How to read and listen to music, Facebook share on a Kindle

The Kindle is far more capable than Amazon lets on. Here's 10 little-known features to make your ebook experience even more rewarding.

You might think the Kindle is nothing more than an ebook reader, but dig below the surface and you'll find that it's far more accomplished than Amazon lets on. Here we reveal 10 little-known features that can help make your ebook experience even more rewarding.

1. Look up a dictionary definition from the home screen

Everyone knows you can look up definitions of words you don't understand in the book you're reading -- you use the four-way controller at the bottom of your device to move the pointer to the start of the word. Did you know the built-in dictionary can also be accessed straight from the home screen?

Simply enter @dict followed by the word -- @dict phone for example -- and up it pops in the resident dictionary.

This is just one of several @ functions, with @wiki sending your query to Wikipedia. For that to work you obviously need to have an active Wi-Fi or 3G connection.

Note that on the Kindle Keyboard and third-generation Kindle, @ is hidden in the symbols menu. To start a query, press any character to call up the input bar, delete your opening character and them press SYM to call up the hidden keyboard, then select @ using the four-way controller.

 

2. Bypass the Amazon home page when searching for books from your Kindle

Having direct access to Amazon's complete catalogue from your Kindle is a great time saver, and it means you can buy books when you're away from your PC or Mac.

You can switch straight to the store by pressing Alt + Home on the Kindle Keyboard and third-generation device. There's no equivalent key combination for the original Kindle or Kindle Touch , but all E-Ink Kindle devices can search the store directly from the home screen. Again we'll use the @ symbol here, so @store Pride and Prejudice will search for Jane Austen's masterpiece. This feature requires an active Wi-Fi or 3G connection.

 

3. Access hidden characters on the keyboard

If you have a Kindle Keyboard or third-gen Kindle then you have the luxury of a physical keyboard, but where regular Kindle owners have a row of numbers directly above the letters on their software keyboard, this top line of digits is missing from your device.

Fortunately third-gen Kindle and Kindle Keyboard users can still bypass the chore of hunting and pecking through the SYM menu by holding Alt while pressing the top-row letters Q to O for 1 to 9, and P for zero.

 

4. Do sums with the hidden calculator

The firmware that underpins the Kindle is surprisingly versatile, and can perform some pretty impressive maths. Now that you know how to quickly enter numbers, put it to the test by typing your sums on the home screen.

As well as doing simple calculations such as addition by typing 1+2+3, multiplication -- 4*5, division -- 60/7, and subtraction -- 80-9, it can solve common equations, such as sqrt(188) to give us the square root of the number in brackets, or find the area of a circle with a radius of 25cm with 3.14*25^2. In that last example, the caret symbol ^ raises a value to the power that follows it -- in this case, 25 squared.

 

5. Listen to music while reading

This one's for Kindle Keyboard and third-gen Kindle owners only. Copy your unprotected tracks to the Music folder in your Kindle's internal storage and eject your device. Start and stop your music playing while reading a book by pressing Alt + Spacebar, and use Alt + F to skip to the next track.

6. Play two hidden games

If you've finished your book before arriving home, you can pass the rest of your commute playing games. The Kindle Keyboard, third-gen Kindle and earlier models have two games built in, but you won't find them on any of the menus.

Press Shift + Alt + M to switch to Minesweeper, which you'll remember from Windows, and use the four-way controller to move your pointer around the board, pressing M to mark or unmark mines. The idea of the game is to clear the board without stumbling across a mine.

 

When you've mastered Minesweeper, pressing G switches to GoMoku, which is effectively Connect Four with a twist -- the twist being the addition of an extra counter on a much larger board. You're playing against the Kindle, attempting to get five of your counters lined up in adjacent horizontal, vertical or diagonal squares, while preventing it from doing the same.

7. Save web pages for reading later on your Kindle

There's no better reading screen than the Kindle's E-Ink display. It's largely non-reflective and very easy on the eye, so it makes sense to use it to read long web pages in a more comfortable setting. Instapaper makes this a simple click-and-forget operation.

Sign up here for a free Instapaper account, then log in and point your browser at instapaper.com/user/kindle. Copy the green email address and log in to Amazon's personalised Kindle management page for your account in a new tab or window. Click Personal Document Settings, scroll down to 'Add a new approved email address' and add the Instapaper address you just copied. This authorises Instapaper to send documents to your device.

You'll find your Kindle's dedicated email address at the top of the screen. It ends @kindle.com. Copy this and switch back to your Instapaper tab or window and enter the part before the @ into the box in the 'My Kindle's email address' section. Set the part after the @ to free.kindle.com if you're happy for documents to only ever be delivered by Wi-Fi and you won't have to pay for the service.

 

Check the box beside 'Send my Unread articles to my Kindle automatically' and select how often you'd like to receive updates, then save your changes.

Your Kindle is now set up to receive the body copy of whichever long articles you want to send it. However, you still need to add a bookmark button to your browser to mark them for sending. Click the Extras link and drag the 'Read Later' button from the 'Read Later bookmarklet' section to your browser bookmarks bar.

 

From now on, clicking this when viewing any other page saves its contents to your Instapaper account, and when it next reaches your scheduled dispatch time, those contents will be sent on to your Kindle for reading at your leisure.

8. Take screenshots

Kindle Keyboard and third-gen Kindle users can take a screen grab by holding Shift and Alt while pressing G. Regular Kindle users can do the same by simultaneously pressing the menu and keyboard buttons either side of the four-way controller.

Captured screen grabs are saved as GIFs in the documents folder of your Kindle's internal storage. Attach your device to a Mac or PC using a USB cable and drag them onto your computer.

 

9. Use your Kindle as a retro photo viewer with the hidden gallery tool

Your pictures will have all the graphics charm of a 1980 adventure game when displayed on the Kindle, but don't let that put you off. If you have nothing else to hand, it can still be a neat way of carrying around line-based graphs and charts for quick reference. Its photo features are merely a neat twist.

The first step is optional, but if you want to save space on your Kindle then resize your images so that none of them is larger than 900 pixels in any one direction. If you don't, your Kindle will resize them on the fly anyway.

Next, drop them all into a folder, connect your Kindle by USB, and drag the folder into the Kindle's Pictures folder (create it if there isn't one there already). Now eject your Kindle and press Alt + z to refresh the screen. If you have your home screen set to organise your documents with the most recently used at the top, that's where your new folder will appear. Open it and the first of your pictures will be displayed.

Use the regular page turning controls to cycle through the images. They act as though they're in a loop, so turning beyond the last one takes you back to the first.

 

10. Post highlights to Twitter and Facebook

Finally, when you've found something you think your friends would enjoy, why not share it on Twitter or Facebook, straight from your Kindle? Click Menu | Settings and then navigate to Social Networks. Click Manage.

You need to set up each network separately, so click on the Facebook or Twitter button, depending on which you want to set up. Twitter will need your username and password, after which you'll be redirected back to the set-up screen for a confirmation that it's worked. Facebook needs your email address or phone number, plus your password.

Once you've set up your social network accounts, you can post highlights by selecting text from your book in the usual way, and selecting the Share link. Kindle doesn't send the content straight to your network. Instead, it posts it to kindle.amazon.com and posts a link to your newsfeed, so it gives you the option of appending a note to this to explain to your followers what it's all about.

 

Tags:
E-readers
About the author

    Nik Rawlinson has been writing about tech since Windows 95 was looking distinctly futuristic. He is a former Editor of MacUser magazine and one-time scribe for Personal Computer World. Nik is a freelance writer and is not an employee of CNET.

     

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