Five ways to get more out of Facebook Home

As you get started with Facebook Home for Android, these tips will get you the most out of the new, social-centric interface.

At a glance, Facebook Home looks like a complete operating system. Cover Feed replaces your home screens, "Chat Heads" pop up as you receive new messages, and even your lock screen is ruled by a slideshow of Facebook updates.

Luckily, Home is nothing but a launcher -- a custom interface that lays over your existing Android operating system. It's an excellent insurance policy, allowing you to enable it and disable it as often as you'd like.

Barring that, Home still demands you relearn most of what you know about navigating Android. Gestures, settings, and customization options are a little different here, and getting around them isn't always intuitive. To get more out of Home (or to get out of it entirely), check out these five tips.

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1. Learn the gestures
Home's unique interface presents a new set of gestures you'll use to get around. For example, when you unlock your phone, stacked notifications will appear on the Cover Feed. To clear a notification, swipe it away. Or, to clear a bunch of notifications, tap and hold one, then swipe the group away.

Chat Heads are controlled with similar gestures. At any point, you can reposition a floating Chat Head anywhere on the screen. But, to get rid of them entirely, tap and hold the collapsed group of Chat Heads, and drag them to the "X" that appears at the bottom of the screen.

To remove a single Head, tap the collapsed group of circles, then tap and hold the Head you want to remove.

One thing you'll notice in the Cover Feed is that photo stories are cropped -- you never get a complete view of a photo as you browse through the feed. To see the full crop of a photo, tap and hold it, then release.

2. The new Messenger
To make life easier, Facebook Home consolidates your texts and Facebook messages in the new Messaging interface. To access it, grab your profile picture from the main screen, and drag it to the left.

To send a new Facebook message or SMS, tap the plus button in the lower-right corner. As you type someone's name, you'll have the option to send him or her a message via Facebook or via SMS. If you choose SMS, "standard messaging rates will apply."

When texting, new messages will appear in green, while Facebook messages will appear in blue. Active conversations will continue when you exit the conversation, and notifications for new messages will pop up as Chat Heads. For a complete guide to the new Messenger app, check out Jason Cipriani's tips .

3. Reclaim your lock screen
Though Cover Feed is arguably the best part of Home, you might not want it plastered all over your lock screen. The privacy issue is one thing, but also consider the times when a friend might post an inappropriate photo, which might appear when you wake up your phone. (No, thanks!)

To remove Cover Feed from your lock screen, head to Settings and uncheck "See Home when screen turns on."

4. Adjust these settings
Within settings, there are a couple important options worth adjusting. First, you have the option to show or hide the status bar, that top black bar that displays the time and notification icons. If you choose to hide it, you can still access it by swiping down from the top at any time.

The most important setting, though, is the "Data use and image quality" option. Here's where you determine how much data Home will demand, as these settings -- High, Medium, and Low -- not only determine the image quality, but also the refresh rate of Cover Feed.

If you're on a capped data plan, choose Low or Medium.

5. Disable Facebook Home
Thankfully, Facebook Home isn't an entire operating system. Since it's just a launcher, you can enable and disable it.

To disable Home, go to Settings and choose "Turn off Facebook Home." When you exit, your phone will give you a warning, asking you if you'd like to use "Home" or "Launcher." To go back to the regular Android interface, choose Launcher, and tap "Always."

When you're ready to enable it again, open the Home app. Then, when you get the warning again, choose "Home" and then "Always."

About the author

Sharon Profis is a CNET How To expert who cooks up DIY projects, in-depth guides, and little-known tricks that help you get the most out of your tech. During her four years at CNET, she's covered social media, funky gadgets, and has shared her tech knowledge on CBS and other news outlets.

 

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