Master the S Pen on the Note 3: Feature Focus

by: Bogdan PetrovanOctober 11, 2013
24 36 95

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 jet black S pen stylus aa 9

The Galaxy Note 3 impresses through its size, but there are many other large phones on the market that are nowhere nearly as successful. What really makes the Note 3 stand out is the S Pen, the stylus that adds a lot of functionality to the phone, allowing you to really make use of that expansive screen.

You can use the S Pen in numerous ways on the Note 3, ranging from strictly business tasks, such as drafting a table, to fun and games, like pinning a YouTube video to the screen or doodling a cartoon. But it’s precisely this variety of settings and functions that can make the S Pen a bit intimidating, especially if you’re a newcomer to the Note series.

In this Feature Focus, we take a close look at the functionality of the S Pen and show you how it can enhance the way you use your Note 3.

First things first: Settings

To get started, we recommend that you go through the S Pen Settings on your Note 3, to configure a slew of related options.

You can set your phone to detect the removal of the S Pen from its holder and play a sound, open the Air Command menu, or a specific app. If you want to conserve battery life, you can disable S Pen detection altogether.

Galaxy Note 3 S Pen settings

Another feature you can enable is S Pen keeper, which alerts you when you walk away without the S Pen, thus sparing you from a potential headache. You can also toggle the pointer (similar to a PC cursor) and the Direct pen input option, which lets you input handwritten text throughout the system.

The basics

Now that you’ve configured the S Pen to your liking, it’s time to dive in.

The stylus is symmetrical and more squarish than the Note 2’s S Pen, so you can insert it in its slot in any orientation.

The new S Pen preserves some of the features present on the Note 2, such as S Note. However, there’s a big change right of the bat – gestures are no longer available, and drawing on the screen with the S Pen button pressed now lets you “clip” text or media.

Galaxy Note 3 S Pen clip

Clicking the button while hovering the S Pen over the screen opens Air Command, the new palette menu that groups five of the most useful features of the S Pen.

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 S pen stylus aa 4

Hovering over some elements of the interface triggers a contextual action, such as displaying the contents of a folder or a preview of a gallery.

Galaxy Note 3 S Pen preview

Finally, hovering over a text box, such as in the messaging app, shows the button for Direct Pen Input, which uses the Note 3’s excellent handwriting recognition to turn your chicken scratch into text. It’s simple and accurate, and we think you’ll find it quite useful.

Galaxy Note 3 S Pen handwriting

Productivity vs. creativity

Two apps that are specifically designed for S Pen use are S Note and Sketchbook from Autodesk, which comes pre-installed on the Note 3. The revamped S Note lets you jot down your ideas and reminders, but it’s much more than that. You can soup up your note with charts, images, videos, voice memos, or maps, turning it into a powerful little tool for road warriors.

Galaxy Note 3 S Pen s note

Sketchbook is for the moments you want to get creative. Basically, it’s a great drawing app that the more talented amongst us will find suitable for art creation on the go.

Galaxy Note 3 S Pen sketchbook

Air Command

Getting back to Air Command, arguably the biggest addition to the S Pen functionality on the Note 3, the menu gives you five options:

  • Action Memo – perhaps the most useful option of the menu, it allows you to use handwritten text in a variety of ways. Scribble down an address and you can send it over to the Maps app in an instant; write a phone number, and there’s an option to call it right from Action Memo; URLs, email addresses, contact names, or tasks work the same way.

Galaxy Note 3 S Pen action memo

  • Scrapbook – for those moments when you want to save an item you saw in an online store, or a quote that impressed you, or just a web page that you want to save for later. Scrapbook is great because it saves metadata too, like the URL of the site you “scraped” the info from.

Galaxy Note 3 S Pen scrapbook

  • Screen Write – takes a screenshot and lets you annotate it.
  • S Finder – a powerful search tool that looks through all your content, including handwritten notes. S Finder also has a slew of tags that you can use to narrow down the search results.

Galaxy Note 3 S Pen s finder

  • Pen Window – somehow similar to Sony’s Small Apps, Pen Window lets you define an area on the screen where you can pin an app, like YT, Hangouts, or a calculator. It’s basically a simple way to multitask, though the app selection is rather limited.

Galaxy Note 3 S Pen pen window

These are some of the most useful ways you can use the Galaxy Note 3’s S Pen stylus. As you can see for yourself, the S Pen really adds to the experience of using the Note 3, being much more than a scribbling tool.

Of course, if you dislike the stylus, you can simply ignore it and still have a great user experience on the Note 3, but we strongly recommend that you give the S Pen a try before you decide it’s not your thing.

  • Bone


  • frankie

    great! thanks

  • King Dinga Ling

    This phone is a beast. Best phone I’ve ever owned.

    • Maher Salti

      how is the battery life for you?

      • Lin

        I get about 10-12 hours of medium to heavy use

        • King Dinga Ling

          It’s pretty freakin good. I use it a decent amount (facebook, instagram, email, calls, text) and usually get 2 days out of it. I charge over night and make it through that day and the next with battery to spare. My note 2 was the same way. Just need to be sure to close apps and clear the ram every once in a while.

      • jammyh

        I am getting in excess of 12 hours with heavy use. Very impressed with battery life.

    • Twens

      I love it more than you do. Hihihi

  • cvgordo

    phone has been awesome so far.
    the darthstalker rom allows any app to be included in the pen window list.

  • Mrkud

    Can I user Nova and still use spen features?

    • IanDickson

      From what I’ve been able to tell thus far, yes. Air Command works, Action Note works, clip and scrapping works…

      If Nova didn’t work, I would have been distraught.

    • simpleas

      Nova Prime + Touch Wiz = FTW
      Here’s my layout

    • J the Pond Lady

      Yes, there are others that are using Nova, and really impressed me with fancy home screens!

  • J the Pond Lady

    GREAT article. Next time I see a, cough cough review, saying that few people will bother with the stylus and it’s a niche phone that’s too big, I’ll refer them to come right HERE! I couldn’t wait until I got my hands on the first Note, finally a screen I could read for ages and no eye strain! I fell in love with the S-pen and all the organization and research, etc. that I could literally keep in the palm of my hand! Hats off to you for so clearly showing how others can make the most of this wonderful ….. so much more than a mere phone!!!

  • panonski

    Does anyone here know how to quick change color of writing in S NOte? On Note 2, you just put your favorite color styles and also eraser tool, into quick settings , and change it by double clicking.

  • Ujjwal khadka

    Can someone help me:( how to set s pen keeper in note 3 neo;

  • pavan madipatla
  • Keeping it Real

    I find the note 3 pen unusable. Way too complicated. I literally end up using the stylus to jot down numbers in the dirt on the ground because trying to use the notepad and stylus is way too problematic. I am serious