Tip o’ the Week 345 – Android in the Garage

clip_image002For some time now, there’s been a collective of off-the-wall projects and experiments (which may or may not become part of more fully-fledged Microsoft products) called the Microsoft Garage. In an homage to the semi-stereotypical Silicon Valley startup idea (a few techies hacking away in the garage to make stuff, as gave life to both Apple and HP among many others), the Garage has some projects that will live fast and die young, while others persist as long-term experiments on the periphery of maturity.

One of the more interesting developments – for Microsoft, at least – over the last year or two, has been the number of Garage projects which not only come out first for non-Microsoft platforms, but which may even be exclusive to other environments. The Word Flow Keyboard for iPhone, for example, has been getting rave reviews, yet doesn’t have an immediate equivalent for Windows or any other OS.

clip_image004If you’re an existing – or aspiring – Android user, you may want to take a look at a recently-updated Garage project, called Arrow.

There’s a concept in Android of the “launcher”, the software that presents the main UI to the end user for navigating installed apps. In desktop OSes, it might be called the shell or GUI; with Windows and Mac, you basically get what you’re given, but with Linux, there’s usually a choice of shells and UIs that you can pick from.

Well, Microsoft’s Arrow is a launcher (said to be the best, no less) aimed at the kind of user who wants to put their most useful content at the fore; whether that’s the apps you use the most, or widgets that summarise information that you care about. It’s nowhere near as good as the Start screen and live tiles environment on Windows Mobile, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Arrow has recently been updated (to v2.3.x.xx…) and now, as well as showing you Bing wallpaper of the day, lets you quickly search using Bing, from the home screen (just swipe up from the panel at the bottom of the screen as if you wanted to expand it vertically, and the Bing search box appears at the top).

The new release includes Wunderlist integration too, as well as some abilities to dial-down the animation if you’re a particular speed freak or you have an old device that struggles with modern window movements.

As with iOS, there is a plethora of other Microsoft apps available, too – from OneNote, OneDrive, Cortana, various MSN content-rich apps… and the Arrow launcher provides a neat and fast way of navigating the stuff you care about. Check it out on the Google Play store.

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