For some users, the digital pen in the Samsung Galaxy Note tablet is the main reason they purchased the device. Not only is the S Pen powerful, but it's a much more efficient means of interacting with the supported apps on the device. I've already covered some basic smartphone usage of the S Pen (such as Quick Commands) in my post "Samsung Galaxy Note II S Pen tips and tricks," but a lot of that information still applies to the Samsung Galaxy Note tablet.
This time around, I'll focus on using the S Pen with the Calendar, browser, and image clipping tool.
Using the S Pen with the Calendar and browser
When you pull out your S Pen, the Shortcuts Toolbar will appear in the right edge of your home screen (Figure A). From there, you can quickly launch the Calendar.
The Verizon-branded Samsung Galaxy Note tablet showing the Shortcuts Toolbar.
You can also get to the S Pen settings from here by tapping the settings icon (a gear shift with a pen) on the bottom of the Shortcuts Toolbar. There are no settings that effect the Calendar.
From within the Calendar, tap the plus sign [+] to reveal a new appointment window. When the new window first appears, there's no sign of the S Pen functionality. Just like with the keyboard, the handwriting screen doesn't appear until you actually tap a location that requires data (Figure B). One nice thing about the Note is that the system will recognize if you tap with your finger or your S Pen. If you tap a text area in the Calendar with your finger, the keyboard will open. If you tap with the S Pen, the handwriting window will open.
The Galaxy Note handwriting window.
There are two really important "tricks" involved here. First, if you normally write in cursive, you might consider printing, because the Note handwriting recognition has a much easier time with that style of handwriting (unless your cursive is outstanding). Second, you'll notice the button that allows you to switch between alpha and numeric characters. While you can get the handwriting to recognize numbers when in alpha mode, it's far from ideal. Make sure you switch between the two as needed.
Once you have the handwriting window open, long-press the microphone button and then tap the settings button. From that settings window, tap on the Handwriting entry to reveal these settings (Figure C).
These effect handwriting across the board on the Galaxy Note tablet.
You can select the handwriting recognition time, the thickness of the S Pen, recognition type, and more. I highly recommend that you leave the defaults set. However, there are instances where you might want to change the recognition time. For example, if you find that you're finishing letters and moving onto the next before the system can recognize what you've written, configure the setting for a faster recognition time.
The same usage holds true with the browser. Open up the built-in Android browser, tap the address bar, and handwrite the address. You'll see the same handwriting recognition window as you did with the Calendar.
One very handy feature of the Galaxy Note tablet is the S Pen ability to clip images. What this feature does is allow you to draw a shape on the screen and copy whatever image is within the shape to the clipboard. That clipped image can then be added to notes or whatever you need. Just follow these steps.
- Open the window you want to clip the image from
- Press the S Pen button (on the shaft of the pen)
- Draw the shape around the portion of the image to be clipped (make sure to end at the same spot you began -- there will be a small circle denoting that spot)
- Select from one of the options given (S Note, Scrapbook, Email, Amazon Send to Kindle, Bluetooth -- the options will vary, depending on what you have installed)
If you don't select an application to send the image to, the clip will appear as an image in your Gallery (you can then send it via the standard sharing methods). Once you've added the clip to an app (Figure D), you can move it, resize it, and more (depending on the application you've added it to).
I've added a clip into an S Note.
Anyone who has used the S Pen knows that it's powerful. You can enter text on the tablet easier and faster, plus it's a handy way to grab portions of images from the screen. If you're undecided about which tablet to purchase, I highly recommend going for one with a digital pen. Your mobile life will thank you for it.
Do you have other S Pen tips and tricks up your sleeve? Share them in the discussion thread below.
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.