First of all let me say, you don't know how long I've been waiting for this question
Main characteristics mentioned:
a) they usually (not always) fire at building when left uninstructed.
b) they do not automatically target nearest enemies or largest clump of soldiers
a) Never send them anywhere while u r not watching them.
b) if you are not watching them, set them to firing position so theyll shoot anything that comes.
other b) make sure u have anti cav/meat shield DIRECTLY surrounding your falcs, even mass horses will die if they cant get to the falcs. keep in my that the cannons generally protect the anti cav from LI as much as the anti cav protects cannon from horses in some games, id say especially against brits.
c) they cannot do damage to anything that is directly in front of them, so use the one getting killed by the horse to target infantry or something, maybe even another horse that is not right on that particular cannon, whilst using at least a couple of your outhers to kill that horse if necessary, another note on this, dont wait for ur anti cav to get there/reload, the cav needs to die faster than anything if they are on ur cannons, so dont be afraid to use the cannon fire on them even with mass inf in range, also use anythign that does damage to kill the ones on ur cannon. this is especially true with muskets, there are next to no circumstances where muskets are better set to melee when protecting cannons, imho, correct me if im wrong. well i guess if u put some on melee it might be a good idea, but depends on circumstance.
d) falcs are great anti cav =) just be sure to bring your meatshield or forget about it, sadly their hit and run only works against buildings with no firing damage
e) if u know there are culvs, make dam sure u can kill them before charging in with ur falcs, one of my favorites is to send cav or sometimes inf depending what enemy has to absorb the culv fire while culvs are in firing position, then set up my falcs to kill his culvs (risky, only works in pr<20 as far as ive seen, but fun)
f) if you think your army is probably going to die and thus ur cannons be exposed to cav, get them out of there a lil bit early, and try to have ur military building rdy to make anti cav (pref on horseback) as soon pop space opens up/you have extra resources while sendign ur attack. even if they catch the cannons it will probably cost some cav, most players may or may not be willin to make the trade, as a falc is 2.5 hussars.
g) use muskets or get ur teammate to if u cant for defense, like i said its almost always a good idea to shoot cav with ur cannons, and that way their health will at least be very low, making it take only a few musket shots in most cases to finish em off.
h) i have yet to master using ruyters as meat shields, i dunno what do u guys think bout them? but i think my problem is that i tend to overbuild my number of cannons and not enough ruyters, seeing as 5 ruyters is a cannon and i want that killing power asap.
i)as dutch, my general plan now is to make my first attack force the 20 odd skirms i made in age 2 and 4 to 5 cannons usually 1 min to 1 and half min after i hit fort which can win games alot of times right then, if not, enemy usually masses cav after that, not light cav, not anti cav, so if I then start making hussars (1000 food shipment helps) i can have cannon hussar which usually leaves the rest of his army (usually LI) with their pants around their ankles along with his econ, cannons waltz over gg. nice because if u know they wont have cav in their first wave, u can gear ur econ for exactly what u need to spam the hussars after first wave. alot of times ppl run back when they see falcs that early which is smart. you could even split ur falcs into 2 groups at that point, maybe 2 falconets with ur skirms and however many u can get with cav, send ur skirms/falconet group forward till his heavy cav collapse then collapse on his cav with ur cav and otehr falcs shooting on those horse
j) try to pull cav away somehow, small attack force somewhere, get creative, that way u can also not be suprised when u see a billion heavy cav coming at ur cannons otherwise.
last thing) i dont reccomend shift clicking as there is a lot going on usually and the highest concentration constantly changes, and they usually will not leave their inf in range of cannons, so if u do shift click, when they move their inf back, you will have what I now call (as a Dr. of Cannonology) The Adder Effect, in which case they will undeploy to catch up with those retreating inf.
good day sirs