What makes task switching second nature to us on the computer is that we hardly think about it. If we don’t need it, the task switch menu isn’t around to clutter our screen. It’s only when we hit Alt+Tab that we can easily switch between windows and programs. We can enjoy the same unobtrusiveness with Smart Taskbar for Android.
The only thing that reminds you that Smart Taskbar is running in the background is the transparent arrow on the right side of the screen. Tap on the arrow to bring up a screen that can give you access to your apps. The top-most bar lets you return to your homescreen, refreshes your apps, and lets you access your Settings, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 3G/APN and Flight settings.
On the next bar, you can put shortcuts to 5 of your apps. On the bottom part, you can access all your apps, your current tasks and your widgets. You can also make your own category if you want to customize your experience. Long-tap on an app and it will give you the option to look at the app’s info, to edit it, or to uninstall it.
We quite liked the simplicity of the transparent square, but if that isn’t your thing, you can head to Smart Taskbar’s settings menu and change it to a half circle or a full circle in either black or orange.
Smart Taskbar is available for free. You won’t see ads on the task switcher screen itself but you will see ads on the Smart Taskbar Settings screen. If you purchase the pro version, you get access to two panels for the Quick Launch menu. You can also access the Task Killer.
If you found Smart Taskbar’s icon on the right side of the screen annoying, SwipePad: Hyperspace Jump gives you a different experience. In fact, you won’t see any icons on your screen at all. SwipePad is particularly handy when you have a set of apps you’d like to be able to easily access without having to leave the app you’re currently using. Maybe you’re reading an article and you’d like to make a note to pick something up later. Simply press your fingertip on the right corner of your screen and drag it towards the center. You can easily access apps you allocate to the 12 slots that SwipePad gives you.
Adding apps is easy. Bring the rotating circle to a blank slot, lighting it up in orange. You can choose to assign an application to it, a widget, shortcuts, and much more. Set it to apps like Evernote, Astrid, or Chrome so you can easily take notes, give yourself reminders and check the internet. You can even set one of the slots to Quick Post, which allows you to easily get to your social media tools to tell your friends what’s on your mind.
SwipePad has other hotspots you can utilize. Pick any one of them and assign functions to access your Recently contacted, Frequently contacted, and Recent tasks lists. If you want more functions, you’ll need to purchase the MoreSpace: SwipePad add-on from the Google Play Store.
Being able to check on our currently running apps is great, but sometimes we’ll need quick access to apps we haven’t even opened yet. InstaDock App Organizer makes things easy for you by giving you the option to pick your favorite apps under certain categories.
By default, InstaDock gives you categories such as Games, Google, Multimedia, Phone, Productivity, Social, and Tools. The category folders start out as empty so you have the freedom to add apps that you really need. InstaDock’s free version only lets you save 7 apps per category, which may be enough for the regular user. Power users, however, can purchase InstaDockPlus to get more space.
InstaDock has a widget that you can keep on your homescreen. The widget doesn’t show apps grouped by categories but instead shows your most recently used ones. You might initially be turned off by the tiny size of the icons but if you long press on the widget, you can resize it and the icons inside of it.
The widget lets you access your app categories, add apps to your favorites, launch InstaDock’s task killer, and tweak InstaDock’s settings. InstaDock can be customized by choosing its theme and colors, editing the categories, and more. You can access more of InstaDock’s settings by purchasing the InstaDock Plus Unlocker from the Google Play Store.
Compared to the apps we’ve already covered, PreHome may not be as feature-rich, but it certainly gets to the point. Launch the PreHome app and you’ll be shown your recently used apps. Long press on any of the app icons and the app will prompt you to kill the task. Tasks that are killed don’t disappear from the app tray but are darkened instead.
If you want to get to PreHome’s settings, launch the app and then hit the Settings button on your device. This will bring you to PreHome’s settings with quick instructions on how to use the app. Instead of tapping on icons on the side of the screen, PreHome lets you assign it to your device’s Home button. That means whenever you’re browsing, you can easily bring up your recently used apps by hitting your Home button. To be able to access your real home screen, you’ll need to tap on the Home button for a second time.
PreHome’s interface is clean and simple. There are no unnecessary frills here. PreHome is free but ad-supported. The only place you’ll see the ads are on PreHome’s Settings menu. You’ll hardly notice they’re there otherwise.
Overall, PreHome is very simple and fast. I loved how intuitive it is and how easy it is to access. No fancy gestures here; PreHome easily becomes second nature when you operate your phone.
AppSwipe! (Task Switcher) is more than what its name suggests; it’s also an app manager that promises to give you an Alt+Tab look and feel. Launching AppSwipe! lets you check out apps that are currently running, apps that you recently opened, and your favorite apps all on one window. Tap on the app icon of your choice and watch as the icon twirls before it launches the app. You can also tweak AppSwipe!’s settings or free up memory by tapping on Free All Memory.
Long-tap on any of the app icons and you’ll bring up another menu. You can choose to Switch To the app, check out the app’s info, add it to your Favorites, add it to the list of apps that you want to ignore, or uninstall the app.
AppSwipe! comes with a widget but it only shows you your running apps for easy access. You can see a large X on the left side of the widget but that is not usable in the free version of the app. The free version is a little hard to access but it’s still handy.
AppSwipe! is available for free but to enjoy its full features, such as the ability to kill all running apps to free up memory via the widget, you’ll need to purchase AppSwipe!’s Unlock Key. You can also enjoy features such as being able to launch AppSwipe! from the Home, Search, or Camera button, status bar notification on boot, and customizable controls and actions.
Though Android mobile devices aren’t as powerful as desktops and laptops yet, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy multitasking on them. We’ve just put together a list of some of the best task switchers and multitasking apps for Android. Check them out and increase your productivity.
Which one of these appealed to you the most? Which one of these are you using and can’t bear to part with? Tell us about your task switching and multitasking experience on Android.
(with contributions from Alvin Ybañez; banner image uses Shutterstock image “social media, communication in the global computer networks” by VLADGRIN)