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An Introduction to F-Droid

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Hand with smartphone using F Droid apps

F-Droid is an alternate software repository which has only free apps. In this article, the author identifies a few F-Droid apps that can be added to smartphones to improve privacy settings, productivity, as well as the experience of chatting or listening to music.

With smartphones becoming our constant companions, there are now apps for almost everything. We also have a wide choice of apps for the tasks we perform every day on our Android devices. The Google Play Store is the go-to place for our app needs, but there are some better options out there too and yet many of us hardly ever discover them. One such source of apps is F-Droid, a store from where you can download Android apps without much hassle.
F-Droid hosts only free apps, and it has some cool features that Google Play probably doesn’t have.
1. F-Droid comes as a separate app like any other normal Android app, so you can uninstall and install apps anytime you want to or you can download the apps from the F-Droid Web page too.
2. F-Droid hosts free and open source apps only, so there are no sub-categories like ‘Paid’ or ‘Free Apps’ in it.
3. Unlike Google Play, F-Droid hosts multiple versions of an app; this means you can download a specific version of an app anytime you want.
4. All the apps hosted in F-Droid come with related information such as the source code link, app website, issues about the app, etc.
5. All F-Droid apps list the permissions that are required by the app in the app’s home page.
6. You may want to frequently update F-Droid for new apps and upgrades for the installed ones but there’s no need to worry – it won’t consume much of your data or your battery life.
7. To uninstall an app, you can directly open F-Droid and click the ‘trash’ icon on every app page.
8. You can add a repository of your choice in F-Droid; for example, you can add the ‘Guardian Project’ repository (which hosts a number of apps for your privacy and security) along with the F-Droid repositories.
9. F-Droid alerts users about all the non-free components or any sort of tracking of user activity in the app.
10. The most recent version of F-Droid allows you to share apps with others nearby using the ‘Swap Apps’ option.
I have listed some apps that could be useful in your daily life and replace some of the closed source apps you’re currently using on your phone.

SicMu Player
This is a simple audio player. It lists the music files in your device as one big play list, and these files are listed along with the current locations in a folder structure. All you have to do is click on the name of the folder in which you have kept your music file and choose your favourite song to play. It has only four control icons on the app.
1. Pause/Play
2. Forward and backward
3. Scroll to the current song
4. Disable the lock screen
Aside from these basic controls, you can have options like folding or unfolding your folder structure, shaking your device to play the next song, sorting your music files and saving the song’s position.
There’s no exit button on this app, but you can click the ‘recent apps’ button (i.e. the rectangular button in Motorola phones; other phones may have different buttons) on your device and close the app. It will show the message ‘’SicMu Player is Destroyed’’ which assures you that the app isn’t running in the background without your knowledge.

This app measures your steps and shows the calories you burned instantly. Though this app may seem simple, it has adequate features for your daily walking/running routine. It shows the number of steps and miles you’ve walked, the steps per minute, speed (in mph) and the calories you’ve burned.
It also has other options in its settings, so that you can have more control over the app, like the sensitivity of the detector, voice assistance on your progress and much more.

Wallabag is a mobile client for Framabag, which is an online service that could help you to store the Web pages from websites for offline reading.
To use Wallabag, you first need to create an account with Framabag, and once that is done, you’re all set to start saving your Web pages. If you’re working on your personal machine, then please download the official Wallabag extension for the Chrome/Firefox browser.
Download Wallabag from F-Droid, and the main window of the app presents you with three options:
1. List of articles and how many of them are unread
2. Synchronise
3. Settings
‘Settings’ requires your Framabag URL, your user ID and your token. Once you’ve provided these, you can synchronise the app so that whatever you have saved in the Framabag account will be imported to Wallabag.
You can create an e-book by converting your articles to EPUB, MOBI and PDF format.

There are many instant messengers available for Android, but only a few of them are secure and guard your privacy during online chat sessions.
Telegram is one of the best choices when you are considering an open source chat application with strong security against all possible attacks. Telegram focuses on speed and security. Unlike the prominent messaging app WhatsApp, this one has many cool features for its users, such as:
1. Secret chats
2. Self-destructing messages
3. Support for almost every known file type
4. Groups can have 200 members and can upgrade to super groups with a membership count of 1,000 members
5. There are many channels as well as bots available for telegrams, which can be added to your telegram app
You can increase the security of the app by setting up a pass code, which is required when you are launching the app.

