Make sure you're using the S Pen correctly

Samsung added even more functionality to its S Pen stylus in the Galaxy Note 3. Here's everything you need to know to get started.

Dan Graziano Associate Editor / How To
Dan Graziano is an associate editor for CNET. His work has appeared on BGR, Fox News, Fox Business, and Yahoo News, among other publications. When he isn't tinkering with the latest gadgets and gizmos, he can be found enjoying the sights and sounds of New York City.
Dan Graziano
4 min read

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Samsung's latest flagship device is scheduled to arrive in stores this week. The Galaxy Note 3 is bigger and better in nearly all respects. The company added a larger, 5.7-inch display with a higher resolution, a speedy 2.3GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor, and 3GB of RAM, and gave its S Pen stylus even more features, all while making the device slimmer and sleeker than its predecessor.

The S Pen is the primary reason for the success of the Note line of smartphones and tablets. The special stylus brings added functionality to Samsung's devices, allowing users to quickly take onscreen notes, draw pictures, and much more.

Here's how you can get the most out of the Galaxy Note 3's new S Pen:

Air Command

The S Pen is located on the bottom right-hand side of the Galaxy Note 3. Removing the stylus will cause the device to launch the Air Command menu, which can appear on the home screen or inside of an app. The menu gives quick and easy access to various S Pen features, such as Action Memo, Scrapbooker, Screen Write, S Finder, and Pen Window. It can also be enabled by hovering over the screen and clicking the button on the side of the stylus.

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Action Memo
Action Memo is the first option on the Air Command menu. This feature allows you to handwrite notes that can be linked to different actions, such as calling a number you wrote down, adding it as a contact, or sending it as a message or e-mail. You can also search the Internet or Google Maps, or even add the action to your Tasks.

The Galaxy Note 3 can automatically recognize what you write to complete these actions, however the feature seems to have a problem reading poor handwriting, which may leave many users frustrated.

In addition to being able to change the Action Memo background and ink color, notes can also be minimized and placed as a thumbnail on your home screen. Saved notes can be found inside of the Action Memo app in the Galaxy Note 3's app drawer.

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The second feature on the menu, known as Scrapbooker, gives you the ability to draw around a portion of the screen to take a screenshot. After selecting a certain area of the screen and taking a picture, you can add tags, written notes, and different categories for better organization. Images are then saved in the Pinterest-inspired Scrapbook app on your device.

Screen Write
A feature carried over from previous Note models is Screen Write. This feature takes a screenshot of your current page and then you can write notes on top of the image.

Inside of the Screen Write feature you can change the pen size and color by selecting the pen icon in the upper left-hand corner of the screen. To the right you will find the eraser, crop, undo, and redo tools, along with share, cancel, and save.

S Finder
Apple has Spotlight on its Mac computers and iOS devices, and now Samsung has S Finder. This feature, which can also be accessed with a long-press on the Galaxy Note 3's Menu button, allows you to search for anything on your device, including apps, contacts, and even handwritten notes.

Pen Window
Arguably the coolest thing Samsung included in the Galaxy Note 3, besides the S Pen itself, is a new multitasking feature called Pen Window. This feature lets you draw a box on the screen and then choose from eight different apps -- Calculator, Clock, YouTube, Phone, Contacts, ChatOn, Hangouts, and a browser -- to launch inside of it.

Clicking on the side or bottom of a box will let you resize it, while clicking on the white space at the top will let you move it. Other options include expanding the app to full-screen mode, or even minimizing it into a Chat Head-esque floating icon on your home screen.

To open a second box, simply launch the Air Command menu, select the Pen Window feature, draw a box, and choose a new app.


The S Pen settings, which can be found in the Controls tab, will let you customize your experience even further. From here you can turn off pen detection, change the action that occurs when you remove the S Pen, enable an onscreen pointer when you hover, and more.

Screenshot by Dan Graziano/CNET

S Pen Keeper
A cool but gimmicky feature Samsung added is the Galaxy Note 3's ability to alert you when the S Pen and smartphone are separated. The feature, which oddly enough only works when the screen is off, can be found in the S Pen settings as the "S Pen keeper" option.

When this is enabled you will receive a popup notification, in addition to your phone vibrating and making a sound when leaving the S Pen behind. Be warned, however, it only seemed to work half the time.

Other features

S Note
Another feature that has been recycled from previous Note models is S Note, which lets you draw and write notes over different templates, images, videos, charts, maps, and so on. The S Note feature isn't found on the Air Command menu, but rather inside of the app drawer.

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Samsung created a social-networking app, called Pen.Up, for Galaxy Note owners wanting to share, comment on, and rate the artwork they and others created using the S Pen. The Pen.Up app is available for Galaxy Note owners as a free download in the Google Play store.

One of the biggest complaints among Galaxy Note 2 users was that they couldn't use the stylus on the phone's capacitive buttons. Thankfully this is no longer an issue. The new S Pen now works on the Galaxy Note 3's menu and back button.

Watch this: Get the most out of the Galaxy Note 3's S Pen