Top 10 S Pen stylus apps for the Samsung Galaxy Note 2

We explore the murky depths of the Google Play and Samsung stores to find brilliant apps that use the Note 2's S Pen stylus.

The Note 2 is an unmissable phone, both in the sense of being ridiculously fully featured, and also being the size of a small cottage. Personally, I don't think I could go back to a normal-sized mobile.

Still, one common complaint among Note 2 users is how little their S Pen gets used. The S Pen is a wonderful improvement on the horrible old stylus, allowing not just handwriting and note-taking, but also giving you all sorts of extra information by hovering over things like appointments and emails.

It's the very best kind of witchcraft, but outside of a handful of bundled apps, it's barely used -- mine was neatly tucked into its little nook for weeks.

Not any more though. I went exploring the murky depths of the Google Play and Samsung stores to find 10 great S Pen-enabled apps, and have come back with plenty to talk about. They're all free at the time of publication, unless otherwise noted.

Before I begin though, Samsung's own interactive guide to the Note 2 is an excellent starting point for S Pen novices, and will give you a good grounding in the tricks of finger-free-flicking.

Animating Touch, Makeup

1. Animating Touch

Ever fancied yourself as an animator? I have all the artistic talent of a goat with no legs, but even I can see the appeal of this fancy little app. Using a bunch of templates, or creating your own, you use the S Pen to move the hinges on characters between frames, and then watch the world come to life when you press play. You could do this with your fingers, but in my experience you need to be pretty exact to move the right parts, and the S Pen is perfect for it.

2. Makeup

Thanks to this app, I can now confirm what the rest of the world already guessed: I would not look good in garish makeup. Still, the app works well. You take a photo of yourself, or a friend who has no objection to you coating them in virtual eyeliner, and then apply various shades of cosmetics to see how it would look on you.

The S Pen comes into its own here, because it requires some delicate gestures to get the app to recognise how far your lips, eyes and eyebrows extend (that may just have been the app being critical of my face).

Papyrus Beta, My Real Font

3. Papyrus Beta

Note taking and writing apps are pretty common -- indeed, Samsung bundles a decent one with the Note 2 by default. Papyrus really blows it out of the water. The text entry is pressure sensitive with the S Pen, allowing for legible and really genuinely papery-looking notes. It supports multiple windows, and you can share any notes or doodles you've drawn very neatly and quickly. Brilliant.

4. My Real Font

Fed up of boring old Arial? Can't stand Comic Sans? Want to create your own WingDings-style code that only you can understand? My Real Font is for you. You simply write down how you want each letter and number to appear, and then test it in the real world. Mine made me look like a crazy person, but it would have been unreadable crazy without the S Pen. Still, I've learned to leave font creation to the professionals.

Paintrala

5. Paintrala

Want to join a community of budding artists to share your stylus doodles with? Paintrala is for you. Only compatible with Samsung phones, the joys of working with a pen rather than a stubby finger are clear, but it also has a community to share any creations with, allowing for Instagram-style follows. The top review of it on Google Play says, "This app made me an artist." While it's made me no better, those with some modicum of talent may find this just the thing to dig out the S Pen for.

Pen Pilot

6. Pen Pilot

The only game in the list (and the only download that will require you to brave the Samsung App Store), Pen Pilot is stupidly addictive and free to boot. Using the S Pen, you have to draw the path for the plane to fly in, going through the hoops and collecting coins as you go. Sounds simple, but the difficulty soon ramps up. I tried this using just my fingers and managed to crash on even the simplest courses, so only piano-fingered non-Note users need apply.

Layer Paint, Retouch

7. Layer Paint

I'm not a big user of Photoshop (what's wrong with MS Paint, eh?), but for those that are, Layer Paint is the answer. Allowing you to draw in layers, change canvas size and import images to edit on the go, it's a very flexible tool. The best thing about it is you can export your pictures out as a Photoshop file when done, allowing you to keep working on a proper computer when you arrive. And once again, the S Pen is far more precise than a chubby old finger.

8. Retouch

You've taken a photo on your Galaxy Note 2, and it's perfect except for one little blemish. No time for Photoshop now, you just want to tweet it quickly -- what do you do? Retouch quickly makes the changes you need right away, with zero fuss. Just select the area you want to blend with the S Pen, and then let the app do its magic: voila, blemish gone and nobody will be any the wiser.

SignDoc Mobile, GMD Spen Control

9. SignDoc Mobile

This one is very much for business users, with only one function, which it does very well -- it lets you sign PDF documents with your S Pen and send them right back via email. No printing, no fuss. For a not-quite-as-optimised (but still pretty good) experience, try SignNow instead.

10. GMD Spen Control

This one isn't for everyone. If you haven't rooted your Note 2 , or if you're opposed to spending anything more than a pound on apps, you're out of luck. Otherwise, this is a really neat new way of drastically changing the way you use your Note 2, as it allows you to use all kinds of S Pen-specific gesture controls to move between the functions of the device.

It's a tad confusing to begin with, but as you can block gestures you don't like and create your own custom ones, with a little practice you'll be multi-tasking like a bureaucratically effective ninja in no time.

For more Note 2 tips, check out these guides:

 

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