The write stuff: S Note on the GALAXY Note 8.0 explained
The GALAXY Note 8.0's S Note app is one of the key things that elevates Samsung's latest tablet head and shoulders above its peers. Read on for a thorough explanation of all that you can do with this superb application and what you need to know to get the best out of it.
If you had to pick one hardware feature that catapults the Samsung GALAXY Note 8.0 into a sphere of usefulness that its mini-tablet peers can only dream about, you would surely single out the S Pen.
While, on first glance, the S Pen may look like a fairly prosaic, familiar and unassuming stylus, it is in fact a surprisingly powerful creative and productivity tool. Plus, it becomes a very capable box of tricks when combined with the GALAXY Note 8.0's pumped-up reservoir of processing power and the bespoke Samsung app built into every GALAXY Note 8.0 called S Note.
S Note explained
If you've owned a Samsung GALAXY Note product before, you'll probably be familiar with S Note: essentially, it turns your device into a stunningly versatile writing pad, which can be used to take notes, recognise your handwriting, create birthday cards and even help you to design your own magazines.
But whereas in the past, many users may have viewed S Note as a bit of a curiosity – a fun doodle-pad to pass the time with, say – it really comes into its own as a powerful tool on the GALAXY Note 8.0, thanks mainly to that generously proportioned 8-inch screen. And here's how.
Set up your S Pen
First up, it pays to get your S Pen set up just how you want it. The first time you un-box your shiny new GALAXY Note 8.0, pulling out the S Pen from its cubbyhole tucked away in the bottom right-hand corner of your tablet is a natural first step anyway.
And the first time you liberate it, the GALAXY Note 8.0 takes you direct to its Settings menu – after explaining how you can use the tray at the left-hand edge of the screen to launch a second app as well as the one you're in (Samsung's Multi Window feature - another amazing complement to your Note 8.0's expansive screen).
Back to the S Pen's Settings, you can tell your Note 8.0 to automatically launch a Popup Note whenever you remove the S Pen; enable sound and haptic feedback (so you get some resistance when you press against the screen); enable Air View (which lets you hover the S Pen over menu items, giving you more info about them); and enable, plus invent, Quick Commands which, for example, let you launch an instant web search by tracing a question-mark, then the name of what you want to search for.
Seriously clever stuff, which can save you a lot of time and, soon after un-boxing, generates the feeling that the GALAXY Note 8.0 is almost clairvoyant.
Time to launch S Note
Once you have your S Pen set up to your satisfaction, it's time to explore the joys of S Note. Once you launch the app, you're given a bigger choice of templates than ever before – split into the categories Business, Education, Ideas and Lifestyle.
Each of these contains handy templates that you can use as a basis for your own documents. For example, there are three Meeting Notes templates, one of which features elements like graphs, which you can edit to your heart's content.
Choose your template
The education template is highly useful, particularly if you've got maths or economics homework to do: it features complex mathematical graphs; there's also an Equation editor that you can launch at any time.
But we suspect the templates that will be used most frequently reside in the Ideas and Lifestyle folders. The former contains rather freeform, picture-led templates for Recipes and Travel, and the latter a template for a Diary, plus more formal versions of the Recipe and Travel templates.
If you tap the Create note menu item, you can choose one of those templates, plus others entitled Magazine, Memo, Meeting note and Note – which resembles a basic lined, yellow-paper notepad.
And you're in – you can now generate whatever you wish, just as if you were faced with an old-fashioned paper notepad – except that it can be saved (and easily edited) digitally and then swiftly shared with and distributed to anyone in almost no time at all.
When you launch a blank note, S Note will automatically select the correct mode – for example, if you want to create an essentially visual Ideas note, it will select the pen-like drawing tool. Which you can adjust by clicking items in a toolbar, letting you adjust the thickness of the pen (we tend to pull the slider so that it's close to its finest setting), the pen colour, and Presets, which let you change the pen into a paintbrush, pencil, magic marker, alter its transparency and so on.
Although all of these drawing settings are thoroughly simple to grasp, they still somehow manage to be quite powerful, providing everything you need to create some properly elaborate artwork.
When you pick a more handwriting-oriented template, such as the basic Note, things really start to get very cool indeed. By default, you launch in pen mode, which lets you write as quickly as you would be able to on a paper notepad. But if you select the Productivity tools icon on the menu bar, you get three of perhaps the app's handiest features.
The first is Shape match, which lets you draw rough shapes with the pen, then works out what they are (square, triangle and so forth), and automatically tidies them up. Formula match opens a handwriting recognition box at the bottom half of the screen, which lets you input complex equations. And Handwriting-to-text does exactly what it says on the tin – and in almost indecently impressive fashion. S Note's handwriting recognition abilities are astonishing. We desperately tried to fool it, and discovered there's no need to print each letter – it has no trouble recognising cursive script.
And it doesn't hang around – it recognises as fast as you can scrawl. In case of errors – if say, you have the handwriting of a local GP – it offers predictive text-style alternatives.
The ability to write perfectly normally and watch the GALAXY Note 8.0 recognise it and turn it into a proper document is a massive boon – plus it will impress anyone you demonstrate it to. If, say, you want to note down the contents of a phone conversation, you can even set the GALAXY Note 8.0 to automatically launch a note when you remove the S Pen from its berth.
At the bottom of the screen is an icon entitled Insert object, which pretty much takes S Note into the realms of desktop publishing. From the menu it brings up, you can select images, maps, shapes, clip-art, text, the content of the clipboard, or video. Or you can take a photo or a video clip for insertion.
And our current favourite option on the menu is entitled Idea Sketch. This opens up a handwriting recognition box, into which you can write whatever is on your mind – with S Note letting you pick from several pencil-style sketches of it.
Obviously, the more obscure the object you seek, the less likely it is to have to a sketch of it – but the ability to conjure up sketches of, say, birds, dogs, cars, houses and so on is still guaranteed to bring a smile to your face. Particularly if, when it comes to drawing, your sketching skills are a bit dodgy!
Unlocking your creativity, cleanly and simply
S Note – in its finest incarnation yet on the GALAXY Note 8.0 - is the perfect foil to a creative mind. If you bubble with ideas, and frequently forget to jot them down, then you'll find yourself eternally thankful to have a GALAXY Note 8.0.
There's further evidence of how deeply S Note is geared towards letting you express (and preserve for posterity) your creativity in the form of two more menu icons. The first lets you add a voice note to your digital note. And the second, entitled Knowledge search, lets you search the web for inspiration, automatically launching Google and switching to handwriting recognition mode.
Finally, all this talk of menu bars and icons may lead you to conclude that S Note must be a horribly cluttered app, but that's simply not the case – thanks to the plentiful real estate which the GALAXY Note 8.0's screen brings to the party. And S Note's heritage also helps, as earlier iterations were designed to work on screens a tiny fraction of the size of that of the GALAXY Note 8.0.
Check it out, and you will find it clean looking, thoroughly self-explanatory and, above all, an astonishingly powerful means of getting your creative juices flowing like they never have before.
There's no doubt that at the very heart of what the GALAXY Note 8.0 is all about, you will find S Note.