How to get the most out of your Kindle Fire HD

At a Glance
  • The Kindle Fire HD is a tremendous improvement over its predecessor, and has a sharp, pleasing display. However, its heavy integration with Amazon's services is a strength, but also a limitation.

So, you have your shiny new Kindle Fire HD and you want to see what it can do. Out of the box, the Kindle Fire HD, and its larger Kindle Fire HD 8.9 sibling, are solid entertainment tablets with their connections to Amazon's services. But once you get comfortable navigating Amazon's offerings, there's even more fun to be had.

Here are insider tricks to get the most out of your new tablet. Let’s get started.

Get your Kindle books

The Kindle line may have started with E Ink-based ebook readers, but the Kindle Fire HD is the first color LCD-based Kindle to brilliantly present crisp, readable text. Of course, you'll want to sync your library to get all of your ebooks on your new Kindle. Doing so is as easy as going to the books tab, selecting Cloud, and choosing which titles you want to download from among the books you’ve already purchased.

Rediscover magazines and comics

You remember magazines, right? They look great on the Fire HD's bright, clear screen. If you haven't had a magazine subscription in a while, it's worth considering doing so again. The print layout of most magazines translates well to the 7-inch screen, and many offer an "article view" if you prefer to read a scrolling block of text while still seeing all the great pictures. You can either subscribe to magazines directly from the Kindle Newsstand or through an app like Zinio.

The same goes for comics. You can discover and read comics through an app like Comics by comiXology, or purchase them from Amazon directly.

Read the Web

The Kindle Fire HD comes with Amazon's Silk browser. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to sync your bookmarks to the Kindle's browser. One way around this: You can export your bookmarks as an HTML file, then email that to yourself and open your bookmarks from that emailed file. For example, if you use the Chrome browser on your desktop, you would click on the Menu icon in the top left, then go to Bookmarks, then select Bookmark manager. Click on Organize in the top right, and you will see the option to export your bookmarks to an HTML file. Send that file to yourself, and open it on the Kindle Fire HD to see your bookmarks.

Pocket, an app formerly known as Read It Later, is another great way to keep up with your favorite sites when you're offline. You install an extension for your browser, and when you find an article you want to read later, you simply click on the Pocket icon and it saves to your Pocket. A stripped-down version of the article with just the text and pictures is downloaded to your Kindle for later access without the need for an Internet connection.

Read email, sync calendars and contacts

The built-in email app will get messages from AOL, Microsoft Exchange, Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo!, and also lets you set up an account with custom settings for other services. When you set up the account, you will also be asked if you want to sync contacts and calendars for services that support those. Exchange, Gmail, and Hotmail will sync your contacts and calendars, and Yahoo! will sync contacts.

The one drawback to Google calendar sync is that it will sync only your primary calendar. If you have secondary calendars, or calendars you subscribe to, you may want to consider an app like Calengoo ($5.99) which will sync all your Google calendars.

Watch movies and TV shows

Another great way to use the Kindle Fire HD screen is watching movies and TV shows. If you already have subscriptions to Hulu+ or Netflix, be sure to download those apps from the Amazon App Store for free to watch content from those services on your Kindle.

However, one of the Kindle Fire HD’s core strengths is its selection of streaming video content from Amazon's own Instant Video service. This is where an Amazon Prime membership really pays off. At $79 for the year, it's cheaper than Hulu+ or Netflix, which at $7.99 a month, costs $95.88 for a year. With Amazon Prime, you get access to Amazon's streaming catalog for free, in addition to one free book rental from the Amazon lending library per month, and free two-day shipping on any Prime-eligible item from the Amazon store.

Prime Instant Video apps are also available on iOS, many smart TVs, set-top boxes, game consoles, and on the Web to watch on your computer. If you choose to rent or buy your videos, you’ll have the same viewing options in addition to the option to download the video to your device. Rentals start at $2.99 and give you 30 days to start watching. You have 24 hours from when you start viewing to finish.

And if you have the Kindle Fire HD 8.9, think about getting the Micro-HDMI to HDMI cable so you can output video from the Kindle Fire HD 8.9 to your HDTV.

