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We are what we think & my blog entries reflect how I think. Have a sip of the poison of my mind.. It's not always lethal.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Mimicking The Note Edge's Apps Shortcut Functionality

I really think the Galaxy Note Edge is a very cool, interactive and fun device because of its edge screen functionalities, bringing a much-needed breath of fresh air along with it to the mobile tech scene. But yet, I still chose the Note 4 over the Note Edge for the following reasons:

  1. The Note 4 has a bigger battery (3220mAh versus the Note Edge's 3000mAh).

  2. The narrower Note 4 with uniformly straight edges allows for better grip and easier handling.

  3. Edge notifications can obscure app controls as they come in on the Note Edge (for example, when using the camera or the keyboard, the camera controls as well as the right-end side of the keyboard get obscured momentarily when you receive notifications).

  4. Being more of an experimental and limited edition device, the Note Edge ought not to receive much developer support. As such, it might not even receive enough offical updates at worst, or receive them at a slower rate at best compared to the standard Note 4.

  5. Even though the Note 4 doesn't have the most useful functionality of the Note Edge; namely, the Apps Shortcut panel (to me, at least) , this can be circumvented by 3rd-party apps which basically give you the same functionality. This point made it a lot easier for me to decide going for the more cost-effective standard Note 4 instead.

Don't get me wrong, I still really like the Note Edge and the idea behind it despite what I mentioned above, but until Samsung decides to ditch the 'limited edition' and 'experimental' tags off their future Note Edges, I think I'll hesitate in going over the edge. But if they do, and I hope they do, then I think there's definitely a high chance my next Note device will be an edged version.

So for now, I'II go with regular but that doesn't mean I can't expand on what's regular to achieve a similar non-regular's end that I need.

The Apps Shortcut Functionality

Having scrolling tickers and notifications dancing across the edged screen of the Note Edge are certainly visual delights for the eyes but for now, these are wants more so than needs for yours truly. What's more of a need from the Note Edge for me though, is the Apps Shortcut panel that allows you to launch your selected apps from anywhere without having to exit any existing app already showing and running on the screen. That's certainty a time-saver and efficient convenience in my book.

But wait, you can already achieve the same end via the multi-window panel of the Galaxy Note, you say? Well yeah, but there is still a difference when it comes to launching another app fullscreen from anywhere (as opposed to it being launched as a floating window or as a regular multi-windowed pane in conjunction with another pane on the Note).

The keyword here is fullscreen and the difference lies in the number of steps involved. Let me explain further:

So you wanna open another app in fullscreen mode from anywhere without having to exit to the homescreen first; that is, while another app is already opened and active on the screen?

On the Note Edge, all you need to do is to swipe on the edged screen to access the Apps Shortcut panel, click on the app's icon, or, access it from a folder on the panel if you've tucked the app's shortcut in a folder - and there you go. That's 2 to 3 steps respectively (that's assuming you've set the Apps Shortcut panel as the first panel to be displayed on the edge). Keep this 2 to 3 steps in mind as we continue:

On the standard Note 4, if you press and hold the Back button to bring out the multi-window panel and then tap on the app you want, it will be launched as a floating window. But since, as aforementioned, the aim is to launch the targeted app fullscreen, you will have to tap on the circle at the top of the floating window to open its controls and then tap the maximise window button to make the app fullscreen. That's 4 steps.

Alternatively, you can press and hold the Back button to bring out the multi-window panel (while another existing app is still active on the screen) and drag the app you wish to open either to the top or bottom portion of the other already active app on screen and launch the newly-opened app as one of 2 multi-window panes. To make the app fullscreen, you have to tap on the circle along the top of its pane to open up the controls and press the maximise window button. That's 4 steps.

We can now see why the Apps Shortcut panel functionality of the Note Edge is more efficient when it comes to launching an app fullscreen - because it uses less steps and is more convenient and efficient.

Of course, if you wish to have 2 apps running side-by-side instead, the Note's regular multi-windows (or with a combination of floating windows) is still the way to go. Therefore, don't get me wrong, I am not trying to discount the usefulness of the regular multi-windows feature here; far from it, as I use the multi-windows feature quite frequently.

Ray Sidebar Launcher

With the Ray Sidebar Launcher app, you can achieve the same functionality of the Note Edge's Apps Shortcut panel on not just your Note 4, but also on any other Android phone. The app comes in either a free version or a pro version that allows you to do more and have more control options.

As you can see in the screenshot on the left, not only can you place your selected apps in the sidebar panel but you can also create folders to place additional apps within them too, just like on the Galaxy Note Edge.

Unlike on the Note Edge though, you can choose either the left or right edge of your phone to bring out the sidebar panel with a swipe gesture, so it doesn't matter whether you are left or right-handed or ambidextrous like yours truly, the app makes every different hand happy.

Hang on, there's more:

It's not just apps and folders, you can also place function control shortcuts (which the app labels as 'Actions') within the sidebar as you can see in the screenshot on the right. Two additional actions, namely 'Previous Track' and 'Next Track' for your music player controls are hidden in the screenshot but they can be accessed if you scroll upwards within the 'Action' category in the app.

What's different here from the Note Edge is that on the Note Edge, apps and folders have their own panel while function shortcuts (like the flashlight, for example) have their own seperate panel. On the Ray Sidebar app, you have all selected apps, folders and function shortcuts all placed within a single panel that automatically becomes vertically-scrollable if you place more than a screen length's worth of stuff in it. Click on a folder though, and the sidebar panel changes to show only the apps placed within the folder.

Also in contrast, the Note Edge opens folders in the middle of the phone's screen whereas on Ray's app, it opens folders within the sidebar panel itself. Different means, same end. Nice.

Finally, especially on the pro version, you can customise the swipe gesture areas as well as other things like how the sidebar behaves and looks and how long it remains open if you opt for automatic closure after a period of inactivity. You can even choose icon packs if you have them.

I wouldn't advise making the gesture area too overly and ridiculously wide in width though, as that could probably hamper or nullify clicks on other elements on the screen if they happen to get within the effective range of the gesture area.

So dear gentle reader, if you are also thinking that the Apps Shortcut panel of the Galaxy Note Edge is useful like I do too, but you are rocking with a different Android device instead, you can consider giving Ray Sidebar Launcher a go. If you are already rocking with a Note Edge but you are feeling greedy expansive.. hey, who am I to judge, knock yourself out with the app :)

I'm sure there are other similar apps out there including pie control apps which can basically do the same thing as well, so happy hunting if you would like to look at other available alternatives too.

It's nice having choices and alternatives to fill in the gaps, isn't it? That about sums up the beauty of Android.

(Update: You can also try out this alternative app which I'm using now.)