TIME Food & Drink

15 Lessons from 20 Years of the French Laundry

Thomas Keller at The French Laundry
Thomas Keller at The French Laundry in 2004 Hoberman Collection—UIG/Getty Images

Chefs remember the wisdom they gained working for Thomas Keller

In honor of the 20th anniversary of Thomas Keller’s legendary Napa restaurant, The French Laundry, Food & Wine’s Kate Krader and Chelsea Morse have collected reminiscences and lessons from some of the chefs who worship him. Here are a few of his teachings.

Tasting Vinegar

In the early days of The French Laundry, Thomas made his own red wine vinegar. One afternoon, he was tasting it to make sure it was ready for bottling and release. I watched as he dipped a sugar cube into a bowl of vinegar and then sucked on it. When I asked what he was doing, he said, pretty matter-of-factly, “That’s how you should taste vinegar”—the sweetness of the sugar softens the vinegar’s edge. It was the first time I’d seen someone taste vinegar, much less use that method, so I tried it. And it worked. —Eric Ziebold, Cityzen, Washington, DC

Searing Fish

At The Laundry, I learned to wait until a pan is very hot before adding oil—it should be so hot that a little white smoke comes off the oil when you pour it in. The smoke means you are ready to sear and will get a nice crust on fish. I saw this technique when I worked on the garde-manger station, watching chef Keller train the new fish cooks. I learned to always pay attention to what others were being taught: Sometimes great lessons aren’t directed specifically at you. —Timothy Hollingsworth, Restaurant at the Broad (opening 2015), Los Angeles

Understanding Hospitality

On the last day of my stage, Chef told me to hand him my apron. I thought I was in trouble. He folded it perfectly and then escorted me to his office, where a place setting was arranged at his desk for dinner. The food was perfect, but more than that, the sense of hospitality was overwhelming. I have hesitated to go back to eat at TFL since then because this was one of the most important meals of my life—one that can never be topped. —Michael Voltaggio, ink., Los Angeles


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TIME Parenting

7 Things to Do Before Your Kid Goes to College

Teenager loads car for college Blend Images - Terry Vine—Getty Images/Brand X

Teaching them to do laundry and how to open a bank account are important, but don’t forget to spend time together and have fun

For the millions of parents who will send a son or daughter off to college in the fall, this is the summer of lists: making travel arrangements, picking meal plans and ordering linens and other items for the dorm.

But two lists, in particular, are of the utmost importance: One will help kids with the realities of being on their own for the first time. The other will prepare them—and you—for the emotional toll of this major milestone.

The first list is practical. As parents, we pride ourselves on getting our kids ready to leave the nest and soar on their own. But then reality sets in—and the kids land with a thump.

I remember feeling like a terrible parent when my oldest, Emma, called home at the beginning of freshman year to ask me how many stamps she needed to mail an envelope and where to buy them.

My good friend, Mindy, says she felt like a failure when her daughter called to ask, “Do you separate laundry by weight?”

Another friend, Ruth, who has seen three children through college, recalled a litany of first-year cluelessness: “How do you know what light bulbs to buy?” “How do I send a box by mail?” “How do I find a dentist?” “I think I broke my foot. Did I?”

Whether such ineptitude is a byproduct of us having overindulged our kids is beside the point. No need to beat yourself up now. Just use this summer to teach a few of life’s basic skills—and save yourself some panicky late-night calls, not to mention feelings of parental inadequacy.

  1. Teach them to do laundry and then insist that they do their own—clothing, sheets and towels—for the entire summer. By the time they get to college with a roll of quarters in hand, they’ll have the hang of it.
  2. Teach them the basics of banking—how to use an ATM card, how to write a check (or make a payment online), how to deposit money and how to balance their account. As an added bonus, then ask them to teach you how to use Venmo.
  3. Teach them how to navigate public transportation. Most kids go off to college without access to a car, and obviously they won’t have you to schlep them places. If they don’t already know, teach them how to get around on buses, subways and trains, and then take away the car keys for a while so that they gain confidence.
  4. Teach them how to cook a few things. While most freshmen are on some kind of meal plan, knowing how to cook at college can come in handy. Many dorms have communal kitchens, and it can be fun to occasionally make a meal and eat with friends. And just in case your kid ends up living off campus at some point, knowing his or her way around the kitchen will be useful. Plus, making a point of cooking and eating together a few times a week over the summer is a nice way of spending time together as a family.

