part

  PDFs and WEB pages
  (The WEB portion of this section applies to the Kindle Fire also, as does most of the PDF section except that the Kindle Fire CAN rotate to Landscape mode.

    PDF Screen Text
  Blog commenter Kristen B reminded us of something very important when trying to read two-column PDFs on a small 6" screen, which would have even smaller text.

There's an Android feature that allows for RE-FLOWING text when you enlarge or reduce the fonts, so that it adapts to the width of the space it's in.

  This works in different ways depending on the coding of the webpage, and I saw a video the other day in which a Samsung Galaxy S2 phone did re-wrap the text in a newspaper column, but the iPhone didn't, in that case.
  That ability to adjust the font and text-layout makes all the difference when trying to read tiny text on the web or in PDFs.  We've seen this as an everyday-thing when increasing or decreasing fonts in e-books.

  Kristen pointed out that when playing with a store demo of the Kindle Touch displaying a preloaded 2-column PDF file:
' I was able to "double tap" on 1 column of a 2-column PDF file (preloaded on the KT), and it zoomed to exactly fill the screen with that text.

  Then I could use the swipe or tap methods to advance through the document (properly... top left to bottom left, then top right, bottom right, next page) without any major hangups, though it did have trouble continuing to scroll past a table/figure in the document, but with just text it did great. '

  The earlier Kindles require doing a next-page, via the page buttons, to see the rest of one column and then page backward to see the top of the 2nd column, so this particular mode of handling two columns is considerably better.

  Also, in a PDF, you can also pinch-zoom to exactly where you want it, but as I've said before, it's a choppy, harder- to control function, and the double-tap method optimizes it for the longest line length. Also, some PDF makers create big margins and the Kindle software observes those, respecting the original layout too much.  I wish they'd handle that as they did the old, beloved Landscape mode on the Kindle2 and 3, trimming unnecessary large margins.  But, for now, there's no landscape mode with the Kindle Touch.  There IS Landscape mode for the Kindle Fire, which makes it much more readable.

  Apparently landscape mode wasn't made available because of the segmenting of areas that is done for the portrait mode, but a customer service rep told one Kindle owner that they were working on it.

  WEB Page Text
Applying the method above to webpages with the usual tiny text on a 7" tablet

    Web forums usually have a column on the left identifying each message writer and a column for the post itself.

  Usually Android web browsers will auto-fit the width of the screen (they tend to default to that setting, which I like, so that I first see the original layout, but I can't read the text that way.

  Double tapping the screen can improve it, but the text may still be too small because the adjusting includes the left column that's of less interest usually.

    Important Web-Browser Setting: "Auto-fit pages"
    This web-settings box, if checked, formats web pages to fit the screen

    So, that box has to be checked for this to work.

Here's what to do:
1. Move the page with a finger or a stylus (the latter can be really helpful when typing) so that the message body is filling the screen -- even better, until it's expanded beyond the screen edges, too large for the screen area.

2. Double-tap the screen.
The software then keeps the font that chosen size but REFLOWS the text so that the message wraps and you can read it all in that larger font.

  SOMEtimes, the double-tap leads to the tiny version again, but if you double-tap once more, then it goes back up to the large font for text (which exceeded the boundaries you were at when you first double-tapped) but now adjusts the screen-wrap.  As mentioned, it's called "re-flowing" the text.

 It's a great feature.

Blog commenter Tom Semple adds several other good tips also. Some of his finds and suggestions:
1. "In addition to TTS ability for PDF, they have quietly added support for 'Table of Contents' (PDF bookmarks), and also PDF links! This makes PDF more navigable. Hopefully landscape will show up in an update."

2. In text to speech mode, the process pops up a dialog box when the user taps anywhere on the screen.

    The popup has options for male/female voices and 3 speed options as before, but you can see them while the text-to-speech is running..

3. A favorite of mine that Tom discovered does work in Kindle Touch after all.   On previous Kindles, when books are sorted by title on the Home screen, you can use the bottom search bar to type one alpha character (only), then click down on the 5-way controller button to jump to the first title that starts with that letter.  (If you forget and type more than one letter, the Kindle starts a search of the entire Kindle for that and it takes forever.)

  That method doesn't work with the KTouch.  Tom found that, on the KTouch, you can tap the "Page x of y" indicator at the top right to bring up a dialog box that lets you enter up to two alpha characters, to jump to the first title starting with those letters.

