10 ways to boost your productivity with the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 S Pen

Samsung Galaxy Note fans have had the Note 5 for six months and it will be another six before the next Note is announced. Grab your S Pen and apply some of these tips to master the art of the stylus.
Topic: Mobility
1 of 10 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Tip 1: Start with Air View customization

It is expected that Samsung will announce the Galaxy S7 at Mobile World Congress in three weeks. However, we will not see a new Note until later in the year, around the time of IFA.

I've now been using the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 since August, see my full review, and like the Galaxy Note 3 I discover new things to do with the Note 5 on a weekly basis. The latest S Pen integration is rather stunning and since you have another six months to use your Note 5 before the Note 6 is announced I thought it would be helpful to offer some tips on mastering the S Pen to improve your productivity.

Customize the Air Command menu: You have the option to customize the three bottom shortcuts so when you pull out the S Pen you can quickly launch your favorite apps. Simply slide out the S Pen and then tap on the gear icon in the lower left of the Air command overlay to customize your shortcuts. I selected S Note, Keep, and Wunderlist.

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Tip 2: ​Download more features items in S Note

Launch S Note and then in the upper right more menu select more features. Download the extension pack, easy chart, and idea sketch modules. The extension pack gives you a ton of enhancements, including shape recognition, handwriting transformation, recorded sketches, locked notes, and more. Easy chart is a slick way to create charts within S Note and entering data makes me wish Excel was this easy. Idea sketch lets you find and insert default sketches loaded in the app that you can then manipulate to create your own drawing.

I just learned about these options as I was researching tips for this article and think these added features are pretty stunning. They definitely make creating charts and expressing ideas much more efficient and entertaining.

3 of 10 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Tip 3: Handwrite in any text field

I know that handwriting is on the decline, which is one reason I enjoy using the Note 5 and the S Pen as I try to keep my skills up to par. In one mode, your handwriting is converted into text and I was shocked to see how well Samsung was able to convert my slopping cursive text.

If you want to write in just about any text field, instead of tapping away on the keyboard, just hover the S Pen over the active text field. Note the small blue "T" that appears and tap on it. The window shown in my screenshot will appear by default. You can also tap on the drawing mode option to have your raw text and drawings used as an image in the text field.

4 of 10 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Tip 4: Switch out your S Pen tip

Do you still have your Note 5 box? If so, take a look inside and you will find extra black and gray S Pen tips, also called nibs. My Note 5 had a black one installed by default. They have different hardness with one being a bit softer and providing more friction while the harder one moves easier with less friction. Colors and hardness vary by region.

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Tip 5: Take a note with the screen off

This was one of the very first things I learned with my Note 5 and something that I do on a regular basis. Simply slide out your S Pen and start writing on the display. You can then save the note and use it later when you have the device turned on.

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Tip 6: Hover with Air view

As you hover over the display, without touching the display with your S Pen, you will notice a dot appears below the S Pen. Hover over your inbox to see the content of an email without opening it, hover over a photo thumbnail in the image gallery to see more detail, or hover over a day in your calendar to see all the events scheduled for that day.

I also found that this hover to view email contents works in the Microsoft Outlook client. Try hovering over other things to see where Samsung provides advanced functionality.

7 of 10 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Tip 7: Drag and drop in dual window mode

You can open up a couple of apps in landscape orientation on the Note 5. Some apps support drag and drop functionality with the S Pen. In this example, I simply dragged an image from the gallery into a text message, which is a bit more efficient than selecting to add an attachment to the message.

8 of 10 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Tip 8: Use Action memos

Writing down a phone number, email address, physical address, or URL in an Action memo means that you can then quickly take that handwritten note into the applicable application. In the past I often had to flip between apps to get the right phone number or address so this functionality should save you time and help you create more useful notes.

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Tip 9: Capture long notes with Screen Write

If you find the need to capture content that is more than one screen in length, then use the S Pen Screen Write option. After selecting one page, simply tap the left button to capture more until you are done capturing all the content you desire. I've never seen this option on any other smartphone before.

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Tip 10: Use your Samsung Scrapbook

Samsung includes a few extra apps for Note 5 users and one of them is the Scrapbook. If you use the S Pen to capture content, then you should consider saving that content into the Scrapbook rather than the gallery. Saving content to the gallery just creates an image of that content. If you save it to the Scrapbook, then the URL related to that content is also saved so that a tap on the piece of information is actionable by the browser. There are also more options available to you in the Scrapbook application.

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