That said, don’t be surprised if the last thing your teen wants to do is hang out with you. As I wrote at the time, the summer before my daughter left for college, she went AWOL. As far as I was concerned, Emma went out with her friends too much, spent too much time at her boyfriend’s house and stayed out way too late.

Over time, I came to understand that Emma’s uncharacteristic rebellion and moodiness were her ways of “soiling the nest.” In order to make it easier for her to leave in the fall, she was going to make my husband and I so miserable that we couldn’t wait for her to go. In other words, she was doing exactly what she was supposed to do—getting ready to grow up and out.

Given all this, emotions can run high, so as promised, here are a few more tips to make it easier to let your son or daughter go:

  1. Make sure your grad sets aside some one-on-one time with you, your spouse and any sisters or brothers, and does so regularly through the summer. It doesn’t matter what you do as long as it’s fun. (This does not include going to Bed Bath & Beyond to buy stuff for college.) Head on a hike, take a walk on the beach, go out for lunch or coffee, watch a movie—whatever makes sense for your family.
  2. If you can manage it, take a family vacation. It doesn’t have to be anywhere fancy (and can even be a long weekend away). My friend Ellie and her husband, David, took their kids on a road trip up the California coast before their eldest went off to college. “All the kids have said it was their favorite trip we ever did,” Ellie says.
  3. Buy them one beautiful thing. This advice comes from Lisa Heffernan, cofounder of Grown and Flown, a parenting blog for teens and older children. “This moment, these last days, are worthy of commemorating,” she says. “Do not let them slip by unmarked. Jewelry and watches are traditional choices for senior year, but beauty and meaning, not expense, are the salient factors in this purchase.”

On that front, I indulged Emma—something I don’t usually do. I bought her a somewhat extravagant comforter for her bed at school to make her feel cozy, comfortable and at home. It was my way of tucking her in from afar.


Why a Little Inflation Might Not Be Such a Bad Thing

Erik Isakson—Tetra Images/AP Images

Sure, inflation makes people nervous. But after years of sluggish growth, one Fed official says it's time to let it go.

Most people don’t like inflation. If the prices of your groceries go up, you have good cause to complain about the rising cost of living. If you are saving for the long-term, you have to build an investment portfolio that defends against the gradual reduction in your earnings power. At a personal level, inflation is always a threat. Or, at best, a nuisance.

But many economists and monetary policymakers say that, in the big picture view, too low inflation can be just as worrying as high inflation. Slowly rising (or even falling) prices is a sign of an economy with too much slack. Prices rise slowly because consumers aren’t spending, and consumers aren’t spending because they aren’t getting raises or replacing lost jobs.

That’s why the Federal Reserve has been signaling since early 2012 that it wants to keep its foot on the economy’s gas until inflation is running at least 2% per year. (The Fed tries to regulate the speed of growth by setting interest rates.)

As Money‘s Paul Lim notes, in the financial markets, there’s a pretty strong consensus that inflation will remain quite low for some time. Paul’s view is that investors might be in for a surprise.

If he’s right, that might be bad news for your bond fund. But one Fed official, Minneapolis Federal Reserve president Narayana Kocherlakota, will take it as good sign. Once known as one of the Fed’s inflation “hawks” (as opposed to the “doves” who usually favor a looser stance), Kocherlakota has raised the idea of a more aggressive inflation target. Here is his case:

  • Low inflation is bad for borrowers. Inflation hurts a saver because it lowers their real returns. If you buy a bond that pays 2% and inflation hits 3%, you’ve lost money. The flip side is what happens if you take out a mortgage at 4% and expect 3% inflation. Assume that over the long run incomes rise along with inflation. If inflation turns out to be 2% instead of 3%, that 4% loan turns out to be much more costly in real terms than the borrower expected. (Another way to think about this is that if you borrow money and then inflation hits, you get to pay back the loan with less valuable money.)
  • The economy is still much more slack than it looks. In Kocherlakota’s view, the current 6.7% unemployment rate, though much better than it’s been in the recent past, is not a sign of true economic health. Much of the drop in unemployment is due to a decline in the number of people actually looking for work. Fewer than 77% of Americans aged 25 to 54 have jobs right now, compared with more than 80% before the Great Recession. Almost 5% of workers are part-time but would prefer to be full-time, vs. fewer than 3% in 2007.

