25 essential Kindle tips and tricks

1st Jun 2011 | 12:30

25 essential Kindle tips and tricks

Play music, display maps, check your email and more

Kindle tips and tricks: 1-12

Amazon's third generation Kindle is an extraordinary bit of kit whose users genuinely love it - but the chances are you'd love it even more if you knew some of the better tricks it's got up its sleeve. From hidden games to reading books aloud, your Kindle is capable of all kinds of clever things. These are our favourites.

1. Get online

The Kindle has a web browser: from the home screen press Menu > Experimental > Launch Browser. It's slow and horrible compared to a desktop or tablet browser, but it's perfectly adequate for browsing news sites, Wikipedia, Amazon and so on.

Kindle tips and tricks

IT'S THE PAPERNET:The Kindle's no tablet - yet - but its browser provides access to useful things such as your Google Reader account, webmail or this very website

2. Play Minesweeper or GoMoku

Amazon has hidden a copy of Minesweeper in your Kindle, and you can launch it by pressing Alt, Shift and M simultaneously. Use the arrow keys to navigate and the select button to mark a mine, and when you get fed up press G to play GoMoku, a version of Tic-Tac-Toe.

3. Get driving directions

If you bookmark maps.google.com/m/directions in your Kindle's web browser, you can use it to get travel directions if you ever get lost. This is particularly useful in the 3G model, which can get online anywhere there's a 3G mobile phone signal. Your Kindle can display Google Maps too, but the text-only version is faster to use.

Kindle tips and tricks

MAP HAPPY:Google Maps does work in the Kindle browser, but for directions on the move the mobile version is much faster

4. Email things to it

Each Kindle has a unique email address, and you can email compatible documents to your one by sending them to your Kindle. If you can't remember what it is, log into Amazon.co.uk and go to Your Account > Manage Your Kindle (or on your Kindle's home screen press Menu > Settings > Experimental). Amazon's site also enables you to create a list of approved emails: messages from addresses you haven't approved will be ignored.

5. Refresh the screen

From time to time your Kindle's screen may become corrupted. Not to worry: a swift Alt-G refreshes the display. If that doesn't work, sliding the power switch to the right and keeping it there until the screen goes completely blank turns your Kindle off completely.

6. Send the Web to your Kindle

If you sign up for the free Instapaper service and install the bookmarklet in your browser, you can send any web page to Instapaper so that you can read it later - and if you give Instapaper your Kindle's email address, you can automatically receive a daily digest of the articles. Download it over Wi-Fi, though: 3G downloads cost 20p per MB.

7. Don't pay for document emails

Your Kindle actually has two email addresses: username@kindle.com, and username@free.kindle.com. If you've got a 3G model and you're emailing documents to it, use the free.kindle.com address: Amazon won't try to deliver those messages via 3G, which would cost you money.

8. Read RSS feeds

Google Reader works in your Kindle browser. For best results log in, click on All Items and then press F to enter Full Screen mode. You can now move between articles by pressing J and K.

9. Check your email

If Google Reader and Google Maps work, then surely Google Mail works too? Yep - and so does Hotmail, and Facebook. In each case you'll need the mobile versions: mail.live.com/md for Hotmail/Windows Live Mail, m.facebook.com for Facebook and m.gmail.com for Google Mail.

10. Make your Kindle talk

If the publisher hasn't disabled it, you can get your Kindle to read your book aloud by pressing the Text menu button (the one with the upper and lower case letter A on it) and selecting Text-to-Speech: Turn On. Shift-Sym then starts and stops the reading feature and the space bar pauses and resumes.

11. Look up big words

Not sure what something means? Use the arrow keys to move the cursor to it and a dictionary definition pops up.

Kindle tips and tricks

INSTANT LOOKUP:Simply move the cursor to a word you're unsure of and your Kindle will display the dictionary definition

12. Take a screenshot

Another easy keyboard shortcut: Alt-Shift-G takes a screenshot and stores it as a GIF file in the Documents folder.

Kindle tips and tricks: 13-25

13. Get numbers without pressing Sym

Pressing Alt plus any of the first row of letters gives you the numbers 1 to 9 and zero.

14. Use the secret image viewer

Using your PC, create a folder called "pictures" in the root folder and then create a subfolder within it. Stick some jpegs in there, unplug it and press Alt-Z from the home screen to rescan. You should now see the subfolder you created; click on it to launch the Image Viewer and browse images like it's 1864. Q and W zoom in and out, E resets the zoom, C returns to actual size and R rotates. F puts the viewer into full screen mode.

15. Boost the battery

Turn off Wi-Fi and especially 3G if you don't need them to boost battery life. E-ink runs forever on battery power: it's the wireless radio that really drains things.

16. Fast Forward

Pressing Alt and the right arrow fast-forwards through your book one chapter at a time.

17. Convert your documents

Kindles accept a range of file types - unprotected Word (Docx files are in the experimental category and may be flaky), PDF, HTML, TXT, RTF, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP and MOBI files - but if you want your PDFs converted to native Kindle format so you can take advantage of text-to-speech, annotation and other handy things, email the PDF to your Kindle email address with Convert in the subject line.

18. Tell the time

If you press the Menu button while reading a document, the current time will appear in the centre of the status bar.

19. Use Calibre to save cash

The excellent - and free - Calibre ebook manager can automatically download news from sites or RSS feeds and turn them into an ebook that you can then transfer to your Kindle.

20. Play your music

Another one from the Experimental menu: MP3 playback. If you drag MP3s from your PC or Mac to your Kindle's Music folder, you can play them through the Kindle's little speaker. Volume controls are on the bottom edge of the device, Alt-Space starts and stops playback and Alt-F skips to the next file.

21. Add annotations and bookmarks

When you see something interesting, press Menu and then either Add a Bookmark or Add a Note or Highlight. The latter option then enables you to highlight a block of text with the arrow keys or to add an annotation by typing on the keyboard. In future, clicking on Menu and View Notes & Marks gives you a clickable list of your bookmarks, highlights and annotations.

22. Stop other KIndle users annoying you

Kindles can be social, and as you read a book they can display bits that other Kindle users have highlighted and commented on. If this drives you crazy, you can disable it in Home > Menu > Settings > Popular Highlights.

23. Get your Kindle to automatically turn the pages

Can't be bothered pressing the next page button? Trigger the text-to-speech function and then turn the volume down until you can't hear anything. Pages will now turn automatically... eventually.

24. Install it on everything

Kindle apps are available for iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, iPad, Windows Phone, Mac and PC and can follow you from device to device, so you can read something on your phone when you're on the bus and pick up where you left off when you pick up your Kindle and slump on the sofa.

Kindle tips and tricks

SIMPLE SYNC:Amazon's Whispernet system can automatically sync between Kindles and Kindle apps, so you don't lose your place when you switch reading devices

25. Search Wikipedia

When you move the cursor to a word and the definition pops up, you can find out even more. Press the Return key to see full definitions, and if you need yet more use the right arrow to highlight Search Dictionary. Press right-arrow again and you can make your Kindle search itself, the Kindle store, Google or Wikipedia.

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Liked this? Then check out iOS 5 rumours: what you need to know

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