If you’ve gotten your hands on the new Samsung Galaxy Note II, you’ve already discovered that it the best of both possible worlds — half tablet and half phone. One of the biggest draws of the Note II is the stylus, which they refer to as the S Pen. Most users don’t quite understand all that can be done with a stylus, so this post is dedicated to helping you get the most out of this particular feature.

Before I get started, I have to mention that, although this isn’t a review, the Samsung Galaxy Note II might well be my favorite Android device to date. Why? It is truly the perfect amalgamation between phone, tablet, and pen/paper. If the features of this device migrate into a full-sized tablet, Samsung would have the tablet to own. Period.

With that said, let’s dig into making your Note II experience a brilliant one.

Using the S Pen

Out of the box, it may not seem like the S Pen really is that embedded into the device. That’s because, by default, a number of the settings are turned off, primarily to save battery life. Yes, some of the stylist settings do drain the battery, but you purchased this device because of the stylist, not in spite of it.

So, what features do you turn on? Let me go through them all so you can decide which ones you will want to keep. Almost all of these features are found in the S Pen settings by taping Menu | Settings | S Pen. In this window, you can turn on the following features:

  • Open Popup Note: This will open a small window (even when you have another app open) that allows you to take notes
  • S Pen keeper: Sound an alert and show popup when you walk with the device without attaching the pen
  • Air View: Enables the Note II to detect the nub of the pen, even before it touches the screen — you can get information to pop up (or windows to open) just by hovering the pen over the proper spot
  • Quick Command: You can launch anything with a gesture

That is not all of the cool features you’ll find. The keyboard also allows for OCR handwriting recognition, but it’s not enabled by default. To enable this feature, follow these steps:

  • Open an app that used the keyboard
  • Long-press the Mic button (directly right of the Sym button)
  • In the Samsung keyboard settings window (Figure A), tap to enable Pen detection
  • Turn off predictive text (it will get in the way of OCR)

Figure A

Configuring the keyboard on the Verizon-branded Samsung Galaxy Note II.

With Pen detection enabled, all you have to do is pull the S Pen out of its slot (with the keyboard open), and the OCR screen will appear for you to write on (Figure B).
Figure B

Writing an email using the OCR.

Quick Commands

As I mentioned earlier, you can set up Quick Commands that allow you to launch nearly anything with a couple of gestures from your S Pen. You first have to enable this in the Settings, and then configure the gestures. Before you configure the gestures, let’s examine how this feature works.

On your S Pen, you’ll see a tiny button on the shaft. If you hold that button down and then draw a line on the home screen from down to up, a new window will appear (Figure C). This new window allows you to input a command and keyword to launch an app.
Figure C

Draw in the upper rectangle for the OCR.

To configure a new command, tap on the gear in the upper right corner of the Quick Commands window.  To create a new command, do the following:

  1. In this new screen, tap the plus sign [+]
  2. Select either an application or function (depending upon your need)
  3. Scroll through the list and select either the function or the application

Depending on what you’ve selected, there will be keywords to be included. For example, if you want to add a Quick Command for Gmail, you can then include one of the keywords:

  • Recipient
  • Message
  • Message+recipient

Each of the above means you draw the command and then write either the name or the recipient in the OCR window. The final option means you’ll draw the command and then write the message, which will then automatically go to a recipient configured in the command.

Let’s say, for example, I’m going to create a Quick Command to send an email to Bob in my office via Gmail. Here are the steps:

  • Go to Quick Command settings
  • Tap the plus sign [+] to add a new Quick Command
  • Select an application
  • Tap Gmail
  • Tap the second +Message entry
  • Locate Bob in the Contacts
  • Draw the gesture to be associated with the Quick Command (Figure D)
  • Once the gesture is recognized, tap Done

Figure D

The OCR should recognized the gesture on the first try.

The Verizon-branded Samsung Galaxy Note II is one of the most amazing pieces of mobile hardware I’ve used. And with the addition of the S Pen, this device bridges a gap that has been sorely needed for some time. Give some of these features a try, and see if they don’t make your mobile experience far better.

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