So although most people don’t like inflation, Kocherlakota is saying that for most people a low-inflation world ain’t so hot either. Inflation is often said to punish savers—that is, people who have already saved. For younger people who’d like to build up saving in the future, however, a stronger job market might be worth some inflation. In reasonable doses.

Figuring out the dosing really is the tricky part, though. Instead of keeping up stimulus efforts until inflation hits 2%, Kocherlakota suggests, why not aim instead for a certain level of prices? This sounds like a wonky distinction, but since inflation has been running below the Fed’s target for some time, the price-targeting approach would leave the Fed room to maintain low rates (and delay unwinding “quantitative easing”) even if inflation rose above 2% for a while.

Because prices have a lot of catching up to do. Below is how prices have risen since the Fed announced it’s target. If they had actually hit the mark, they’d be 1.4% higher today.

Note: Based on the personal consumption expenditure (PCE) index. Source: St. Louis Federal Reserve, Money analysis

Does the fact that someone inside the Fed system is making such an argument signal a push for higher prices ahead? As a regional bank president, Kocherlakota is one of just twelve votes on the Fed’s rate-setting body this year, and next year he won’t have a vote, because the regional seats rotate. And Fed chair Janet Yellen hasn’t been willing to call for inflation higher than the 2% target. Kocherlakota is staking out one end of the Fed’s consensus here.

But whatever your view on the dangers of higher prices, or your guess about whether higher inflation is really on the way, it certainly makes sense for a long-term saver to hedge against inflation risk.

Stocks over the long-run should provide some protection. As prices rise, so should the nominal earnings of companies. For investors looking to keep money safe, though, a better bet is Treasury Inflation Protected Securities, or TIPS, the government bonds that come with built-in inflation protection. Their principal value rises along with the consumer price index.

Right now, a 10-year TIPS bond has a yield of just over 0.4%. That’s terribly low. But it also represents a real, after-inflation yield that you’ll get no matter what happens to the CPI. By comparison, you can buy a regular Treasury that yields 2.6%. That means if inflation comes in at an average of about 2.2%—a little higher than it is now—you get the same real yield as you would in the TIPS bond. (2.6% – 0.4% = 2.2%.)

That means inflation hedging is a reasonable bet even if you don’t see dramatically higher prices ahead. If inflation comes in below 2.2%, you’ll be glad you owned regular Treasuries. If it comes in anywhere above that, you’ll have done better in TIPS. So hold some of both flavors. Inflation hedged bonds are especially attractive for money you’ve set aside to meet specific spending needs, since they preserve your real purchasing power. You can buy TIPS individually at TreasuryDirect.gov or hold them via a specialized mutual fund. Vanguard Inflation Protected and Vanguard Short-Term Inflation Protected are two low cost choices on the Money 50 list of recommended funds.

Be aware that TIPS, like any Treasury, stand to lose market value if interest rates rise. That’s less of an issue if you plan to hold the bond to maturity, but the value of a TIPS mutual fund will fluctuate. A fund focused on short-term TIPS will give you less interest rate risk, at the expense of yield.


111+ Keyboard Shortcuts for Your Most-Used Online Tools

Lewis and Clark discovered the Pacific Ocean. I discovered what a four-finger swipe does on my Macbook.

The discoveries will not go down the same in history, but I have to admit: I was pretty stoked to find mine.

Little epiphanies like these are hugely satisfying when I’m trying to squeeze just a little more time out of each and every day. A second or two here becomes a minute or two there. It’s an awesome feeling to sense that you’re working just as fast as possible.

We’re always open for a good hack here at Buffer, and we often hunt for keyboard shortcuts in our favorite apps, tools, and services. We thought it might be useful to share some of our discoveries (and favorites) with you.

Keyboard shortcuts for all your favorite services

I’ll go into a lot more detail on each of these shortcuts, but if you’re interested in a quick overview of what we’ll cover, here’s an infographic to read, share, and maybe even pin on the wall next to your computer.


(With the shortcuts you see below, I’ve listed most with their Mac keyboard names and shortcuts. In most cases, these can be translated onto a Windows keyboard by substituting <Command> on a Mac for <Control> on a PC. When this isn’t the case, I tried to make a note of the shortcut on both. If there’s any confusion at all, let me know in the comments!)

