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 workday. The advanced stylus allows you to get more done on your phone — making the device great not just 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 fantastic for note-taking, drawing and navigating your phone. You can even use the S Pen as a remote for controlling your camera, playing music and media, and flipping through presentation slides.
With the launch of 2023’s Galaxy S23 Ultra, Samsung has incorporated the S Pen into its flagship line, making it even more responsive and further upgrading the Samsung Notes application. Samsung has also extended the S Pen to several other devices across the range. Its latest Galaxy Book3 360 and the foldable Galaxy Z Fold4 are S Pen-compatible, and S Pens are included with tablets like the Galaxy Tab S8 and the rugged Galaxy Tab Active4 Pro, bringing its advantages to more devices and users than ever before.
Whether you’re new to the S Pen or a longtime user, you can achieve a new level of productivity with the stylus thanks to these 13 smart tricks (some features may vary depending on the device you are using):
1. Screen-off memos
Note-taking with the S Pen is as simple and intuitive as writing in a notebook. With the Screen-off note-taking feature, you can quickly and discreetly jot down notes whenever and wherever the moment strikes without even unlocking your device. If the solution to a tricky problem just hit you and you’re in a meeting or on the train, you can capture it without having to fumble around for a notepad and pen.
To use Screen-off memo, pop out the S Pen when your device is locked and just start writing on the screen. Easily add pages as you go by clicking the down arrow. When you’re done, just hit Save and everything will be stored in Samsung Notes. From there, you can share and export.
Don’t miss a moment — take out your S Pen, and start writing.
2. Screen Write
Annotating images, charts or documents is easy with the Screen Write feature. In fact, you can add notes to absolutely anything you’re viewing on your device.
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Take out the S Pen or tap the floating pen icon on the right side of the screen to open the Air Command menu. From the 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.
For a longer document or entire webpage, you can use Scroll Capture to do it all at once. Tap the Scroll Capture icon (two downward arrows) with your S Pen, and hold it to capture additional pages. Then hit Done, and continue annotating on your extended screen capture.
3. Annotate PDFs
Samsung Notes also lets you import PDFs and annotate them without downloading an additional app. And with the S Pen’s pen-and-paper feel, adding a quick sketch or comment now comes as naturally as if you were making notes on a printed document someone left on your desk.
This flexibility comes in handy throughout the workday. If you find an interesting new research report, for example, just select Samsung Notes as the default PDF reader when you open it. Then, in Samsung Notes, tap the pen icon at the top to enter edit mode. Add your annotations, adjusting the pen type or choosing the highlighter as needed from the toolbar along the bottom. When you’re done, tap Save and select the three dots to export in various file formats, share it or even print it right from your phone. Watch our video for more pro tips on using Samsung Notes.
4. Write on Calendar
Sharing your schedule has never been easier thanks to Write on Calendar. This smart shortcut opens your calendar to the current month, where you can add notes and share them in an instant.
Need to share your upcoming availability for a meeting? 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 or block out dates, add your notes, and hit Save.
Write on Calendar can also be accessed directly by tapping the pen icon in the top right of your Calendar app when you are in the monthly planner view. After quickly syncing your schedules, you can get back to the day’s events.
Pro tip: If you don’t see Write on Calendar or the other tools mentioned here within your Air Command Shortcuts menu, tap the Add icon at the bottom of the menu and drag it across to your Shortcuts bar.
5. Convert your handwriting
Are your thumbs tired of typing away on the on-screen keyboard? 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.
You can take advantage of this feature across a wide range of apps. When using Samsung Notes, tap the S Pen-to-text icon (a pen with a small T next to it) in the toolbar. As you write, your handwriting will be converted — with remarkable accuracy — and you can then choose to copy the text into an email, message or other document. You can also convert notes to text after you have finished writing; tap the icon with the writing and large T, then select the area of notes you want to convert. Samsung Notes is smart enough to recognize email addresses and phone numbers, too, so you can just click and call from your handwritten notes.
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Separately, you can use handwriting to text within your email or messaging app by using the Samsung keyboard. Within the keyboard, tap the three dots and select handwriting mode. You can then take notes within the notepad area and have them converted immediately.
6. Smart Select
Zero in on exactly what you want to share with the Smart Select feature, which lets you 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 like.
7. Photo and video editing
The S Pen makes editing photos and videos on your phone or tablet quick and easy. After you’ve captured content with the camera, tap the pen icon to access the 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 handwritten annotations or captions on a photo or video — a great way to communicate complex visual information. To add captions, tap the Decorations (smiley face) icon, select your preferred text style and color, and then add your copy.
Browsing the web and come across something in a foreign 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 makes it easy to communicate efficiently while on the go, from just about anywhere in the world.
You can even translate text in a photo, thanks to optical character recognition (OCR). To get started, open a 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 your S Pen over the words and tap the sound icon to hear their pronunciation. To toggle between translating a single word and an entire sentence, tap the text icon at the left of the Translate overlay.
Need to get a close-up? The Magnify feature lets you hover over anything on your screen and zoom in up to 300%. View photos or drawings in precise detail, even while you’re on the go. Paired with the Space Zoom camera, Magnify lets you see or capture anything in the course of your work.
S Pen as remote control
These last few tips leverage the S Pen’s built-in Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) capabilities and motion sensor. (Note: Not all S Pens feature BLE connectivity, so check your device specifications.)
When you’re not using it as a pen, the S Pen can become a remote control, responding when you press its side button and execute simple gestures. To explore this functionality, go to Settings > Advanced Features > S Pen > Air Actions. Here, you can view and customize what happens when you press the S Pen button. For our final four tips, here are some of the ways you can use the S Pen as a remote control:
10. Run your presentation
Leave an impression in your next meeting by using your phone or tablet to present in Microsoft PowerPoint and your S Pen to advance slides. 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 device, you can either launch Samsung DeX or use Smart View to wirelessly mirror your screen to a Wi-Fi-enabled display. DeX, Samsung’s platform for transforming your smartphone into a desktop computer, gives you a complete presentation experience.
Once Samsung DeX launches on the presentation screen, pull down the notification menu on your device and opt to use it as a touchpad. Now, you can use your finger or the S Pen to navigate 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. Just click the S Pen button once to advance slides and click it twice quickly to skip back.
11. Control your camera
Want to take a group photo? You can snap a picture from atop a tripod using your S Pen as a remote to avoid disturbing the camera. Simply set up your device to capture the shot, take out the S Pen and get into position. Then just click the S Pen button to take a photo.
Need a different angle or a close-up? The 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 use the gesture controls to make sure you get the right shot.
12. Remote control music and media
As a remote control, the S Pen can also play and pause your music and media.
First, set up your phone or tablet 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 with a click of the S Pen button.
When you’re hosting an event, you can control the music — or a video presentation — right from the floor. Your S Pen lets you discreetly control the screen from afar, all without missing a beat.
13. Anywhere actions
In addition to these powerful Air Actions, you can add custom gestures to your device. When you customize your Anywhere Actions, you can use one of these gestures to navigate your phone or tablet, or even access specific apps and features. Just go to S Pen settings > Air Actions, and configure them to your preferences.
A growing number of business apps now support Air Actions. The Bluejeans videoconferencing platform, for example, lets you mute and unmute your mic with a click of the S Pen button.
Whether you’re using a Galaxy S23 Ultra, the rugged Galaxy Tab Active4 Pro or another device, the advanced stylus is built for the new way you work — anywhere, anytime. By incorporating the S Pen into your workflow, you can bring your note-taking to the digital age, enjoying brand-new levels of productivity.
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