If you thought having multiple windows open on your Android device requires you to be using some special device, think again. A floating app may be all you need.
The multi-window feature that is available on devices like Samsung Galaxy Note series is much in demand, and unsurprisingly so. After all, who likes to be interrupted by an incoming message or alert while watching an awesome YouTube video?
Floating apps are just what they sound like – sticky or persistent apps that float on the screen on top of the app you’re currently using. They allow you to multitask, give you quick access to some common functions that you use regularly, and keep you from having to return to the home screen too frequently.
We have covered a few floating Android apps on MakeUseOf before, including a floating music player, floating browser, floating sticky notes, and a floating YouTube player. But that was over a year ago, and quite a few other nifty apps have been introduced since then.
Here’s a roundup of three useful floating apps that will make your digital workflow easier. As these are multiple apps packaged within a single app, you need not install various standalone apps to display your favorite ones in floating form.
Tiny Apps Lite (Floating) [No Longer Available]
Want to jot down an idea before it slips out of your mind? Feel like listening to your favorite song right away? Just install the Tiny Apps floating app and you can do both without switching from any other app you’re using at the moment.
You get to choose from five widgets – a notepad, sound recorder, paint application, music player, and a calculator. Use the float functionality to keep one or all of the widgets open on top of other apps. For example, if you’re taking a break from working on a blog post, you can doodle away side by side in the painting widget till you’re ready to resume work.
Moving, resizing, and closing one of these widgets is quite simple and easily understood from the tiny tutorial that appears immediately after you install the app.
If you’re looking for widget-specific options such as copy/paste for the notepad, or the color picker for the painting widget, you’ll find them by tapping on the arrow icon at the top left of the widget interface. Do remember that these widgets, useful as they are, eat into screen space, which can be a problem if you have a small device to begin with. There’s a simple workaround for that. Tap on minimi in the widget menu to tuck the widget away in the notifications panel till the next time you need it. Problem solved!
Floating Apps gives you access to various floating widgets, all accessible from the tiny app icon that pops up on your screen after installation. You can place this icon anywhere on the screen, and it continues to unobtrusively stay on top.
Accessing Floating Apps from the app drawer brings up the main app screen, which is where you’ll find the nuts and bolts to set up the app to your liking. A browser, flashlight, bookmarks manager, launcher, and a dialer are some of the apps in the free version. If you want access to more apps such as YouTube, Twitter, File Browser, Music Player, and Facebook, the Pro version is your answer. It also allows you to create floating widgets from apps of your choice.
The launcher widget is like a floating list version of the app drawer. While it is handy to fire up any app instantly, I found it odd that once you open an app by selecting it from the Launcher, you have to open another instance of the Launcher to open the next app.
Turn any URL into a floating app from the My Applications section. In the screenshot below, you can see how I have used this feature to create a floating app for MakeUseOf, and even added a shortcut to the homescreen. Now, in the middle of using any app, I can jump to the MakeUseOf website to take a quick look at some of the latest posts.
When you navigate to the Settings section, you’ll be greeted with quite a few options to control how the app behaves visually. As I have discovered, the floating menu can turn out to be quite the time saver. Enable it to access apps in a panel that stays tucked into the side of the screen, ready to be displayed and hidden with a swipe.
Making apps accessible from the notification bar, hiding the quick launch icon, changing app transparency, and configuring apps to display them in the floating menu are some of the other tweaks that you can take care of from this screen.
Want to get your hands on a Pro app or two for free? Send out a tweet about Floating Apps from within the app and you’ll get immediate access to the Calculator, Search Google, and Search Wikipedia apps. If you share the app on Facebook, you get the floating video player for free.
Floating Toucher [No Longer Available]
Finally we come to the the most customizable app in the list. When in use, Floating Toucher appears as a small circular dashboard or panel bang in the middle of the screen. At other times, it sits on the edge of the screen as a small circular icon, ready to display the main panel with a tap. Swipe the circular menu to the right and left to reveal two more panels. If you’re running the free version, only the central one is available to you.
Tap the folder icon on the right in the central panel to display a fourth panel, which seems more or less the floating equivalent of the usual Quick Settings panel. It gives you one-click access to settings for Wi-fi, Bluetooth, screen rotation, brightness, etc.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll want to customize the app to perfection. You can do that from the app settings screen which is accessible by tapping on the central icon in the main panel.
What I liked best about Floating Toucher was that even in the free version I could replace the default panel apps with custom ones. As you can see in the screenshot below, from the main app settings screen, I was able to add links to recent apps and Pocket, replacing the default browser and cleaner apps.
A Simple Way To Get The Multi-Window Feature On Android
Having to return to the home screen or the list of recently used apps every now and then can be annoying. But thanks to powerful floating apps, you can manage quite a few of your regular tasks without having to leave the screen you’re using at any point of time.
For those of you who require only the odd floating app or two, all-in-one packages like the ones listed here might be overkill. If that’s the case, opt for standalone floating apps or a floating automation widget instead. Whichever way you look at it, floating apps can make your workflow simpler. Now who wouldn’t want that?
Do you use one or more floating apps? What do you like best about them? Let us know in the comments.