As the number of Internet users grows each year, very few still resort to the traditional messaging method, SMS. There are many apps which ensure that your online chats are secure from third parties. But what about SMSs? Textsecure was the only viable option for securing your SMSs but as of March 2015, they have withdrawn their support for SMS. Hence, SMSSecure was born.
SMSSecure is purely focused on SMS. This app fully replaces your stock SMS messaging. To use this app, you are not required to register with any service. It works like a normal SMS.
It is important that both sender and receiver use SMSSecure to achieve encrypted SMS communication; if not, you can still send a normal SMS to your receiver.
Despite being a fork of Textsecure, SMSSecure adds various enhancements to the codebase, such as:
1. All messages are encrypted locally, so even if your phone is lost, your messages are still safe.
2. The screen security enables you to block screenshots inside the app.
3. SMSSecure doesn’t rely on the Internet. Your conversation solely depends on the encrypted messages you send from your device; so all your chats are reliable.
4. SMSSecure employs AES 256 bit encryption; so you have industrial standard encryption on your phone.
5. The app will automatically detect if the recipient is using SMSSecure, and encourage the starting of an encrypted session with the other party.

TinFoil for Facebook
Did you know that your official Facebook app possesses many controls over your device, so that your online activities could be monitored by someone? If you didn’t know that, then you need to wake up!
As common users, we never tend to take a closer look at the permissions that our apps request our device. These are concealed in a more generic manner now, so you do not get a clear picture about the permissions you are handing over to that app. The official Facebook app is no exception.
Monitoring your device is the easiest way to keep tabs on you. And most of us use Facebook extensively in our day-to-day lives, sharing information about our private lives. So you must realise that your privacy could be easily compromised.
TinFoil for Facebook uses a wrapper around the mobile site of Facebook, and thereby provides a sandbox for the Facebook cookies, which are separated from the normal browsing cookies. This ensures that your browsing information will be safely kept inside, instead of being leaked via other means.
TinFoil for Facebook also provides more privacy by ensuring that all other links you visit inside Facebook are opened within the app instead of being opened in an external browser.
This app can track your location by enabling the ‘Allow Check-ins’ under ‘Preferences’. But you can disable this feature anytime you want. Also, you can kill this app once you’re done browsing, so that you don’t have to worry whether it is running in the background or syncing your data without your knowledge.

FBReader or Favourite Book Reader is an ad-free, highly customisable e-book reader for Android, with support for all popular book formats. It has some online catalogues where you can download public domain books free of cost. You can add your own online catalogues too.
You can use the FBReader book network as your personal online library. By using this feature you can upload the books to Google Drive and download those books anytime, anywhere you want.
FBReader allows you to tweak its features in many ways such as installing your own fonts, and changing the animations while turning the pages, adding plugins, selecting from various colour schemes for the UI, and much more.

Amaze File Manager
Amaze File Manager has a beautiful, sleek interface packed with lots of features for the normal user. The concealed side panel has various options for quicker navigation.
I recommend that you start tweaking the ‘Settings’ menu, since it offers more flexibility for users to customise the app according to their own preferences, with regard to themes, colour and other appearance aspects.
It also has another interesting feature,‘App Manager’, which manages all your system and user installed apps. By clicking on an app, you can back it up without any additional backup software. You can share the app with other users, open the app page on F-Droid, and uninstall the app. You can do all this without leaving the Amaze File Manager
You can also unlock the power user features by enabling the ‘Root Explorer’ option in the settings menu. But to use this option, you have to make sure that your phone is rooted.

K-9 Mail
K-9 Mail is one of the popular email clients for Android. It can support multiple accounts, which can be customised according to your preferences. One of the important features of K-9 Mail is its ability to encrypt your mail and files using Android Privacy Guard (APG).
K-9 Mail can connect to Web servers using all popular protocols such as POP3, IMAP and WebDAV. It offers lots of features to an Android user, some of which are not provided by the stock Android email clients. These include:
1. Per account notification
2. Emoji support
3. Push IMAP support
4. The ability to attach almost any type of file on SD card
5. Personalised signatures

My Expenses
My Expenses is a personal finance manager for your Android phone. It has a very sleek interface which makes the app easier to use. The concealed side panel displays your accounts. Currently it can support up to five accounts with transfers.
You can have some preselected categories for your transaction so that you can keep the transactions in an organised way, based on the day, week, month, year, etc. Import and export of your transactions using the QIF or CSV data formats can be done.
You can also set up password protection for entering data in the main app or its widgets.