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Here’s what you can do so far with Android 7.1’s app shortcuts

Android 7.1 Developer Preview 1 is here, and one of the most interesting new features it brings is app shortcuts. Here's what you should know about it.

Published onOctober 20, 2016

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Android 7.1 Developer Preview 1 is here, and one of the most interesting new features it brings is app shortcuts.

The feature has been in the works for many months, but now it looks like Google is finally ready to release it to the public. Assuming that nothing goes horribly awry during beta testing, developers will probably start integrating shortcuts into their apps from December, when Android 7.1 is expected to hit the stable channel.

Some of Google’s own apps already feature app shortcuts, and if you run Android 7.1 and the Google Now launcher on your Nexus 6P, Nexus 5X, or Pixel C you can try them right now.

Just long press on an app’s icon – either on the homescreen or in the app drawer – to see if it offers app shortcuts.

The idea behind app shortcuts is to provide quick access to various frequently used actions. So instead of opening an app and navigating to the right spot in the interface, users can simply long press the app icon and jump right to the desired action. It’s somehow similar to the right-click menu on Windows and exactly how the feature works on Apple devices.

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All of the apps that we’ve found so far to feature shortcuts are, unsurprisingly, made by Google. Not every Google app has shortcuts right now, but you can expect more to be updated in the coming weeks.

While most actions are strictly utilitarian (“create a contact,” “navigate home”), there are also a few fun touches. For instance, Google Photos has an “I’m feeling lucky” option that takes you to a random day in your image archive. Hopefully, you’ll rediscover some cool memories.

Here are some shortcuts we’ve spotted so far:

  • Phone (dialer)
    • New contact
  • Messenger (SMS)
  • New conversation
    • Last used contacts (dynamically generated)
  • Chrome
    • New tab
    • New incognito tab
  • Gmail
    • Compose
  • Photos
    • I’m feeling lucky
    • Free up space
  • Clock
    • Start screen saver
    • Start stopwatch
    • Create new timer
    • Create new alarm
  • Drive
    • Search
    • Scan
    • Upload
  • Maps
    • Navigate to your set locations (e.g. Work, Home)
  • Settings
    • Battery
    • Data Usage
    • Wi-Fi
  • Camera
    • Take a video
    • Take a selfie
  • YouTube
    • Trending
    • Subscriptions
    • Search
  • Contacts
    • Add contact
  • Play Music
    • Recent activity
    • My library
    • I’m feeling lucky
  • Play Books
    • My library
    • Shop

There are several important Google apps that don’t offer app shortcuts right now, including Hangouts, Google Plus, Translate, and the Play Store app.

Perhaps the coolest thing about app shortcuts is that you can “copy” the action shortcuts from the long-press menu and turn them into standalone shortcuts that live on the homescreen. Just drag and drop them to do so.

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For instance, you can create shortcuts to a favorite contact, to your battery settings, or to the route home in Google Maps. This was possible before with widgets and certain launchers, but now Google is making the process much easier.

Right now, app shortcuts are still a bit underwhelming, but once more developers adopt it – and come up with creative ways to use them – they could provide some real value to users. The feature could even be used in conjunction with a force sensitive screen, which would see Android catch up with iOS in this respect.

Let us know your thoughts.

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