Choose the right case

While you're enjoying all this great video content, you may have noticed that holding your Kindle during a two-hour movie is no fun. You'll want to protect the Kindle with a case, so consider one that props up the device at a good viewing angle.

Load it up with photos

You can get photos to your Fire HD in a number of ways. The easiest way is to plug the Kindle into your computer and drag the images into the Pictures folder on the Kindle. You'll then find them under the Device tab in Photos.

Another way to get photos to your Kindle is through Facebook. If you select the menu icon while in the Cloud section of Photos, you'll see the option to import from Facebook. Facebook photos will show up in the Cloud section of your Photos.

Consolidate your music collection

Just as with your videos and photos, you can move music to your Kindle Fire HD by plugging it into your computer and dragging the files into the Music folder. You’ll see music you’ve loaded this way in the Device tab of the Music app.

You’ll also notice a Cloud tab in the Music app. This section contains music you’ve purchased from Amazon and any song you’ve uploaded through the Amazon Cloud Player. If you tap on an individual song to play, it will stream from the cloud. There is also a Download all button at the top of each album or playlist. Additionally, if you long-press on any song, you’ll get options to add it to a playlist, go to the album that includes that song, or download it to your Kindle.

Music you’ve purchased from Amazon will show up here automatically. Uploading your own music through the Amazon Cloud Player is bit more work. You'll need the latest version of Adobe Flash Player. The Amazon Music Importer will also install Adobe Air. The uploader will check to see if any of your music matches Amazon's catalog, in which case it will give you the 256k version, and anything that doesn't will then be uploaded.

You can upload up to 250 of your own songs for free, or 250,000 songs by upgrading to Cloud Player Pro for $24.99 yearly. Music you’ve purchased from Amazon does not count against your limit of 250 free songs.

Amazon Cloud Drive and documents

Similarly, you can transfer documents to the Kindle Fire via USB. Another option is to upload them to your Amazon Cloud Drive.

Download the Cloud Drive installer from Amazon's site, and it will set up a folder on your computer. Things you place in that folder will be automatically uploaded to your Amazon Cloud Drive, and from there, they will be available on your Kindle Fire. You'll find all of your uploaded documents in the Documents link at the top of the Kindle Fire home screen.

You'll be able to play only movies you've purchased from Amazon through the Amazon Cloud Drive, although you can upload your own movies just to store them.

The first 5GB of storage are free, with larger plans starting at $10 per year for 20GB.

Other useful apps and games

While the Kindle Fire HD comes with tons of great built-in functionality and content, you can enhance it even further by exploring the app store. Try a game or two, but be careful: The games can be addictive. I almost didn't get the Kindle back after my husband discovered Fruit Ninja.

When you download a new app, it will appear first in the carousel on the home screen. If you don't like an app and you want to uninstall it, simply long-press on the app icon either in the home screen carousel or the app list in your library and you'll see the option to remove it from your device.

Maximize your battery life

With all of the things the Kindle Fire HD can do for you, you'll want the battery to last as long as possible. Swipe down from the top to get to the quick settings. From there you can turn down the brightness to the lowest comfortable setting. If you tap on Wireless, you’ll be taken to the wireless settings page. You can turn off Wi-Fi or Bluetooth individually, or just turn on Airplane mode to turn off all the wireless radios. In the Sound and Display section of Settings, you can also set the screen timeout to a minimal time to help conserve battery.

Tweak your apps and notifications

In the settings menu, choose Applications to gain more control over specific apps and how notifications are delivered. You can adjust specific app settings, including whether to allow, say, in-app purchases and automatic updates or downloads. You can even set whether you want to see Amazon’s shopping recommendations on the home screen.

Set parental controls

If you have a small one in your household, enable parental controls and consider using Amazon’s FreeTime app. The app's basic version is free, and an optional extension for the Unlimited version that adds access to thousands of popular kid-friendly media content is $4.99 per child or $9.99 per family per month. Subtract $2 and $3, respectively, if you’re an Amazon Prime member. Both of these options should help you keep youngsters from getting into trouble on your tablet. The best part for parents: If you want your child to use the tablet for only, say, 30 minutes of games and 30 minutes of video, but two hours for books, you can do that using the app's settings.

This story, "How to get the most out of your Kindle Fire HD" was originally published by TechHive.

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At a Glance
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