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A demo of Samsung's multi-window Android extensions (video)

Mar 20, 2013 — by Rick Lehrbaum 2,526 views reviewed Samsung’s Galaxy Note 10.1 in quite some depth several months back, and later posted a YouTube video demonstrating the non-standard “multi-window” features added by Samsung via the tablet’s Android 4.1.2 firmware update. This post provides an excerpt from that review, discussing and demonstrating Samsung’s pumped-up TouchWiz user interface.

The Galaxy Note 10.1’s Android 4.1.2 firmware update provided a pumped-up version of Samsung’s proprietary TouchWiz user interface, featuring expanded multiwindow and multitasking Android capabilities relative to the tablet’s earlier firmware. In particular, the Galaxy Note 10.1 now supports two multiwindow app display modes, and can run as many as 16 multiwindow-enabled apps simultaneously on a single screen.

Each of the tablet’s multiwindow-enabled apps can be operated in three viewing modes: full screen, dual view, and cascade view, as shown below.


Fullscreen view

Dual view

Cascade view
(click images to enlarge)

To accomplish this, Samsung added a multiwindow app framework to its proprietary Android “TouchWiz” user interface, and jiggered a variety of Android apps to support the framework. Currently, there are 18 multiwindow-enabled apps, spanning browser, email, contacts, calendar, alarm, calculator, YouTube, video player, office suite, and other frequently-used functions. Presumably, the list will grow over time; in fact, hackers have already figured out how to add their own.

Running multiwindow apps

Multiwindow apps can be launched in the normal manner, from the homescreen or All Apps screens, in which case they initially run in fullscreen view, just like normal Android apps. Alternatively, the multiwindow apps can be launched from a pop-open “multi window apps tray” located at the bottom of any screen.

The apps tray opens up when you tap the up-arrow in the middle of the screen’s lower panel. The screenshot below shows what the multiwindow apps tray looks like after it’s been opened up.

Multiwindow apps tray
(click image to enlarge)


(click to enlarge)

Two buttons at the lower-left of the apps tray select whether apps launched from the tray begin in dual- or cascade-view. Multiwindow apps that are already running will switch one view to the other when the tray’s view mode setting is changed.

Manipulating multiwindow apps

(click to enlarge)

When they are running in either cascade- or dual-view mode, multiwindow apps have three control widgets along their top border, as shown on the left.

Here’s how those controls are used:

  • Tap the “pin” widget to pin the app in the foreground; after it’s tapped, it turns green.
  • Tap the empty square widget to maximize the app; this places it in fullscreen view mode.
  • Tap the square-with-X widget to close the app.

You can also resize and reposition multiwindow apps. For apps in cascade-view mode…

  • Press-drag the app’s top panel to move the app around on the screen.
  • Press-drag one of the app’s borders horizontally, vertically, or diagonally to resize the app’s window.

And, for apps in dual-view mode…

  • Swipe the app’s top panel to the right or left to swap its position with the other dual-view app.
  • Press-drag the border between two dual-view apps to the left or right to adjust the two app-areas relative width.


Launching multiwindow apps the normal way

When you launch a multiwindow-enabled app from an icon located on a homescreen or All Apps screen, it runs in fullscreen view, just like a normal Android app. However, once it’s running, you can move it into multiwindow view mode by tapping the multiwindow widget in its upper-right corner (shown on the left). At that point, it will go into cascade- or dual-view format, depending on the current view selection setting in the multiwindow apps tray.

Current set of 18 multiwindow apps

The screenshot below shows the launcher-icons for the 18 multiwindow apps that were included in the Galaxy Note 10.1’s recent Android 4.1.2 firmware update.

Samsung’s current set of 18 multiwindow apps
(click image to enlarge)


The screenshot above shows the multiwindow apps tray in “edit mode,” with which you can determine which apps you want to appear in the tray. To accomplish that, you tap the icons in the tray to move them to the upper area, after which they are hidden from the tray; or tap the ones in the top area to move them down to the tray. You can also drag icons around in the tray to change their position.

Multiwindow apps demo

The YouTube video below demonstrates the Galaxy Note 10.1’s new multiwindowing capabilities, based on its Android 4.1.2 firmware update.


Whither multiwindowing?

The new multiwindow features in Samsung’s Android 4.1.2 update for the Galaxy Note 10.1 push Android’s user interface into new territories, adding Windows-like capabilities that are sure to delight many users — and aggravate others.

From a practical point-of-view, I don’t find Samsung’s multiwindow apps to be of much interest, other than for a few pop-up functions such as a calculator, alarm clock, or other occasional use. That’s because I make a habit of organizing my tablet’s homescreen — as shown below — such that any tool or app can be launched in a tap or two.

Clearly, Samsung has been pushing the Android OS envelope, and it will be interesting to see if any of these innovations eventually get integrated into the standard Android OS.

Read’s complete Galaxy Tab 10.1 review here. (DeviceGuru is this site’s alter ego.)

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