Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Android Developer Options: The Ones That Should Be Normal Options

They may not be for everyone, but they certainly shouldn't be limited to devs

Pure Android has a set of options available, in a hidden settings category, that are designed to help developers fine tune their applications. For normal users, most of the options would make no sense to mess with, and can actually be detrimental to performance and reliability. But there are a few that would be great if they graduated into the normal settings on every device.

Developer Options used to be a visible category in your device settings, buy in more recent versions of Android it was hidden, only to be found by going into Settings -> About Device and clicking on the Build Number several times. It will show you a click countdown until you become a developer; who knew it was that easy! 

Warning!  I've said this already, these are Developer options, if you don't know what a setting means or what it does, Don't Touch It. 

Truth is, you can pretty much go through this entire list of options and play around with turning them on and off and get through without major disaster, but there are absolutely items that will compromise your security and degrade your performance for normal day-to-day operations. Other than my recommendations below, I suggest you do not mess with the rest. 

Stay Awake:
I really cannot imagine anyone wanting to use this option full time, but it is certainly something that could be in your normal Display Settings along with the Daydream functionality. It should not be too far fetched at least to imagine separate screen timeout settings for plugged in vs battery power. (Hint-hint +Android team.)

Show Pointer:
I use this one all the time, it simply puts a small white dot at the location of contact on your screen. You usually cannot see it as it is under your finger, but if you swipe fast enough you get the pleasure of knowing exactly where you've touched... Sounds silly, and serves little day-to-day benefits, but imagine you are giving a presentation, where your device is connected to an external display for others to see, would you want them to see where you are clicking? Also, if you are experiencing any touch screen issues, this is the primary diagnostic tool for you. Which goes for most 2013 model Nexus 7 owners, unfortunately.

Force RTL layout direction:
That is Right To Left, and is the common layout for the written language of a handful of places on our globe. Again, an uncommon need that is tackled by most locale (language) settings, but certainly a powerful customization tool for those that desire it.

Window and Transition animation scale and Animator duration scale:
This is the sort of thing that many Launchers provide in their options, which is the ability to speed up or slow down the animation of page flips, apps coming in and out of focus and how menus pop into and out of view. This is a setting that I would recommend get a slight update to how it constricts minimum and maximum values before it goes into the main settings, but a great customization that many would enjoy.

Don't keep activities and Background process limit:
Here we have two options that can drastically affect the functionality of your device, killing activities and limiting background processes could render many of your apps useless, as it kills them off instead of letting them run. Imagine you open your browser and start a download, but that download never finishes because the process is killed, very frustrating. This goes for services that look for new email and sms for you, no notifications would be very annoying.

Killing background services is not of great value, unless... do you have an old device that just sits in the corner as a media player connected to your stereo? I do, and let me tell you, I do not want that device doing anything at all except playing my music, thus, as in the image on the right, I've set it to allow only 2 background processes. (Why two? Trial and error for best results, I'm still learning myself as to why this is and what is actually going on in the background.) The bottom line, this old device has issues playing music when all the other stuff is operational, so I've uninstalled it all and use the process limiting to ensure that my unit is now simply a media player. Better than sitting in a drawer or hitting the trash. (We recycle, not trash old electronics, of course. 'trash' is just a phrase.)

Show all ANRs:
Apps not responding drive me nuts! They usually happen on apps that you are actively using, your system throws up the information about the crash and lets you make a report of the incident. But if the app that crashed is in the background, you are not notified, so, unless you know where to dig, you'll never know it is crashing and eating up your battery without turning on this option. Maybe this option is OK to leave hidden in the Developer Options after all, but I think any tool to help find troublesome apps is a good idea.

Don't wait, you are only a few clicks away from being an Android Developer yourself.  

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