  It also lets you enter a Home listing page number so you can access it directly.
  For one thing, when the Home screen is sorted by "Most Recent Order" the 'Periodicals: Back Issues" folder created by Amazon for our subscriptions is on the last page, and you can jump to that page by putting the last page number in this dialog box.  There's another method to access the folder, and I'll add that at the end of this post.

  The User's Guide mentions that you can put in diacritics by holding a letter down and choosing one, which helps when typing in west european languages (where Amazon is opening up new stores).

  Shortcut for Screenshots: "Hold down the Home button and single-tap on the screen, continue holding Home for a second or two.  The screenshot is placed in the 'root' or top directiory of the Kindle."

  Screen Refresh (for the mild ghosting that happens when there is no refreshing done for the first 5 of 6 pages in order to load the pages more quickly and without a black flash on each page as happens with e-Ink).  Also, the very densely dark virtual keyboard leaves a bit of ghosting for the next page, though many won't notice it.
    To eliminate it, tap on the top center area or the top left of the screen, which brings up the many options (top and bottom) described eons ago at the start of this blog article.
  That will refresh the page.  Tap again to get rid of the option lines.  A double-click seldom works though.

  PDF page numbers - Actual page numbers show up (if they exist) when you press that center top or left top area.

  Some do have embedded page labels, but they may not match the actual page images due to lack of care during the PDF generation process.
Home Screen's Shortcuts
1. Lightly pressing the home screen's header, "My Items," pops up a box to take
you directly to "Periodicals: Back Issues" or "Archived Items" folders.

2. Pressing or tapping the current sorting order allows you to change it without going to the menu.

Chapter Begin/End indicators
Also, in the Comments area we've discussed the Chapter indicators not being displayed anymore.  It's up to publishers to provide these, and not many of them seem to but when they do, it's very useful.

  For the books that have them, we don't see them, and the only way to find out whether the book we're reading has these or not, is to swipe up (as if rolling the bottom of the page up) or swipe down.  If the book has them, then we can go from chapter to chapter that way.

And, finally:
With both these units, but especially the Kindle Fire, a barely perceptible, very light press (more so than a tap) will be more likely to activate touchscreen responses.

Thanks to the blog's contributors to the Comments area for the good info.

Next time I'll include some ideas from Joe Golton and Edward Boyhan.

Kindle Fire  7" tablet - $199
Kindle NoTouch ("Kindle") - $79/$109
Kindle Touch, WiFi
- $99/$139
Kindle Touch, 3G/WiFi - $149/$189
Kindle Keybd 3G - $189, Free, slow web
Kindle DX - $379, Free, slow 3G web
Kindle Basic, NoTouch - £89
Kindle Touch WiFi, UK - £109
Kindle Touch 3G/WiFi, UK - £169
Kindle Keyboard 3G, UK - £149
  Keybd: w/ Free, slow 3G WEB
OTHER International
Kindle NoTouch Basic - $109
Kindle Touch WiFi - $139
Kindle Touch 3G/WiFi - $189
Kindle Keybd 3G - $189
  Keybd: w/ Free, slow 3G WEB

Check often: Temporarily-free recently published Kindle books
  Guide to finding Free Kindle books and Sources.  Top 100 free bestsellers.  Liked-books under $1
UK-Only: recently published free books, bestsellers, or £5 Max ones
  Also, UK customers should see the UK store's Top 100 free bestsellers.

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  1. I really like the ability to tap on the home screen "Page x of y" display and it pops up a screen to either type the number of the page I want or the first letter of the book's title. It's great when you have a lot of books on the Kindle itself. I also find collections a lot more useful on a Touch. I did a whole blog post on that:

  2. Carmen,
    Nice job on the Collections tip. And, yes, I love that Page x of y thing! I'd been missing the direct jump and thought they'd completely left it out.

    The Collections are smoother on the Touch but there were two ways to do it on the K3, and one of them was close to this multi-tag method.

    Transferring Archived Items to the new Kindle is tons faster for sure. I love that you can just mark them one after another, the ones you want, and there's no lag time involved.

  3. Nice tips! I purchased a touch a couple weeks ago and been following your blog since. Great site!

  4. Todd,
    Thanks for visiting and the nice words. That Touch is a really sweet device.

  5. I find it funny that the Kindle Fire has a dedicated and always visible area to access Menu/Setting items where I don't feel it's needed and the Kindle Touch does not--where I feel just the opposite.

