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Five Tips and Tricks for Getting the Most Out of Your Xbox One

So you got an Xbox One. Now what?

So you got an Xbox One. Now what?

If you’re one of the three million people who bought or received an Xbox One during the holiday season, you’ve probably discovered that there’s a lot to Microsoft’s next-generation console.

It performs the functions of numerous devices — videogame console, streaming media player, Blu-ray player. It can make Skype calls, browse the Web and even serve as a personal trainer. It’s also unique in that it can be operated using voice commands, and includes a feature called Snap that allows you to view and switch between two apps.

It’s all a bit overwhelming, especially for the first-time user, and trying to master all of the Xbox One’s tricks takes some time. So, to help you out, I’ve outlined some tips for navigating your way around the Xbox One. They range from the basic to a little more advanced, but all are designed to help you get the most out of your system.

Xbox, say what?

With the bundled Kinect sensor, which has a built-in camera and microphone, you can largely control the Xbox One using voice commands. This includes launching games, watching TV, performing Web searches and more. It’s certainly not required (you can also use the included gamepad or hand gestures, though I wouldn’t recommend the latter since it’s awkward and not very precise), but it’s a pretty neat feature — once you’ve learned all the commands.

From anywhere on the screen, you can initiate a task by saying “Xbox,” followed by a command. But the system is quite particular in that you have to say the command in a specific way, otherwise it won’t understand it. For example, if you want to launch the game Forza Motorsport 5, you can’t just say “Forza,” you have to say the full name of the title. This isn’t always clear, and as my colleague Katie Boehret pointed out in her review, it’s a lot for the user to remember, so here’s a tip for when you’re first getting started.

From any screen, you can say the command “Xbox, select,” and the system will highlight in green all of the speakable commands that are available specific to that app or user experience. You can also say “Xbox, more shortcuts” to get a full list of Xbox One voice commands. Another command I used a lot in the beginning was, “Xbox, go to,” which brings up a screen of all your games and apps.

Oh, snap!

If you’re a Windows 8 user, you might already be familiar with the Snap feature. Snap allows you to have two apps running at the same time, so, for example, on the Xbox One, you can be watching a football game on live TV, and see your Fantasy Football stats to the side.

To use Snap, start by opening an app, such as TV, and then you can use the voice command, “Xbox, Snap” and then say the name of the second app you want to open. Only certain apps work with Snap right now, so if you’re unsure which ones are supported, you can simply say, “Xbox, Snap,” and then choose from the list of compatible apps.

One helpful tip: Rather than using the voice command “Xbox, switch” to go between apps, you can simply double-tap the Xbox button on the controller to accomplish the same task. It’s faster and easier.

Turn it on

Microsoft designed the Xbox One to be the hub of all of your living room’s digital entertainment options, so you can now watch live TV from within the Xbox ecosystem by connecting your cable box to the console. This isn’t required, but if you do choose this option and your TV is compatible, here’s a way to turn the Xbox One into a universal remote.

Once you’ve gone through the initial setup of connecting your TV, cable box and audio receiver (if any) to the Xbox One, go to the Settings menu and select “TV & OneGuide” and then “Power settings.” From that menu, check the boxes for “‘Xbox on’ turns on my devices,” and whichever devices you want the Xbox One to turn on and off. With these settings enabled, you should be able to turn on your home theater system with the “Xbox on” and “Xbox turn off” voice commands.

My gaming skills, let me show you them

Xbox One allows gamers to record and edit short clips of their game play, with the ability to upload and share them with others. There are three ways to do this.

The easiest way is by using the voice command “Xbox, record that” while playing a game. The Xbox One will then capture up to 30 seconds of footage.

If you want to show off your skills in a longer clip, you can say, “Xbox, Snap game DVR, and start new clip.” With this option, it can record up to five minutes of game play. Another option is using the command “Xbox, Snap game DVR, end clip now,” which will grab footage from up to the last five minutes of game play.

Breezy browsing with Xbox One SmartGlass

Xbox One includes an Internet Explorer app so you can browse the Web on the big screen. But entering website addresses and trying to navigate pages using the controller or voice commands can be a little cumbersome. The companion Xbox One SmartGlass app is a good alternative to that.

Available for Windows, Windows Phone, Android and iOS, the free app turns your smartphone or tablet into a second screen for the Xbox One. (First tip — be sure to download the Xbox One SmartGlass app, and not the Xbox 360 version, like I initially did.)

From there, you can select Internet Explorer from the app, tap on “Play on Xbox One,” and then use your mobile device’s onscreen keyboard to enter URLs. You can also use swipe and pinch-to-zoom gestures to enlarge a page and scroll up and down, and I found it to be more precise for clicking on links.

In addition, SmartGlass can be used to perform other functions, including launching apps and games, and acting as a remote control. In some cases, it can also serve up extra content for any games, videos and music that you might be enjoying on the Xbox One.

Obviously, there’s a lot to learn when it comes to Microsoft’s latest console, but it’s worth taking the time to master some of these tricks in order to get the most out of your Xbox One.

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