25 Xbox One tips and tricks for getting the most out of your console
21st Jul 2014 | 10:30
Let no feature hide away unused
12 tips and tricks for the Xbox One
Can you believe the Xbox One has been around for seven months already? It's changed massively in that short space of time too; from Microsoft releasing monthly patches and updates to just last week ditching the requirement that Kinect is bundled in with every console.
It's hard to keep up with every little thing that the system can do when you're concentrating on the important stuff like, oh, playing games, so we've gone ahead and done a little research.
From convenient short-cuts to little-known freebies, here are 25 must-know tips and tricks to squeezing every last bit of value out of the One.
1. Speed up game installation
Every Xbox One game will require you to do a mandatory install onto the console's hard drive, even those that you buy on a physical disc. It's a bit of a pain, but you can speed up the installation time by first disconnecting from Xbox Live (either remove the Ethernet cable from the console for wired connections or choose disconnect from Xbox Live under the console's Network settings), running the installation as normal and then re-establishing your connection again afterwards. Rumour has it that Microsoft is right now working on an update that will allow you to pre-load games prior to their release date, so hopefully waiting around to play brand new games will soon be a thing of the past.
2. Get free games
They say that nothing in life is free, but that was before Project Spark on the Xbox One came along. The game is currently in open Beta, meaning that you can download it for free right now on the Xbox Store. You don't even need an Xbox Live Gold account to get started. And, since the game is designed around creating new games and the Project Spark community have been busy working on original user-generated content for the last couple of months, there's already tonnes of stuff to try out or collaborate on. If you get bored of that, you could download the Xbox One exclusive Killer Instinct (so long as you have a Gold subscription), which will allow you access to the game's Dojo, Survival, Versus and Practice modes with one character for free. They rotate which free character you get quite regularly too, so chances are you'll be able to have a go with them all eventually.
3. Disable disc auto-play
By default, if you insert a disc or Blu-ray into your Xbox One it'll play automatically – assuming you've already downloaded the free Blu-ray app, of course. If you've played a Blu-ray disc before and you reinsert it into the console, it'll boot up from the point at which you last stopped watching. However, if you prefer to delay disc start-up until you choose to do so manually, you can disable auto-play by going to Settings > Disc & Blu-ray - and unchecking the boxes that read 'Play Disc Automatically' or 'Resume Playback'.
4. Make your smart phone a remote control
Do yourself a favour and download the free SmartGlass app for Xbox One (make sure you don't download the Xbox 360 version by accident, as they look quite similar). With it, your phone becomes a remote control for the Xbox One, one that's perfect for navigating the console's Internet Explorer app as you can pinch, zoom and click on links far more easily than you can with a controller. The SmartGlass app also offers up extra content for some apps and games, and you can use it to check on your Achievement progress when you're away from your console.
5. Access original TV
It's only on Xbox that you'll get Xbox Originals, exclusive broadcast content unique to the platform - some of which is planned to be fully interactive. Among the already confirmed projects is a Halo film to be produced by Hollywood alumni Ridley Scott, a Halo television series to be helmed by none other than Steven Spielberg, a sci-fi series co-produced by the UK's Channel 4, and an interactive reality TV show that will scour the globe recruiting rising footballing talent.
Though we don't know how these shows will be distributed to the platform just yet, Xbox Video recently streamed the Game of Thrones Season 4 premiere absolutely free to Xbox Live Gold Subscribers, so here's hoping it'll follow a similar thrifty theme.
6. Skype your friends
While most of Skype's base features have been free on multiple platforms for quite some time, the company recently made formerly premium features - like group video chat - free on the Xbox One app. So, after downloading the app on the Xbox Store (you can say "Xbox, Bing Skype" to bring up a shortcut to the download) you can hook up with up to nine of your friends and video chat in full 1080p.
7. Get fit for free
Download the Xbox Fitness app and, if you have an Xbox Live Gold account, you'll have access to a number of different introductory workouts free of charge for the next six months, including programmes by Jillian Michaels, Tracey Anderson and Shaun T of Insanity infamy. The comprehensive service uses the Kinect to track your heart rate and muscles, estimate calories burned, and provide feedback on your form, balance, and power. If you want to continue on after those initial trial workouts you're going to have to pay for it, but it's still cheaper than that gym membership, and you don't even have to leave the house to use it.