  6. Jazz,
    And yet, when using the KFire last night, I found myself using some kind of app where I couldn't see the top icons and wondered how to get out of there :-)

    I like the Samsung's dedicated surface areas (on the cellphone) for Back, Home, Menu, Search etc.

    Don't like haing to press something to have the options come up and then

  7. Over the weekend I discovered one 'gotcha' on KT: if you have a linked Audible library, these audiobooks will be listed in Archived Items. It requires only a single tap to initiate download of an Archived Item. That's a problem should you inadvertently tap on an audiobook: these can take 1 to 2 hours to download, even over a fast connection. There doesn't seem to be a way to cancel the download, short of a hard reset (hold power button 20 seconds or so).

    As Murphy's Law would suggest, I happened to accidentally tap on the largest audiobook in my collection, a 2.5GB behemoth, that I estimate would have taken 3 or more hours to download. I spent the next couple of hours trying to figure out how to cancel the download before hitting on the hard reset method.

    If Amazon reads my kindle-feedback message, hopefully they'll add a 'confirm' dialog (or ability to cancel download) in a future update.

    Note that the other items in the Home screen 'headers' are 'live' as well: tap 'My items' lets you go to Archived Items or Periodicals: Back Issues; tap the sort order option shown to change that. It really makes Home screen navigation much more fluid than on the previous Kindles.

    Another thing I really like is that Kindle Store search has 'auto complete', so that as you type an author or title in, various options are displayed in a list and the one you are looking for often appears before you have typed out the entire search string. I wanted to download the same samples I'd collected on my K3 to my KT, and it took a fraction of the time to do so than it would have without the autocomplete feature.

  8. Tom,
    That Audible book would take up most of the user's allotment of space! Wow. I agree, but you should write to give them that kind of feedback. They log the suggestions.

    Re the Other Items etc at the top, I did mention those in this post near the bottom.

    Thanks. Not sure if you read the post yet though.

  9. Sorry I missed the 'other items' reference.

    It bears mention also that Active Content is much better on Kindle Touch (for the few apps that have been released so far). I am looking forward to trying Chess again when it supports KT. So far I've tried Jewels and Mahjong Solitaire; I can't imagine using them without a touch interface.

  10. Tom,
    Good to read re active content. I haven't downloaded much of that in months because I get too easily addicted to those. And now there's the KFire, and Mahjong looks so great on it.

  11. Kindle Fire's audio port turns out to work with stereo headsets w/microphone, e.g. like those that you would use with iPhone. So you can record audio.

    None of the audio recording apps in Amazon Appstore are available for Fire but you can side load apps from elsewhere. I'm using one called 'Tape-a-Talk'. It seems to work fine for voice memos and such.

    I tried Skype but unfortunately while it installed successfully and starts up normally, and 'dials', it hung up as soon as call rang through. Maybe some other VOIP would work, or some day a future version of Skype will magically work on Fire.

    I haven't tried any voice dictation (STT) or that sort of thing, I don't think Fire has the voice search Android normally has. Maybe Amazon will add that later, as it would improve accessibility of Fire.

    I think I mentioned elsewhere here that Fire has Pico TTS, and that works with some apps.

  12. Tom, I saw a headset at Amazon the other day that had a microphone, and it was only $6.

    I need to get together that list of known reliable sites that offer some of these non-Amazon apps that do work on the Kindle.

    Verizon is now offering Skype with some of its phones, I read the other day.

    My Woot! refurbished Samsung Tab 10.1 does have both the Google Android voice search (which works amazingly well, even when you talk fast and not very loud -- to someone else even. I haven't tried yet the VLingo or whatever that is on Samsung that is an alternative to Google Voice, which is already surprisingly good.

    I can dictate into text fields on the Samsung and don't know what it was using. I may send for that headset with microphone that's $6.

  13. I like that you can have two dictionaries now. I have one in English and then a Spanish/English one in case I'm reading some Spanish lit.
    I also really like using the two finger spread to increase font size on the fly.
    But I really miss the screen rotation options. Are they going to bring that back??

  14. I miss screen rotation, to understate it.

    A couple of customer reps have responded with the thought that they may be trying to make this happen. It's said it has something to do with how the screen panels are laid out for the various touch processes for PrevPage and fat-area touch for NextPage and top area for the many options...

    We can hope.


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