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13 things you didn’t know you could do with the S Pen

Ever since the first Samsung Galaxy Note launched back in 2011, mobile professionals have been using the S Pen to write, annotate and highlight their way through the work day. The advanced stylus allows a user to get more done on their phone, making the device not just a screen for content consumption, but also for creating and doing.

Designed to feel like a real pen (complete with a subtle pencil-on-paper sound as you write), the S Pen is great for note-taking, drawing and navigating your phone. But, with the next-level power of the Galaxy Note20 and Note20 Ultra, there is a lot more you can do.

The S Pen even acts as a remote for controlling your camera with gestures, playing music and media and flipping through presentation slides.

Whether you are new to the Galaxy Note series or a long-time user, you can achieve a new level of productivity with the S Pen using these 13 smart tricks.

1. Screen-off Memos

Notetaking with the S Pen is as simple as writing in a notebook. With Screen-off Memo, you can quickly and discreetly jot notes without unlocking your Galaxy Note20, wherever and whenever the moment strikes.

To use Screen-off Memo, pop out the S Pen when the phone is locked and just start writing. Easily add additional pages as you go by clicking the down arrow. When you’re done, hit Save and everything will be stored in Samsung Notes. From there, you can share and export (see tip number five below).

With Screen-off Memo, if the solution to a tricky problem just hit you and you’re in a meeting or on the train, you can still capture it without having to fumble around for a notepad and pen. Don’t miss a moment — take out your S Pen and just start writing.

2. Screen Write

Annotating images, charts or documents is easy with Screen Write. In fact, you can add notes to absolutely anything you are viewing on your Note20.

Take out the S Pen or tap the pen icon on the right side of the screen to open the Air Command menu. In this menu, tap Screen Write. This will immediately take a screen capture of the content you were reviewing and open the S Pen annotation tools. You can now add notes with the S Pen, crop the image and share your illustrated thoughts via email or your preferred messaging app.

If it’s a longer document, use Scroll Capture to do it all at once. Tap the Scroll Capture tab with your S Pen and hold it to capture additional pages. Then hit Done and continue with your annotation on the multipage screen capture.

3. Annotate PDFs

Samsung Notes also gives you the ability to import PDFs and annotate them without downloading an additional app. And with the refined S Pen giving you a truer pen and paper experience, adding a quick sketch or comment now comes as naturally as it would if you were making notes on a memo someone left on your desk.

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This flexibility can come in handy throughout the workday. If you notice an interesting research report that just came out, for example, you can open it right up in Samsung Notes, easily add your impressions with the responsive S Pen, save and share. No need to search for the right app to open your PDF — just access it from within Samsung Notes and you can capture your thoughts while they’re fresh in your mind.

4. Write on Calendar

Coordinating schedules has never been easier with Write on Calendar. This smart shortcut will open your calendar to the current month and let you add notes and share in an instant.

Need to share your availability for a meeting and circle some preferred dates? Take out your S Pen, tap the pen icon to open the Air Command menu, and select Write on Calendar. Your calendar will open instantly with a handy set of annotation tools. Circle and block out dates, add notes and then hit Save.

Write on Calendar can also be accessed directly by hitting the pen icon at the top right in your Calendar app. This allows you to quickly sync your schedules so you can get back to the day’s events.

5. Convert your handwriting

On-screen keyboard got you feeling all thumbs? Use your S Pen to write naturally, then instantly convert your handwriting to text, ready to paste into an email or convert into a Microsoft Word document.

To use this feature, simply take out your S Pen and launch the Samsung Notes app. Take your handwritten notes (selecting from options that include pen type, line thickness and color). When you’re done, hit Save and then tap the handwriting-to-text icon on the bottom menu. Your handwriting will be converted to text (with quite remarkable accuracy), and you can then choose to copy that text into an email or message.

Samsung Notes is smart enough to recognize email addresses and phone numbers too, so you can just click and call from your handwritten notes.

You also have several other options for exporting from Samsung Notes, including Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and PDF formats. After saving your notes, just tap the menu icon at the top right, and choose which file type you’d like to export it as. The Microsoft Word export option is right there on the Galaxy Note20, which has Office Mobile preloaded. Select that and you’ll instantly get a Microsoft Word document that contains both the converted text and the original handwritten notes. It’s extremely useful if you included a sketch or diagram that you want to keep on file.

6. Smart Select

Zero in on exactly what you want to share with the Smart Select feature, which allows you to lasso anything you can see on your screen and export it as an image. First, open the content that has the snippet you want and tap Smart Select in the Air Command menu. From there, you can select or lasso the exact content you need and quickly save or share it. You can even extract text from the selected content, quickly sharing and repurposing it as you see fit.

7. Video editing

The S Pen makes editing videos on your phone quick and easy. After you’ve captured content on the Note20’s next-level camera system, tap the pen icon to access the powerful native editing tools.

