10 Must-Know Amazon Kindle Fire HDX Tablet Tips and Tricks

Whether you're a new Kindle Fire HDX owner or a seasoned Amazon tablet user, you'll appreciate these 10 tips and tricks that will help you reset a malfunctioning device, organize and streamline navigation, boost data security and more.

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In 2013, Amazon was the third largest global manufacturer of Android tablets (9,401,846 total tablets sold to end users), behind Samsung (37,411,921) and ASUS (11,039,156), according to research firm Gartner. Amazon's Kindle Fire HDX tablets may not be the best-selling Android tablets today, but they are unique and particularly well-suited for certain kinds of users -- including BYOD enterprise tablet owners. (Check out my quick comparison of the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 to Apple's iPad Air.)

Amazon's "flavor" of the Android OS, the Fire OS 3.2, is based on Android 4.2.2 "Jelly Bean," but in many ways it feels very different than the OS Google geeks have come to know. As such the Kindle Fire OS and Kindle Fire HDX tablets have their own sets of unique tips and tricks.

After spending time with both the Kindle Fire HDX 7 and Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 tablets during the past months, I rounded up the following 10 simple tips and tricks, which every Amazon tablet owner should know.

Kindle Fire HDX "Hard Reset"

Sometimes tablets, like all electronics, misbehave. If your Kindle Fire HDX tablet ever freezes up or just starts acting funny, your first course of action should be a "hard reset," which basically forces the device to shut down and reset itself.

To hard reset your Kindle Fire HDX, simply hold down the power button on its rear side for 20 seconds until the device shuts down. Wait a few more seconds, then turn the device back on by holding the power button until you see screen animation, and you're good to go.

Kindle Fire OS and App 'Collections'

You can create "Collections" of Kindle Fire apps, or folders, on your tablet's home screen to organize your software and streamline navigation. Simply tap and hold an app you wish to add to a Collection and then drag it onto another app. A new Collection, or folder, will be automatically created, and you can add a custom name by opening the Collection and tapping on the text of the name.

You can also quickly add apps from your home-screen "carousel" to a Collection by tapping and holding the app and then choosing "Add to Collection" from the on-screen options.

I use Collections for Social Networking, Photography, and Music and Sports apps, among other things. Organizing my software into the appropriate Collections helps reduce clutter on my home screen and makes it simple to find the apps I want when I want them.

Removing Items from the Home Screen Carousel

Whenever you open a new app, service or file, the corresponding app shows up in your home screen Carousel. But I like to keep only the apps I use frequently in my Carousel, to reduce the need to scroll to access my most commonly used apps. To remove an app from your Carousel, simply hold a finger on the app you wish to remove until you see a list of options. Choose "Remove from Carousel" to delete the item from your Carousel.

Ditch the Recommendations in Your Carousel

The Kindle Fire OS, by default, shows you apps and other content related to items in your Carousel, by displaying a set of small icons beneath each item in the Carousel. The icons can be helpful for finding interesting content, but they also add clutter to your already-busy home screen. Sometimes they feel like ads, which can get tedious quickly.

Luckily, it's easy to disable the icons. Open your Kindle Fire HDX Settings by dragging down from the top of your display and tapping the Settings option. Scroll down and tap the Home Screen option, and then disable the Show/Hide Recommendations option by tapping the button into the Hide position.

Capture a Screen Shot on Your Kindle Fire HDX

Quickly capturing images of you Kindle Fire HDX display is simple, thanks to a built-in screen shot command. To grab a screen shot of your tablet's display, press and hold the Volume Up and Power keys simultaneously until you see the screen flash. To access your screen shots, Click the Photos tab in the slider at the top of your home screen, then choose the Device option from dropdown menu in the top-left corner of your gallery. A folder aptly named "Screenshots" houses all of your screen shots.

Collapse and Expand Mail Notifications

If you have multiple new email messages in the same inbox, your status bar will eventually group all the new message notifications together and show you only a mail icon and a number to represent the total number of new messages.

You can expand the grouped notifications in your dropdown status bar, to display more details about each message, including senders and subject lines for each message, without opening your inbox. Or if you want to free up space in your status bar, you can collapse a list of mail notifications into a single line.

To expand a grouped message notification bar and see message details, hold a finger against the mail icon and slide your finger down. To collapse an open new-message notification bar, hold a finger against the mail icon and slide your finger up.

Show Battery Percentage in Status Bar

Your Kindle Fire shows you its remaining battery level via a battery icon on the right side of your status bar by default. But a battery percentage setting gives you a more specific look at how much life is left in your device by showing a percentage number next to the icon.

To enable the battery percentage feature, slide your finger down from the top of your Kindle Fire display to expand your status bar and tap the Settings icon. Tap the Device option and then flip the switch next to "Show Battery Percentage in Status Bar" to the on position.

Free Up Storage Space with 1-Tap Archive

The Kindle Fire OS has a unique 1-Tap Archive feature that's designed to quickly identify apps and services you haven't used for a week or more and then archive them to clear storage space on your device. Any content you choose to archive using 1-Tap Archive is available to you in your Amazon cloud whenever you have Web access.

To initiate a 1-Tap Archive, pull down your status bar, tap the Settings option, then tap Device and finally tap Storage. Beneath a graphical representation of your Kindle Fire's storage status, you see an option for 1-Tap Archive. After you tap the option, you see a list of apps and services that you haven't used for a week or more, each with a check box next to their names. You can check or uncheck the boxes next to specific items, to specify which ones you want to remove and which you want to keep. Just tap the Archive button at the bottom of your display when you're ready to start the process.

Disable Special Offers on Your Kindle Lock Screen

Amazon offers a couple of different pricing options for new Kindle Fire HDX tablets. You can get $15 off of the retail price if you opt to have "special offers," which are basically ads for movies, music, apps, games and other content, on your tablet's lock screen; or you can pay the full retail price, avoid the lock-screen ads, and get control over your lock-screen wallpaper.

I suspect that many Kindle buyers will opt for the cheaper option with lock-screen offers, only to find that after a few days (maybe even hours), they're second guessing the decision. Those offers can be very annoying. Thankfully, Amazon lets you pay the $15 to get rid of the special offers after you purchase a Kindle at the discounted price.

To pay $15 and disable the lock-screen offers on your Kindle Fire HDX, visit your My Kindle page, located at http://amazon.com/myk. In the Navigation menu on the left side of the page, click the Manage Your Devices option, select the appropriate Kindle from the list of devices and then click the Manage This Device button. You'll see a list of options, including one for Special Offers. If the offers are active, you see the word "Subscribed" with an Edit link next to it. Click the Edit link, and choose the "Unsubscribe now with 1-click" option. Your account will be charged $15, and you'll never see those lock-screen offers again.

Encrypt Your Data for Added Security

The Kindle Fire OS has an on-device data encryption option that protects all of the data stored on your tablet. It's designed mainly for enterprise use, because many organizations require data encryption as part of the process to connect devices to corporate infrastructure. But anyone who wants to bolster data security can encrypt the data on their Kindle.

To encrypt your data, drag down the status bar from the top of your display and tap Settings. Tap the Security option and then tap Encryption and follow the on-screen instructions. The encryption process can take a while if you have a lot of data on your Kindle; I had about 2GB when I encrypted my tablet, and it took roughly 20 minutes. You could have to recharge your tablet and keep it plugged in during encryption. And you also need to set an encryption password that will be required every time you shut down and power on your tablet.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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