Samsung gave the Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra new stylus tricks. Here's how they work

Samsung's Note lineup is known for its S Pen, and it's getting even better on the Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra.

Jason Cipriani
Jason Cipriani
Jason Cipriani Contributing Writer, ZDNet
Jason Cipriani is based out of beautiful Colorado and has been covering mobile technology news and reviewing the latest gadgets for the last six years. His work can also be found on sister site CNET in the How To section, as well as across several more online publications.
Jason Cipriani
3 min read

The Note 20's S Pen has a few new tricks.

Angela Lang/CNET

The Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra are getting some fancy new S Pen tricks. Samsung first added gesture controls with the launch of last year's Galaxy Note 10, but they were somewhat limited. 

With the Note 20, you're getting more gestures for actions including going back to the home screen, switching between apps and even triggering Smart Select, the Note 20's screenshot tool. 

Below you'll find the Note 20's new Air Actions, how to use or customize them and a few of our favorite S Pen features as an added bonus. 


The S Pen is part of what makes the Note so appealing. 

Angela Lang/CNET

Navigate your Note 20 without touching your phone

There are a total of five new Anywhere Actions, joining the app-specific gestures that already existed. Those five gestures are:

  • Back: Functions the same way as the back button does on your Android phone. 
  • Home: Goes to your home screen. 
  • Recents: Opens the app switcher so you can see your recently used apps. (You can't scroll through your Recents with the S Pen, so you'll need to tap on your screen to open an app.) 
  • Smart Select Trigger the tool that lets you capture a section of your screen to share in a screenshot or create an animated GIF. 
  • Screen Write: Takes a screenshot of whatever's on your screen at that moment, allowing you to annotate or write on it and then share. 

Each action has its own specific gesture that you can trigger anytime you're using the S Pen. You'll need to hold in the button on the stylus in order for your Note to recognize the movement and respond appropriately. 

You can view the basic gesture for each command by going to Settings > Advanced features > S Pen> Air actions. Under the Anywhere command section is a small picture of the motion you'll need to make with the S Pen while holding in the button. 

Trust me, it will take a few attempts before you'll consistently trigger the desired action. I've struggled the most with the Screen Write gesture since it's just a giant squiggly line -- I'd end up triggering nothing at all or triggering the back gesture.


The small images are the gestures you'll use to trigger the commands. 

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

You can customize what's triggered by each gesture 

If you don't want to take a screenshot and write on it, or use your S Pen to go back, you can customize each of the five new triggers to do something else. 

On the Air Actions screen, tap on any of the anywhere commands to change what it does. You can repurpose it to launch a specific app on your phone, start a new note in Samsung Notes or change the navigation functionality. 

If you don't like a particular gesture -- or any of them, for that matter -- you can turn one or all of them off. 


Tap on the Air Action icon whenever you want to access more features. 

Angela Lang/CNET

Not sold on the new gestures? Here are some of our favorites

The gestures and tricks that turn the S Pen into more of a magic wand aren't all you can use it for. Here are a few of our favorite S Pen tricks we still find useful:

  • Launch the camera by long-pressing the S Pen's button. Press the button again to take a photo.
  • The Smart Select tool makes it easier to take precise screenshots. Remove the S Pen and then tap on the Smart Select icon to capture only what you need. 
  • Create an animated GIF of your screen using the Smart Select tool.
  • Remove the S Pen when the screen is off to start taking a Note, without even opening the Notes app.
  • Use the magnifying glass to get a better look at something on your screen by removing the S Pen and tapping on the glass icon. 

Now that you've mastered the proper wrist flick to control your phone with a stylus, check out some of our favorite hidden Note 20 features. If you're still on the fence about upgrading, read our ongoing Note 20 Ultra review, then preorder your Note 20 right now.

Watch this: Galaxy Note 20 Ultra: Hands-on first impressions