With the precision of the S Pen, you can quickly trim a video clip, add filters, touch up faces and add music. The S Pen is especially useful if you want to add captions or handwritten annotations on a video or photo — a great way to communicate complex visual information to a colleague. For captions, tap the CC icon, select the text style and color and then add your copy. For annotations, tap the painter’s palette icon and start writing or drawing.

8. Translate

Browsing the web and come across something in another language? Hover your S Pen over a word or phrase for an instant translation, then tap the sound icon to hear it pronounced. This convenient feature helps you communicate more easily and efficiently while on the go, nearly anywhere in the world.

You can even translate text in a photo, thanks to optical character recognition (OCR). To get started, open the document, website or photo of the text you want to translate. Pop out the S Pen and tap Translate in the Air Command menu. At the top of the screen, you can set the languages you want to translate from and to. Then simply hover the S Pen over the words, and tap the sound icon to hear the pronunciation. To toggle between translating a single word and an entire sentence, tap the text icon at the left of the Translate overlay.

9. Magnify

Need to get a close up? Magnify lets you hover over anything on your Note20’s screen to zoom in by up to 300 percent. View photos or drawings in precise detail, even while you’re on the go. When paired with the Space Zoom feature on the Note20 Ultra’s powerful 108MP camera — which gives you up to Super Res 50x zoom capability — there’s nothing you won’t be able to see or capture in the course of your work.

S Pen as remote control

These last few tips leverage the Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) capabilities and motion sensor built into the Galaxy Note20’s S Pen. Rather than using the S Pen as a pen, it becomes a remote control, responding when you press the button on the side and execute simple gestures. To explore this functionality, go to Settings > Advanced Features > S Pen > Air Actions. Here you can view and customize what will happen when you press the S Pen button. We’ll cover just a few of the ways you can use the S Pen as a remote control in our final four tips.

10. Run your presentation

Leave an impression in your next meeting by using the Note20 to present and the S Pen to advance slides in Microsoft PowerPoint. You can keep your presentation moving smoothly from up to 30 feet away thanks to the S Pen’s BLE connectivity.

To present from your phone, you can either launch Samsung DeX using an HDMI adaptor, or you can use Smart View to wirelessly mirror your screen to a Wi-Fi-capable display. DeX, Samsung’s platform for transforming your smartphone into a desktop experience, will give you a more complete presentation experience.

(Read our beginner’s guide for a complete rundown of the DeX platform.)

Once Samsung DeX launches on the presentation screen, pull down the notification menu on your Note20 and opt to use your phone as a touchpad. Now you can use your finger or pen to navigate on the presentation screen and open the PowerPoint slides. Tap the icon to go into presentation mode and start your pitch. You’re free to move around the room as you present: Click once on the S Pen button to advance slides, and twice quickly to skip back.

11. Control your camera

Want to take a group photo at the end of a successful off-site retreat, or during a break at your next conference? Wish you could remotely snap that commemorative picture from atop a tripod without accidentally disturbing the camera? Simply set up your Note20 to capture the shot, take out the S Pen and get into position. From there, just click the S Pen button to take a photo.

Need a different angle or a close-up? The new motion sensor in the S Pen gives you more control of the camera with simple gestures. Swish the pen upward to switch between cameras, and circle the pen to zoom in or out. You can start recording a video using the S Pen as well, and make use of those gesture controls to ensure you get the right shot.

12. Remote control music and media

You can use the S Pen remote control to play and pause music and media as well.

First, set up your Note20 to begin playing the music or video clip of your choice, whether it’s in Samsung’s native Gallery app, or another streaming service like YouTube, Netflix or Spotify. You can now stop or start the track or video as desired with a click of the S Pen button.

If you’re hosting an event and want to control the music or a video presentation from the floor, you can discreetly make that happen from afar with your S Pen — all without missing a beat.

13. Anywhere actions

If these Air Actions weren’t powerful enough on their own, you can access four new gestures on your Note20 device. Customize your Air Actions so you can use one of these gestures to navigate your Note20, or even access apps and features whenever you like. Just go to S Pen settings > Air Actions and configure actions and apps according to your preference.

A growing number of business apps now support Air Actions — for example, the Bluejeans video conferencing platform lets you mute and unmute your mic with a click of the S Pen’s button.

The Galaxy Note20 with S Pen is built for the new way you work, all day, every day.

Learn more about how the new Galaxy Note20 and Note20 Ultra can support your work from anywhere. And see how experts predict workplaces will evolve in the new normal.

Posts By

Rose de Fremery

Rose de Fremery is a New York-based B2B technology content marketing writer specializing in cybersecurity, AI, IoT, digital transformation, enterprise communications and mobility. In addition to contributing to Samsung Business Insights, Rose has also worked with brands such as Vonage, HP, IBM, Intel, WordPress, Sage and Rapid7.

View more posts by Rose de Fremery