Common keyboard shortcuts

Before we get in too deep, I wanted to quickly review a handful of common shortcuts that are helpful to know in a variety of different apps and services. You might already be familiar with these, but just in case:

<Command>+c = copy

<Command>+x = cut

<Command>+v = paste

<Command>+q = quit

<Command>+w = close window

<Command>+n = open new

<Command>+s = save

<Command>+p = print

Keyboard shortcuts for Gmail

We’ve built quite the system for the way that we use Gmail at Buffer. As a distributed team, it’s imperative that we stay in touch as often as possible and make connections on as many different points as can be. Email can get deep and wide pretty fast. Here’s how we combat it:

e = archive email and return to inbox

] = archive email and go to next email (returns to inbox if you’re at the last email)

g then i = go to inbox

<Shift>+u = mark unread

c = compose a new email

r = reply to sender

a = reply-all

<Command>+<Shift>+c = add cc recipients

<Command>+<Shift>+b = add bcc recipients

To see the full list of Gmail shortcuts, simply type a question mark from anywhere inside Gmail.

Note: If keyboard shortcuts don’t seem to be working, check your Gmail settings for the on/off switch.


Keyboard shortcuts for Twitter

As part of our Twitter tips series, we mentioned how you can supercharge your Twitter experience with shortcuts. Twitter makes it as simple as possible by using up key real estate in their drop down menu to link to their full list of shortcuts. Here are a few favorites:

g + l = Takes me directly to my Twitter lists

j / k = Cycling forward and backward through tweets

Enter = Open tweet details

| = Close all open tweets

You can view the full list of shortcuts by clicking on the gear icon in the top right of the Twitter menu, and choosing Keyboard Shortcuts from the drop-down menu.


Keyboard shortcuts for Facebook

Facebook keyboard shortcuts differ by browser and by computer. For the Mac, all of Facebook’s shortcuts in Safari, Firefox, and Chrome start with Control and Option. On PC, the shortcuts are unique to each browser. Here’s a quick view:

  • Internet Explorer for PC: Alt + #, then Enter
  • Firefox for PC: Shift + Alt + #
  • Chrome for PC: Alt + #
  • Safari, Firefox, and Chrome for Mac: Ctrl + Opt + #

The # signs in the above shortcuts represent different hotkeys that perform certain. For instance, if you were using Internet Explorer on the PC, you could jump to the Facebook home page by pressing Alt + 2, then Enter.

Here are where each of the 10 numbers takes you:

0 – Help
1 – Home
2 – Timeline
3 – Friends
4 – Inbox
5 – Notifications
6 – Settings
7 – Activity Log
8 – About
9 – Terms

In addition, there are a few regular shortcuts that can make browsing Facebook even faster.

j/k = scroll up/down between News Feed stories

l = like or unlike a story

c = comment on a story

s = share a story

p = post a new status update

/ = search

Typing a question mark will open the full list of Facebook shortcuts.

Keyboard shortcuts for YouTube

Are you a fan of YouTube? We’ve recently started building more videos ourselves here at Buffer, so we’re excited to learn more about how everything works. We also love watching cool vids! Here are some ways we’ve found to watch even faster.

1 = jump ahead to 10% through a video

5 = jump ahead to 50%

Any other single digit = jump ahead to a certain percentage through a video (e.g., 3 = 30%, 4 = 40%)

0 = starts the video over at 0:00

<Spacebar> = pauses/unpauses the video


Here are even more shortcuts for YouTube, courtesy of Hong Kiat.

Keyboard shortcuts for Google+

Like most Google products, Google+ has some handy shortcuts for faster use. Try any of these from inside your Google+ account.

left arrow = Navigates to the menu at the left side of the page (e.g., Home, Photos), and you can scroll this list with the up/down arrows.

/ = selects the search box at the top of the page

j/k = moves up/down in the stream

You can access the full list of Google+ shortcuts from any G+ page by typing a question mark.

Keyboard shortcut for the Buffer extension

This is one of our favorite tips to use with Buffer. When you’ve installed the Buffer browser extension, you can activate your Buffer composer with a simple hotkey from any website at all. The shortcut is customizable in the Buffer extension settings, but it defaults to this:


Keyboard shortcuts for WordPress

We use WordPress every day for composing our blog posts here at Buffer, so we’ve picked up a few tricks along the way. If you ever want to view the full list of keyboard shortcuts inside your WordPress editor, click on the question mark icon from the editor menu.