8. Livestream your games
Xbox One owners had to wait a little bit longer for Twitch to become available on their platform, but it's safe to say that it was worth the wait, as the finished product is now unequivocally the app's definitive version. Not only can you set up, record and broadcast a livestream without the need for any additional equipment, or even the need to take your hands off of your controller, but the Xbox One version is the only console that'll allow you to watch games and streams recorded from other platforms.
9. Let Xbox help you decide what to watch
If you spend more time trying to find what to watch than actually enjoying your favourite films and TV programmes, the Xbox One has a very handy (but not very well-known) feature. It helps you track down specific shows and lets you know which of your console's apps you can find them on. So, say for example you were to say "Xbox, Bing RuPaul's Drag Race" - a link to the show on Netflix will appear in the search results, and if you already have the Netflix app installed to the console, you can jump straight to watching the show from that shortcut.
10. Save your best bits
Never let an Ultra Combo go unrecorded again. If you've done something cool in a game, or encountered something funny that you want to share with the internet collective, saying "Xbox, record that" will retroactively record and save a clip of the last thirty seconds of gameplay. If you want to record something longer, or if you want a bit more control on the specific in and out points on your clips, say "Xbox, Snap game DVR" to bring up the option to record up to five minutes of footage at your leisure
11. Upload videos to YouTube
Recording your game DVR clips is simple, but publishing them online is even more so, if you know where to look. Load up the Xbox One YouTube app, scroll along to "Upload" on the left hand side menu, and then choose which of your videos you'd like to publish. You can edit their titles then and there, and once uploaded the app will provide you with a link from which you can view, tag or edit the finished product. You can also publish videos through Xbox's own Upload Studio, or you can upload them to your personal (and free) OneDrive account to access them later from any smart device.
12. Make your own games
The Xbox One's ID@Xbox program lets us all play next gen indie games, but the console could soon have the ability to let anyone try their hand at creating games too. Just before the console launched late last year, Microsoft pledged that every Xbox One has the potential to become a development kit, with the company claiming it wanted to "democratise" game development. Though we're not sure exactly when it'll happen, the Developer Settings Menu is technically already accessible on any console, though Microsoft has warned against mucking around with it until they've given the feature the full go-ahead.
13. Make sure you're seen and heard
Voice commands are undoubtedly efficient, but there's nothing more frustrating than when they don't work. If you're having trouble being understood by your Xbox One, make sure you're facing the console front-on and that the Kinect can see your mouth clearly. If it can see you, the microphone will actually 'zoom in' on whoever's talking, and ignore any consequential ambient noise or background chatter in the room. By that same token, if it can see you and you're looking off to the side and talking to someone else, the Kinect will assume you aren't addressing it and ignore its key command words and phrases.
14. Master voice commands
Here's the single most useful voice command for the Xbox One: "Xbox, select." Learn it, use it, as it's your ticket to getting the full benefit of the console's voice commands. Saying this at any time, no matter what you have open on the console, will bring up a full list of contextually relevant voice commands, highlighted in green. This is definitely handy for when you can't remember a particular shortcut, you're navigating a new video app, or your controller is all the way on the other side of the room.
More Xbox One tips and tricks
15. Tell friends from followers
The Xbox 360 only let you have up to 100 contacts on your Friends List – on the Xbox One, you can have up to 1,000 'friends', but an unlimited numbers of 'followers.' It's a system similar to Twitter, in that you can follow others for limited information like what they're playing, but if they follow you back, you become bona fide 'friends' - meaning you get more info on their activity feed and access to more personal interactions like inviting them to games or chatting through parties. You can also bookmark your favourite friends so that they'll always be clearly visible at the top of your feed, by selecting "Favourite" on their bio page.
16. Get Games with Gold
With the announcement that the Games with Gold program will be coming to Xbox One, an Xbox Live Gold account can now potentially net users four free games a month. Unlike Xbox 360 Games with Gold titles however (which once downloaded are yours to keep forever), Xbox One games will require an active Gold membership in order to use. Junes free titles are Charlie Murder, Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition, Halo: Spartan Assault and Max and the Curse of Brotherhood. Plus, since it's been a year since the GWG initiative launched, Microsoft is throwing in one more free Xbox 360 game – Dark Souls.
