Learn how to multitask on the Samsung Galaxy Note II

Jack Wallen takes a look at two multitasking features on the Samsung Galaxy Note II: Multi Window and Popup Note.

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:

  • Email
  • Gallery
  • Browser
  • Messaging
  • 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 Notes

This 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:

  1. Tap the menu button on the handset
  2. Tap Settings
  3. Tap S Pen
  4. Tap Open Popup Note to enable
  5. 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 view

Multi 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.

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Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website


The Blackberry Playbook has true multitasking. In fact,you can specify just freezing the open app, or running it at reduced priority in the background, or running it at full priority in the background. The running apps appear in a shrunk scrolling view, in real time.


from what I've had on my Nexus S 4.1.2 for some time, now (except the multi-window feature, which would be useless on the small screen, anyhow). If I hold the home button for a couple of seconds, I get the same list you show in the article, and all the applications are open, fully initialized and holding where they were when I backed out of them. I don't have to wait for startup or redo all the presses to get back where I was. I suppose a small advantage would be the movable dividing line between windows -- indeed, that's the only way I can imagine multiple windows on a 4" screen being useful. If this Popup Notes is available is available for Nexus S, I'l try downloading it and see whether it works as described in the article.


Press the button on your pen and double click anywhere on the screen opens the S-Note app.


I bought my Note 2 in early November. Multi Window on mine (Sprint) has Email, Gallery, Gmail, Messaging, S Note, Video Player, Talk, Polaris Office, Internet, You Tube, Maps, Facebook, and Chrome. It seems to have picked up some apps after I downloaded and installed them. They all work fine and it may be that some apps are designed to work with Multi Window and are just automatically added to the Multi Window bar. By the way, you can swipe down on the home screen and scroll the top task bar to the left to see a button that enables Multi Window. I love this feature and wish Samsung had provided more documentation. Of course figuring it out is half the fun .


"There’s no other way to open the Popup Notes app." I've got a Note I, purchased at a sale price about six weeks ago... Using this model, if I take out the stylus, hold down the stylus side-button, and double-tap anywhere on the screen, the "Popup Notes" app opens. Has this feature been removed from the OS? BTW: Long-hold on the "Back" button yields nothing under Android 4.0.1 with TouchWiz...


I've got a Note II and long-pressing the back button doesn't do anything for me. Long-pressing the home button (the physical button at the center bottom), though, brings up the list of apps that I've recently worked with, and I can click on any of them to switch from app to app.


If you are with T-Mobile and bought this phone before 12/20/2012, chances are you'd need a firmware update to support the Multi-Window feature. Here's how to get the update; 1. Go into Settings (Slide top-down from the home screen and click on the jig-saw wheel icon) 2. Select "About device" (Scroll to find this all the way at the bottom) 3. Select "Software update" (First item on the page) 4. Follow the screen prompts to find, download and install applicable updates Once update is applied and phone has rebooted, you may need to Activate the Multi-Window function by long-pressing the regular Back link arrow at the bottom-right of the phone


Unfortunately the Multi-Window firmware update still not available for download yet.

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