A lot of smartphones and tablets claim to better handle the task of multitasking. From my experience, there's only one mobile device that truly handles multitasking well, and that's the Samsung Galaxy Note II. This little gem of a hybrid (is it a large phone or a small tablet with a built-in phone?) makes other device attempts at multitasking look juvenile. The only downfall is that the Note II's main multitasking feature — Multi Window — isn't very obvious. Fortunately, I stumbled across it by accident.
As of this writing, only the following applications are supported in Multi Window:
- Polaris Office
- S Note
- Video Player
I was surprised that Gmail wasn't included, but supposedly, both Gmail and YouTube will be coming to Multi Window soon.
The other form of multitasking in the Note II is called Popup Notes. Although this isn't true multitasking (nor is the popup notes included in Multi Window), it still adds an element to multitasking that most mobiles don't offer.
Let's take a look at how Multi Window and Popup Notes work.
Popup NotesThis feature offers a simple note-taking popup to appear, no matter what application you're running. If you're penning an email in Gmail but realize that you need to remember something, just slide out the S Pen stylus and take a note (Figure A). The Popup Notes app is opened as soon as the S Pen is detached. By default, however, this feature is disabled. Figure A
A Popup Note on the Verizon-branded Samsung Galaxy Note II.
In order to enable the Popup Notes feature, follow these steps:
- Tap the menu button on the handset
- Tap Settings
- Tap S Pen
- Tap Open Popup Note to enable
- Tap the home key to return to the home screen
There's no other way to open the Popup Notes app. And if you enable the feature, every single time you remove the S Pen from its slot, a Popup Note will open. You can close the app by tapping the X and save the note by tapping the check (in the upper right corner of the Popup). By tapping the arrow in the upper left corner, you not only save the note, but you open the full blown S Notes app. The only missing feature from Popup Notes is the productivity tools. This is because Popup Notes uses the Memo template (from S Notes) and not the Note template. Without the productivity tools, you do not benefit from the Shape or formula matching or the Handwriting-to-text feature.
Multi Window viewMulti Window is the real deal for multitasking. With the Note II, you can open up two apps at once (no more than two, but there wouldn't be enough real estate for more anyway) and even easily switch out which applications are open. To find Multi Window, long-press the back button on the handset, and a slide-out drawer will appear on your home screen. Tap on that, and the Multi Window drawer will open (Figure B). Figure B
The Multi Window drawer in action.With the Multi Window drawer open, tap and drag one of the launchers onto the home screen. Once you have one app open, tap and drag the second app to the home screen. You should now have two apps open simultaneously (Figure C). Figure C
The browser and S Note opened together.
You'll notice a drag bar between the two apps. With this, you can resize the apps to take up more or less horizontal space on the home screen. If you shrink one, the other will enlarge (you never see the home screen when you have the apps open).If you don't want all of the apps available to the Multi Window drawer, tap the edit button to reveal a space that allows you to remove the launchers from the drawer (Figure D). Figure D
Removing apps from the Multi Window drawer.
You can re-add the apps by simply dragging them back to the drawer. The launchers can also be rearranged by tapping and dragging them to a new location (from the Edit mode).
At the moment, there are no settings for Multi Window, so what you see is what you get. Regardless, this feature still lifts the Galaxy Note II heads above the competition.
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.