How to Reclaim Storage Space on Your Smartphone

Even if you have unlimited data on your smartphone, nobody has unlimited space. Gone are the days when all manufacturers would include an SD card slot to allow you to expand your phone’s storage (though a couple still do). Many of us use cloud services to back up our photos, but we rarely remove them from our phones unless we have to. Every time I check, I’m surprised at how cluttered my folders are with memes and screenshots I only needed for a moment. Let’s not even start with all of the PDF documents that need to be downloaded before viewing. Digital clutter is just so easy to ignore until you get a warning that your storage space is low. Or worse, that awesome video you just took can’t be saved.

General Considerations

No matter which brand of smartphone you have, there are a few general suggestions that can help free up space.

  • Do you need all of the apps you have on your phone? If not, go ahead and uninstall them. If you only need an app occasionally, you can uninstall it and download it again later.
  • Are some of the apps you use available as a website? If so, you can bookmark them or add shortcuts to your phone that takes up a lot less space than an app.
  • If you regularly create screenshots or download memes to post, image files are a great place to find content that is easy to delete.
  • If there are files you need, but you don’t need them on your phone, consider transferring them to a computer or hard drive. Cloud storage is wonderful, but some of the platforms will delete a file from the cloud when it is deleted from your device, so it can be tricky.
  • Are any of your images or videos duplicated? I often have to resize things before sending, so my phone is full of duplicate copies. I save a ton of space by culling the extras.
  • Remember, any image or video you post on social media is saved there and can be downloaded in the future.
  • High-resolution images take up a LOT of space, and you rarely need an image with that sort of resolution unless you are a professional/hobbyist photographer whose images will go to print. Optimize your images to keep them on your device at a smaller size. See your phone’s section below for instructions.
  • Are you saving music on your phone? If you don’t like the idea of paying for streaming services, YouTube Music will let you upload up to 100,000 tracks from your computer that you can stream as long as you have an internet connection. Only things you need to hear when offline would need to be saved to your phone storage.
  • Old text messages and voicemails take up space, too. Delete anything you don’t need to free up additional space.
  • Like a browser, your phone has a cache that collects information and takes up more and more space over time. How-to for iOS | How-to for Android
  • Don’t forget to clear your browser cache.
  • Both app stores have apps that claim to clean up your phone for you. In general, it is a good practice to avoid these apps. At best, that’s giving an app a lot of control over data you care about. At worst, you could lose your data and your phone could be bricked.

Cleaning Up iPhone Storage

To do a deep dive into your iPhone’s storage, open Settings>General>iPhone storage. The color-coded bar chart shows file categories and how much space each file type is using. Under the chart, your iPhone will offer suggestions for cleanup. Below the suggestions, you can find detailed information about how much space each type of file is taking. The app section will allow you to delete apps with a single tap.

In the section above, I mentioned that high-resolution photos can take up more space than needed. Navigate to Settings > Photos, where you can enable the “Optimize iPhone storage” option to get those files under control.

You can also reclaim space by clearing your browser cache. For Safari, go to Settings > Safari > Clear History and Website Data. You can do this in other iPhone browsers, such as Chrome, too.

Cleaning Up Android Phone Storage

To do a deep dive into your Android’s storage, open Settings > Storage. If you have a Samsung Galaxy phone, you may find it under Settings > Battery and device care>Storage. Your storage usage is broken down by categories. Click on a category for details. As you drill down, you will find you can long-press on individual files to delete or tap an app name to uninstall it. If your phone has a “free up space” button, you can tap it to view a list of files that may be likely candidates.

To optimize your photos, open the Google Photos app and go to the settings. Select “free up space” to back up your photos to your Google account and free up space on your phone.

Android allows you to not only clear your browser histories, but also the cache and data from every app on your phone. To do this, go to Settings > Storage > Apps and tap an app name. I chose Adobe Acrobat for this example.

Screen shot showing the storage screen for Adobe Acrobat  with options to clear the storage and cache

Choose “clear cache” to delete temporary files and history.

Clear storage will remove all information, including account login, and return the app to a like-new state.

It won’t make or break your storage size, but regular maintenance will save some space and make your apps run more smoothly.

Summary

With a little effort, you can reclaim enough space on your phone to avoid storage warnings and tough file-saving choices without resorting to shady apps in your device’s app store. Do you have any additional space-saving strategies? Let us know about them in the comments.

How To Manipulate Images In Pixlr X

You may remember the free browser image tool PixlrX from my post about using it to resize images easily. I have used it to create images from scratch, but I find it very similar to the free version of Canva. Because the library has a Pro subscription to Canva, I tend to use that platform for the additional features.

If you do not have a pro subscription to Canva, you may want to consider Pixlr X as your main image creator and editor. In addition to all of the typical features you would expect, it also has some pretty great effects available. Check out these TechConnect videos created by New York Public Library that demonstrate how to use some of these enhancements.

Because these processes are not always intuitive, here is a site that demonstrates to how save Pixlr images to your device. If you’re looking for more tips and tutorials for working with Pixlr, the Pixlr blog is a wealth of information.

