Android 9 Pie

How to get Android-P-like features on any phone right now

Make your phone smarter with these Android-P-inspired add-ons — many of which actually outshine their official operating system equivalents.

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Native screenshot editing

At long last, Android P gives us a simple native system for editing and then sharing screenshots as they're captured (huh — how 'bout that?!). If you want such a feature on your phone today, grab the oh-so-creatively named Screenshot Crop and Share (free with optional $1 to $2.50 in-app purchases to unlock extra features).

The app makes screenshot editing as simple as can be: Once it's set up, an image editing interface automatically appears anytime you take a screenshot. Personally, I find that behavior to be a bit much, as you don't necessarily want to make edits every single time you capture a screenshot — so what I'd suggest doing is opening up the app, selecting "User Settings," and then changing the "Launch mode" from "Show menu-overlay" to "Show notification with options." That way, you'll simply get a notification with options to edit, share, or delete whenever a screenshot is captured (much like the way the equivalent native Android P feature behaves) — but its presence won't interrupt your workflow. It's easily accessible when needed, in other words, but also easily ignored. The best of both worlds, right?

Regardless of how you get there, once you're in the app's screenshot editor, you can crop the image as needed, scribble on it in various colors for emphasis, and then save and/or share it wherever you wish.

Android P Features: Screenshot Editing JR

Just note that to get to the drawing tool (as well as some other advanced tools that require an in-app purchase to activate), you first have to tap the crop icon in the lower-left corner of the editing screen — and then the full list of editing options will appear. That wasn't entirely clear to me from the start and took a bit of fiddling around to discover.

Silent mode shortcuts

Last but not least, a doozy that's almost certainly worth your while. One of Android P's most practical yet easily overlooked features is its new series of silent mode shortcuts. The feature has two separate but related parts: First, the software will (eventually) allow you to silence your phone simply by placing it face-down on a surface. And second, if you press and hold your phone's power and volume-up keys at the same time — when the screen is on — the phone will immediately switch itself into silent mode.

Well, Wilbur, you know the drill by now: Both elements are entirely possible to achieve on any Android device this very moment, though they do require a bit of initial legwork. First, you'll need to get the trusty ol' Android customization app known as Tasker ($3), if you don't have it already. The setup from there gets somewhat complicated, but don't worry: We'll walk through it together. You know I'm always here for you, my sweet and shiny plum.

First up: The phone-down-to-silence part

All right, so here's the deal: Once you've opened up Tasker and granted it the initial permissions it needs to operate, you'll find yourself on the app's main "Profiles" screen. Tap the plus icon in the lower-right corner, select "State," then select "Sensor" and "Orientation."

Tap the text area underneath "Is" and set it to "Face Down." Then hit the left-facing arrow in the upper-left corner of the screen.

Android P Features: Silent Mode Shortcut (1) JR

Still with me? Good: Pause for a moment to sip uponst the nearest chilled beverage, then, once properly quenched, tap "New Task" in the pop-up box that appeared on your screen. You'll probably have to hit a little checkmark in a prompt asking you to name the task — don't worry about actually naming it — and then you'll be taken to the "Task Edit" screen.

Tap the plus icon in the screen's lower-right corner, select "Audio," then select "Do Not Disturb." Tap the text beneath "Mode" and set it to "Alarms" (which'll make it so that your phone makes noise only if an alarm is set to occur — if you'd rather use one of the other available Do Not Disturb settings, of course, feel free). Hit the left-facing arrow in the upper-left corner of the screen, hit the same left-facing arrow once more, and then you should be back at the main Tasker "Profiles" screen — and if all went according to plan, you should see your newly created rule activated and waiting for your admiration.

Android P Features: Silent Mode Shortcut (2) JR

Hoorah! There's just one more step to finish for this first part: Tap the three-dot menu icon in the app's upper-right corner, select "Preferences," then tap the line labeled "Accelerometer" and set it to "Yes." That'll allow the app to access your device's accelerometer and sense when your phone is face-down even when the screen is off, which will make this feature infinitely more valuable.

Hit that left-facing arrow again, and that's it: The first part of the P-like silent mode shortcut is now set up and running. Take a moment to celebrate — I recommend a slice of homemade huckleberry pie — and then get ready to wade your way through part two, assuming you also crave that function on your friendly neighborhood phone.

Next: The power-and-volume-up shortcut

Back? Okay, then: The second part — the power and volume-up to silence shortcut — also works through Tasker, though it requires one extra app by the same developer called AutoInput (free). Install that, open it, and grant it the initial permissions it needs in order to operate. You'll then have to dismiss a welcome message and touch the "Use For Free" option, which will require you to watch one ad and will then unlock the app's full set of features. (If you'd rather, you can also opt to purchase the full version — though that requires you to download another app and is kinda a hassle to do.)

Got that out of the way? Good. Next, tap the line labeled "NOT ENABLED" under the "Accessibility" heading. Find "AutoInput" in the list that appears, tap it, activate the toggle to enable it, and hit your Back button a couple of times to get back into the app's main interface.

And — very important — take a deep breath: We're almost done. Next, head back into Tasker and tap the plus icon in its lower-right corner to start a new profile. Select "Event," then "Plugin" followed by "AutoInput" and "Key."

Tap the pencil icon alongside "Configuration" on the screen that appears, tap "OK" and "Allow," then tap "Keys" and find both "Power" and "Volume Up" in the list and be sure to check them both. Hit "OK," then tap "Key Action," select "All," and tap the grey checkmark at the top-right of the screen.

You'll now see a complex-looking screen showing the configuration we just created. Don't fret over it; just hit the left-facing arrow in the top-left corner, then tap "New Task," hit the checkmark to dismiss the optional name, and tap the plus icon to get things configured.

Select "Audio," then "Do Not Disturb," and again change the mode to "Alarms." Hit that left-facing arrow twice more, and that's it for real: You'll be back at the main Tasker "Profiles" page, and your new profile should show up there right below our first one (WHEW!).

Android P Features: Silent Mode Shortcut (3) JR

Just like in Android P, pressing Power and Volume-Up will now silence your phone and put it into Do Not Disturb mode — and setting your phone face-down on a surface will silence it similarly.

Best of all? Now that all of this initial legwork is done, you should never have to mess with any of this stuff or think about it again. It'll just be there to make your life a little bit easier — one tap, swipe, or motion at a time.

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[Android Intelligence videos at Computerworld]

Copyright © 2018 IDG Communications, Inc.

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