17. Create your own Gamerpic
Avatars might not be as prominently featured on the Xbox One as they were on the 360's dashboard, but they're still around, and you can use yours to strike a pose and use as your Gamerpic if you don't fancy any of the pre-made ones on the console. Select your profile from the left-hand side of the Home screen, and choose Profile > Set Gamerpic > Make One With Your Avatar. Select a pose, move the avatar around the screen, and zoom in or out using the left and right thumbsticks. You can then change the background to make sure your profile pic is entirely unique.
18. Learn to multitask
Snapping is a useful feature that lets you multitask various games and applications on your Xbox One, but moving between those two applications simultaneously can be more than a little confusing if you don't know how to navigate. By quickly double tapping the Xbox button on the controller (that's the big central one that lights up), you'll instantly swap between which window you're currently in control of. Alternatively, saying "Xbox, Switch" will also toggle the currently active window, if you prefer to use voice controls instead.
19. Using the burger button
The Xbox One's menu button – affectionately nicknamed the 'burger' button because of its design – is context sensitive, meaning the options that it brings up are different depending on whatever is highlighted at the time you press it. However, it'll always provide you with a shortcut to the console's Settings menu, which sits below the top entries with a black background (these refer specifically to the app you're using) and alongside the coloured options at the bottom, which are general options for the console. You can use the Menu button to completely quit out of a game rather than simply suspending it, which will stop any audio playback from the game or app whilst you're doing other stuff. Launching the app again will then trigger a fresh load-up from scratch.
20. Cut out Kinect's party chatter
The Kinect's microphone isn't half bad when used for in-game online communication - but it still doesn't quite manage to filter out all ambient sound in the room, which may be quite irritating to your potential team mates. Plus, there's nothing worse than forgetting it's on and having a natter with your friend or other half, unaware everyone else and their dog can hear you. Turn off the Kinect's mic by going to Settings > Kinect, and then unchecking 'Use Kinect Microphone For Chat'.
21. Set your home Xbox
If you've already signed into another Xbox before getting your own Xbox One – like say for example you tried it out at a friend's house first - make sure you go to Settings on your shiny new console and select 'Home Xbox' to specify it as your primary machine. This will then mean that other profiles also linked to this console can access your full library of digital games without you having to be signed in first, and vice versa. And, if you have little ones and don't want them getting their hands on Call of Duty or Dead Rising through your account, you can set family friendly restrictions by going to Settings and choosing the 'Add To Family' option on the right.
22. Use Xbox One to control your TV
The Xbox One was designed with a mind to it becoming a hub for every other electronic device in your living room, especially your TV. You can use the Xbox One's Kinect voice commands to control your TV if you take a few minutes to perform a quick set-up. First, go to Settings (accessible at any time through the Menu button), then click on TV & OneGuide Settings. From there, select Devices, then select your TV's brand. Click Next, then click Automatic. Click on Send Command – this test should now mute your TV if you've calibrated correctly. You can also select the option to have your console and TV turn off and on together by going back to TV and OneGuide Settings and selecting Power Settings. From here, select Xbox One > turns on my devices and "Xbox Turns off" turns off my TV.
23. Check game add-ons at a glance
To see all the available DLC for a game you already own, without having to go looking for specific names, you can select My Games Apps from the home screen, locate the title you want, press the Menu (burger) button and then select See in Xbox Store. Scroll right and you'll see all the currently available add-ons for that game. If you've bought a season pass, redeemed a code or have already purchased the content, you'll see an install button at the top of the list of options. Alternatively, you can hover over a game in My Games & Apps and press the menu button, then choose "Show all add-ons".
24. Never forget a saved game
On the Xbox 360, when you wanted to bring your save games to a friend's house you had to either dump them on a memory stick or pre-emptively upload whichever saves you wanted to the Cloud. There's no such faffing around this generation; the Xbox One automatically saves all games to the cloud if you're connected to Xbox Live - you don't have to go out of your way to select the option. For any local save files, you can delete or manage them from within the game itself. Essentially, any Xbox One console has the potential to become your personal Xbox One, as long as you can access a working internet connection.
25. Play PS4 on your Xbox?
Because of the Xbox One's HDMI Input port, you can plug pretty much any HDMI capable device into your Xbox One and have it run through it. Though the input is really designed with cable and satellite set-top boxes in mind, you can even plug another console into it and play Xbox 360 or even – gasp - PS4 games through your Xbox One. It's not an ideal set-up by any stretch of the imagination, and you are likely to experience some latency, but the play through is able to handle various resolutions and frame rates, including 480p, 720p, 1080i or 1080p at 50 or 60Hz.