Have you tried Pixlr X, or do you have another favorite image editor? Let us know about it in the comments.

Learn More About Your Unique Family History with Ancestry

Ancestry is one of the big names in genealogy research. Their database contains thousands of records including US Census Records, Birth, Marriage, Death, Military records, and more. During the pandemic, Ancestry offered home access to its library database with your library card. Now that most libraries are open to the public, ProQuest has once again required Ancestry Library to be accessed within the library by either using a library computer or with a device connected to the library’s WiFi network.

You can search for a specific person by entering the first and last name and other optional information such as places they have lived or the year they were born. You can also add optional information such a particular family member, occupation, and their race/nationality.

In addition to searching, you can also explore record collections of Census and Voter Lists, Birth, Marriage and Death Records, and Military Records.

If you would like to learn more about how to Ancestry Library Edition, check out our YouTube video tutorial:

Have you tried out the Ancestry Library edition? Let us know in the comments.

Save Your Eyes with This Free Tool

Humans weren’t designed to look at TVs, computer monitors, and smartphones all day. Now that our lives tend to revolve around these devices, digital eye strain has become a widespread issue. Symptoms of digital eye strain include itchy/burning eyes, blurred vision, or even headaches after using a device.

As an IT professional, eye strain had become a daily occurrence for me. I believed if I could just soften the brightness or shift the color of the screen, my eyes wouldn’t feel so assaulted by it. I also found that my optimal monitor brightness changed throughout the day, depending on the brightness of the room. Messing with my monitor settings didn’t help, so I went looking for a software solution.

Enter F.lux

F.lux is a free, lightweight utility that can control the display “warmth”, and thereby brightness. Corporate site licenses are available for Windows machines, but they are only required if your IT admin wants to control the installation and settings. F.lux is available for Windows, Mac, Linux, iPhone/iPad, and Android. It can be used in one of two ways:

  • Enter your location and the type of lighting you have, and let f.lux adjust your display automatically throughout the day
  • Change the brightness or warmth of the display to a single comfortable setting that remains constant all day. This is what I do since I spend most of my screen time in a room with fluorescent lighting where the time of day does not affect my ambient brightness.

Using F.lux

For the purposes of this article, instructions and screenshots refer to the Windows version of the software. During installation, you will be asked for your location. This information will help f.lux determine the kind of natural light you get and what time it is where you are.

After installing F.lux, you will find it in your taskbar on the bottom-right of your screen. In this image, it is the icon immediately to the right of the arrow:

Screenshot of the taskbar, showing the f.lux icon location

Click the icon to open the tool. Here is how mine looks:

Screenshot showing the f.lux control window with a menu icon in the upper left.

Because I knew I wanted the same warmth/brightness all day, I simply dragged the white button on the slider until the display looked more comfortable to me. The other information on the screen would suggest that the time of day is involved in the settings, but if you look in the upper right, the status is “warm all the time.” This means my setting stays the same all day.

If you want your warmth/brightness to change by time of day, click the orange dot next to the Circadian response percentage. This will convert the single slider into three sliders that can be set independently:

Screenshot showing three sliders labeled daytime, sunset, and bedtime.

After setting the sliders, you can click in the circadian response area to get a time lapse 24-hour preview of how the display will change over the day. If it’s not what you’re looking for, try adjusting again.

The Menu

For most folks, that would be enough configuration to make a world of difference. If you would like to dig deeper and discover more adjustments. If you have smart lighting in your home, you will definitely want to check out the “options and smart lighting” section.

If you use dual monitors like I do, getting both monitors to change can be tricky. If you only have one monitor showing the change, go to Settings>System and try duplicating the monitor display or changing which monitor is primary. Often, changing one of these settings will trigger f.lux to make both displays the same. Afterward, you can revert the settings to the way you had them and both screens should remain matched.

Other Resources

While F.lux is a great tool and using it on all of your devices will definitely reduce eye strain, there are other steps you can take to reduce eye strain, such as wearing blue light blocking glasses. Cornell Cooperative Extension of Rensselaer County has put together a video and an article that offer additional strategies for reducing eye strain. What are your favorite methods for battling eye strain? Let us know in the comments!

How to Restore Browser Tabs Closed Accidentally

Have you ever tried to close one browser tab, but accidentally closed them all? Or had your computer crash while you had lots of important tabs open? If so, you probably groaned internally when reading those words, remembering how long it took you to find those websites again. The great news is that every modern browser has a way to recover recently deleted tabs. What’s more, you can turn on a warning that will pop up if you click to close the browser and multiple tabs are open.

The folks at Tech-Talk have created a short video and article detailing how to restore recently deleted tabs, no matter which browser you’re using. The article also explains how to turn on a warning letting you know you’re about to do it, even if that functionality isn’t included in the browser by default.

Tech-Talk is an online resource the library subscribes to on behalf of its patrons. It is full of articles, videos, webinars, and other ways to learn about technology. Choose from longer, more detailed content or focus on their quick, targeted tips. Have you had a chance to check out Tech-Talk yet? If so, let us know what you think in the comments.