Here are a few of my personal favorites:

<Command>+ 2, 3, or 4 = Heading 2, 3, or 4 wherever your cursor currently is

<Alt>+<Shift>+a = add a link

<Alt>+<Shift>+m = insert an image

(I use distraction-free writing mode when I’m composing in WordPress, and there’s a neat shortcut that lets you resize the width of the distraction-free editor. Press <Control>+plus/minus to change the width.)

To see the full list of WordPress shortcuts, you can click the question mark icon in the menu bar of your post editor, or use the shortcut <Alt>+<Shift>+h.


Keyboard shortcuts for Pocket

I’ve found Pocket to be an ideal part of my researching and reading habit, and it’s great to learn new ways to make this tool even more useful. Here are a couple.

<Command>+1 = go to homepage

<Command>+2 = go to favorites

<Command>+3 = go to archive

a = Archive

f = Favorite


The complete list of keyboard shortcuts can be found here.

Keyboard shortcuts for Mac

We are pretty big Apple fans at Buffer. Our setups include Macbook Airs and Macbook Pros, and we’ve learned some pretty nifty tricks to fly through our workflows just as fast as possible. Here are a few of our favorite tips:

<Command>+<Spacebar> = opens Spotlight search so you can search your Mac for anything (files, apps, etc.)

<Command>+up/down = scroll to top/bottom of a page or document

<Command>+h = hides the active window

<Command>+<Tab> = switches between open applications

<Command>+~ = switches between windows in the same app (e.g., multiple browser windows)

<Command>+d = functions as the delete key

<Command>+<Shift>+4, then <Spacebar> = the first part of this shortcut lets you take a screenshot of anything you see. Just press the hotkeys then click and drag the crosshair cursor over the area you want to grab. If you’d like to take a screenshot of an entire window, press spacebar once the crosshair cursor appears.

Here is a huge list of even more shortcuts for Mac.

Keyboard shortcuts for Windows

Before joining Buffer, I worked at a company that exclusively used PCs, so I learned a number of different ways to work quickly in Windows. I get the sense that a lot of you might be on PCs, too, so if there are any favorite shortcuts I overlooked here, please add them to the comments!

<Alt>+home/end = scrolls to the top/bottom of a window/page

<Alt>+<Tab> = switch between open windows

<Windows>+d = show desktop

F2 = rename a selected file or folder

<Windows>+<Print Screen> = take a screenshot ands save it to a “screenshots” folder in your pictures

<Windows>+m = minimize all windows

<Control>+scroll = in windows explorer, this cycles through viewing options and changes folder sizes

There are tons more Windows keyboard shortcuts, too.

Keyboard shortcuts for Google Docs

When I’m not writing in WordPress, I’m writing in Google Docs. A lot of the most useful keyboard shortcuts in Docs are similar to the common ones you use in a lot of other places: copy, cut, paste, etc. That being said, here are three unique ones that save me a bit of time.

<Command>+k = insert link

<Command>+<Shift>+c = word count

<Command>+<Option>+m = insert a comment

Here is the full list of Google Docs keyboard shortcuts.

Keyboard shortcuts for browsers

Most browsers can be sped up the same way with similar shortcuts across each. You’re likely familiar with a few of these. Any of your favorites that I missed?

<Command>+n = opens a new window

<Command>+t = opens a new tab

<Command>+w = closes the current tab

<Command>+<Shift>+t = opens the most recently closed tab(s)

<Command>+<Shift>+n = opens a new Incognito window (great for seeing how someone else might experience a page if they’re not logged in as you)

<Command>+l = places your cursor in the address bar

<Command>+plus/minus = increases/decreases the zoom on the page (<Command>+zero resets everything to default)

Keyboard shortcuts for Dropbox

Dropbox has been a huge help for me to digitize parts of my life that used to take up boxes and boxes in my office. Now that there’s a whole bunch of files there, it’s been fun to figure out how to surf them even faster. Here are a few tips:

/ = search

left = go up a folder

right = open a selected folder

<Enter> = download or open a file

F2 = rename a selected file

You can access the full list of Dropbox keyboard shortcuts by typing a question mark within Dropbox.


Keyboard shortcuts for Feedly

Feedly is a favorite integration for many of us who use Buffer, and it’s one of the most popular RSS readers out there. The keyboard shortcuts are really unique and interesting, too. These only require keying in a letter or series of letters. No Command, Control, Alt, or Shift needed!

ga = view all

gh = go home

gg = view the magic bar (like a quick navigation to all your feeds + search)

gl = go to saved articles

m = mark as read

s = save for later

b = add to Buffer

The complete list of Feedly shortcuts can be viewed at any time by typing a question mark.


