There are times when I’m using an Android tablet that I wish I was able to use more desktop oriented features on the device – specifically when using a 10″ tablet. Many applications don’t take full advantage of larger screens and leave us feeling a little shafted when it comes to viewing a single pane of content on such a large screen; thankfully, a few developers have created a collection of extremely useful floating applications to cover all of your multitasking needs.
OverSkreen – A floating browser providing you with full resizable windows
Overskreen is a one of a kind web browser, which provides you with the default browser engine and functions in a beautifully constructed floating/windowed design. The browser allows you to use your device as if it was a desktop for multitasking thanks to the tabbed, resizable, and multiple window support. Browsing between two articles, websites, and other web-based applications while running a third application in the background is simple and easy to do. One of the better uses of the app is to have quick access to your various social networks without having to leave whatever you’re doing on your tablet. If you’re playing a fullscreen game and want to catch up on Twitter, then you can have a small phone-sized window with mobile Twitter and Facebook open for a quick method to access both.
Some of the many functions of the app include minimizing, fullscreen, quick minimize, and shutdown – all of which are available through touch actions on the top bar of the browser. Through the quick menu, you can access various quick features such as private tabs, new windows, copy current page url, and request desktop website (which is also available as a permanent setting under advanced options). The many features coupled with the ability to float it above any application is great for nearly any use: whether you’re playing a video game and want quick access to a strategy guide without worrying about the game closing, or you’re writing a paper and want to refer to web information while typing. When used with some of the later applications in this article, you are able to have a near full desktop experience when on your tablet.
HoverNote – A notepad with built in ICS+ spell check and resizable window
While Hovernote isn’t overflowing with features, the few that it includes do their job quite well. Taking notes, writing papers, and just using it as a task list is convenient wherever you are in your system. Used in conjunction with Overskreen, Hovernote is an awesome way to write papers and take notes. With half of the screen as a web browser, and the other half as a wordpad (with the built in ICS+ spell check, including red underlines for misspelled words), you can’t go wrong when needing to sit back and write a paper at home or take notes in class.
The notepad is available anywhere and uses a similar minimize system that all of the featured floating apps use; when the minimized button is pressed the application is minimized and place into the notification bar, which is then used like a taskbar on a desktop computer. Another minimize option offered is a tiny button which floats on the screen to stay out of the way, but provides a quicker method of restoring and easier access to the note.
LilyPad HD – A great looking floating chat client
I’d like to preface this section with this: This is a GREAT looking app, seriously. That being said, LilyPad HD functions just as well as it looks. The client allows the user to connect to Facebook, Google Talk, and MSN messenger to chat with your friends over top of any window. While I love the stock Google Talk app, this one has a very similar interface and does not require that you leave what you are currently doing to reply or message someone. Like Overskreen, you can minimize, quick hide, and shutdown the application from the top bar of the window; quick hide is accessed by double tapping the action bar on both applications which leaves you with essentially just the action bar visible (similar to the Overskreen screenshot).
Like a desktop client, the application features a friends list, chat window, and settings window which are all open in separate windows to be moved, closed, and resized to your liking. The chat window keeps your conversations in one view with the tabbed design to keep from cluttering up your window with too many conversations at once. Once in a chat, you can close the friends list and settings menu to keep only one window open if you desire.
Stick It! – A floating resizable video player (for local stored files and YouTube)
Similar to the rest of the applications in the list, Stick It! is a floating and resizable window which provides you with a method of watching videos stored on your device, or shared to the application for YouTube support. Including multiple themes, support for multiple video formats, and minimized playback you are able to have full functionality like watching YouTube on your desktop browser. Enabled in the options, minimized playback allows you to listen to music, documentaries, or discussions sessions without having to have the YouTube window open – meaning you can spend more time playing games or browsing the web instead of watching a static image in a talk show, for example. If you haven’t seen the Top Gear Reliant Robin video, click on the Stick It! image and enjoy. Seriously.
To launch Stick It!, you simply have to open the application and use the integrated file manager to navigate to your video and open to play it, which then minimizes the file chooser and opens the floating window. YouTube support is also included, but requires that you open Google’s YouTube application, then “share” the video to Stick It!. If the background play option is disabled, the application also supports playback of multiple videos at once allowing you to open and layer quite a few. (A gentleman on YouTube holds the record with something crazy like 17 1080p .mkv files played at once on a Tegra 3)
AirCalc – A floating resizable calculator, good for note taking apps or quick calculations
The final, and far less impressive of the all the applications is AirCalc. While it is not as featured filled as OverSkreen or the others, AirCalc still provides the ability to have a calculator open over top of applications where you might be taking notes or doing quick math. The most used place for me is inside of Asus’s SuperNote. SuperNote is perfect for taking notes and doing math problems thanks to its unique way of inputting information and storing it on a single line like you would do on paper; combined with AirCalc, you barely ever have to leave the application. The calculator provides the basic abilities that the standard ICS calculator does including the scientific tab by sliding the numpad on the calculator to the right. You won’t be doing any graphics or extensive calculating on it, but it’s convenient for what it does offer.
All of the apps have their own specific uses and are obviously more important to some users more than others. I frequently use two of these apps at once while using an application in the background, lots of times Splashtop so I can remote into my computer while still using my tablet for web browsing over top. I’ve written two papers and numerous articles via HoverNote and Overskreen, and listen to frequent podcasts and Q/A sessions via Stick It!. They’re all awesome applications and really deserve even more than what we said here to grab the full concept. AirCalc and LilyPad are free or have trial versions available (LilyPad has a paid version which unlocks the additional features that you test in the 3 day trial), while Stick It!, OverSkreen, and HoverNote are all paid applications for a completely reasonable price generally less than $3. Be sure to check out each application by clicking on the links below!
OverSkreen (floating browser)
LilyPad (Pop Up Floating Chat)
Stick it! (Pop-up Player)
AirCalc (on-screen calculator)