Keyboard shortcuts for Evernote

You might use Evernote for your curation or saving strategy. It makes clipping and saving from just about anywhere—browser, phone, photos, handwritten notes—super easy and useful. A number of us on the Buffer team use it regularly. Here are some top shortcuts:

<Command>+n = create a new note

<Command>+<Shift>+n = create a new notebook

<Control>+<Command>+n = create new tag (Windows users try <Control>+<Shift>+t)

Here are even more Evernote shortcuts, courtesy of dashkards.


Keyboard shortcuts for Spotify

Do you listen to music while you work? Turns out there are a number of neat benefits in regards to music and the brain, so connecting with services like Spotify could help you work a little faster. Here are some quick tips:

<Command>+up/down = volume up/down

<Command>+left/right = next/previous track

<Spacebar> = pause/unpause

<Enter> = play selected row

Click here to see the full list of keyboard shortcuts for Spotify.

Keyboard shortcuts for Soundcloud

Soundcloud is another source of great music to optimize your brain for creativity; plus Soundcloud hosts a number of podcasts and unique audio tracks that are uploaded from users. Here are some ways to work with Soundcloud even faster:

<Shift>+up/down = increase/decrease volume

<Spacebar> = pause/unpause

<Shift>+left/right = play next/previous track

arrow left/right = seek

l = like the playing track

r = repost the playing track

You can see the full list of Soundcloud shortcuts by pressing H from inside Soundcloud.


Keyboard shortcuts for the Tumblr dashboard

If you’re into Tumblr for visual content, memes, or laughs, you can browse through your dashboard lightning fast with these shortcuts.

j/k = move forward/backward through your posts

l = like the current post

n = view notes for the current post

arrow right/left = go to the next/previous page

<Alt>+r = reblog the current post

Even more Tumblr keyboard shortcuts and fun tips can be found here.

Bonus tip: iPhone / iPad

Touch gestures in iOS are so fun and helpful to use, I just couldn’t help but place one here. An iPhone/iPad is not necessarily a big part of my workflow, but I definitely find myself looking for neat ways to use these devices better. Here is my favorite find so far:

Double-click <Home> to bring up a card view of open applications, then touch a card and swipe up to close the app. You can also do a four-finger swipe up to pull up the same card view (the four-finger swipe is my go-to move).


(screenshot courtesy of iMore)

What are your favorite keyboard shortcuts?

I’m sure you’ve got some neat ways that you’ve found to hack your way to a quicker workflow. What keyboard shortcuts do you use? Are there some favorite apps with some favorite hacks?

I’d love to hear any tips you might have in the comments. I’m always on the look out for more ways to work smarter!

P.S. If you liked this post, you might also like The Beginner’s Guide to Putting the Internet to Work for You: How to Easily Save 60 Minutes Every Day and The Big List of IFTTT Recipes: 34 Hacks for Hardcore Social Media Productivity.

Kevan is a content crafter at Buffer, the super simple social media management tool. His social media and productivity tips have appeared in Fast Company and Lifehacker, and he’s always on the lookout for a good headline pun. Connect with him on Twitter .

The First 10 Things to Do With a New Android Phone

Getting a new Android phone into shape takes some effort, but it's worth it.

There’s nothing like that new phone feeling. One minute, you’re marveling over your slab of plastic and metal, and the next, you’re panicking over how much work you’ll have to do to set it up and figure out how to use it.

The experience doesn’t have to be so painful, however. If you just bought a new Android phone like the Samsung Galaxy S5 or HTC One (M8), this 10-step process will leave you with a clean, easy-to-use and fully-functional phone, without any clutter or annoyances.

Step 1: Skip the Setup Junk

Jared Newman for TIME

If you buy an Android phone from a major wireless carrier, chances are the setup process is a minefield of sign-ins for services you don’t need. Should you have a Samsung account? Maybe, just to claim this handful of freebies, but it’s not essential. Do you need cloud storage from AT&T or Verizon? Definitely not.

The only thing you should absolutely do during the setup process is plug in your Google account credentials, as this will let you download apps and connect you with multiple useful Google services at the same time.

Step 2: Wipe the Slate Clean


See all those apps and widgets that are cluttering up your home screen already? Get rid of them all and start from scratch. On many phones (including Samsung’s Galaxy S series), you can do this easily by pinching on the home screen. You’ll get a zoomed-out view of all your home screen pages, from which you can create a blank home screen and drag the old, cluttered ones into the trash.

Don’t worry; you won’t actually delete any apps this way. Everything’s still available through the app tray, which appears as a little grid icon at the bottom of each home screen. From there, you can add just the apps and widgets you really need. We’ll get rid of the rest in the next step.

Step 3: Remove the Bloatware


The unpleasant reality of Android phones is that they tend to come with a lot of unwanted junk. To remove the clutter, head to your phone’s settings menu, then to the “Apps” or “Applications” section, and find the subsection titled “All.”

This section is a bit confusing, because it includes not just standalone apps, but core system functions, and you don’t want to remove any of the latter. As a general rule, an app is safe to remove if it also appears in your app tray (see step 2). Go through this list and remove anything you don’t want. Some apps can’t be removed entirely, but can still be disabled.

Don’t freak out if you see a warning about removing or disabling built-in apps. Again, as long as it’s an actual app that appears in the app tray, you should be able to get rid of it without problems.

Step 4: Tweak Your Gmail settings


The Android version of Gmail is great, but you may not like some of its default settings. Open the app, and look for the three dots in the top-right corner (or press your phone’s menu button) and hit “Settings.” Tap on your e-mail address and tap on “Inbox sound & vibrate.” If you get too many e-mails, like I do, you’ll definitely want to hit “Sound” and select “Silent” so your phone isn’t constantly blurting out noises.

Now, back out to the main settings menu and select “General settings.” If you’d rather delete e-mails than archive them, hit “Archive & delete actions” and hit “Show delete only.” Now, you can delete e-mails just by swiping to the right. You’ll also see a delete button when viewing e-mails in the notification bar.

Step 5: Set Photo Backups to Unlimited


Many new Android phones include an app called Google+ Photos, which can automatically back up any photo or video you take on your phone. It’s a must-have app for keeping your memories safe, and you can get it as part of the main Google+ app if you don’t have it already.

There’s just one problem: By default, Google+ Photos backs up everything at full resolution. This counts against your 15 GB Google storage limit and could eventually keep you from getting e-mail unless you pay for more storage. To fix this, go to the app’s Settings menu, hit Auto Backup and set Photo size to “Standard.” Now, you can upload unlimited photos, capped at a resolution of 2048 pixels wide. That’s still good enough to view on any screen.

Step 6: Check Your Google Play Store Settings


You just spent all that time cleaning up your home screen in Step 2; now you have to make sure your new apps don’t crash the party.

Open Google Play Store, swipe to the right, hit “Settings,” and uncheck the box that says “Add icon to Home screen.” Your new apps will be available in the app tray, which appears as a little grid icon at the bottom of each home screen.

You may also want to disable notifications for app updates from the same menu.

Step 7: Set Up Android Device Manager


Device Manager is the Android equivalent of Apple’s “Find My iPhone,” allowing you to locate, wipe or lock a lost or stolen phone. To check on your settings, open the Google Settings app (separate from your phone’s main Settings app), and go to “Android Device Manager.” From here, you can decide which remote management features you’d like to enable. Once you’ve set it up, bookmark the Android Device Manager website for easy access later.

Step 8: Get Some Apps

This one’s obvious, but you’ll probably want some new Android apps to go with your new Android phone. Here are 50 of our favorites.

Step 9: Tastefully Place Some Widgets


Widgets are one of the best features of Android, allowing you to glance at information or quickly perform an action straight from your home screen, but they’re also easy to get wrong. Some widgets are ugly, some fail to update reliably, some drain your battery, and some just aren’t that useful. Instead of larding up your phone with bad widgets, pick a handful that you really like, and put one or two on each of your home screens, organized by genre or purpose. Here are 14 of our favorites.

Step 10: Get a Handle On Notifications


Now that you’ve installed a bunch of apps, you may find that some are being obnoxious, and flooding you with unwanted notifications.

Here’s an easy way to silence the offenders: Head to your phone’s settings, and go to the “Applications” or “Apps” section. Under the “Downloaded” tab, select any app you’d rather not hear from, and uncheck the box for “Show notifications.” This will override any settings within the app itself, and it’s strangely satisfying.

This is just a starting point–a way to get your phone to look good and run smoothly. When you’re ready for more hints and tips, check out our list of essentials for Android users and seven tips every smartphone owner should know.

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