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Freeform windows [Diving into Android N]

Today we’re actually getting a glimpse at what multiple, freeform windows could look like on Android. It's still very beta, but it looks very promising.

Published onMarch 21, 2016

Image credit: Ars Technica
Image credit: Ars Technica

Multi-window support has long been an ambition of the Android operating system. However, multitasking has always remained cumbersome and counter-intuitive. That is, until we reached Android N. One of the headlining features of Android N is its multi-window support, which enables users to run apps side by side on the screen simultaneously. However, there were some hints in the code that seemed to point to even more multi-window functionality. Today we’re actually getting a glimpse at what multiple, freeform windows could look like on Android.

Note: Be sure to check out our Diving into Android N series for more coverage!

Ars Technica is reporting that freeform windows are a reality on Android N. They were assisted by reader Zhuowei Zhang, who contacted them and let them know how to activate the feature. Once it was live, the team rolled up their sleeves and got a good close look at freeform windows.

Android N logo 1

It’s not great, to be honest, but then again we’re still in very early development of this version of the operating system. The functionality works much like RemixOS, Jide’s take on Android for desktop machines. The windows are clean and Material with maximize and close buttons, and you’re free to arrange them on the screen however you like. Scaling is a bit clumsy, as there’s no way to scale two directions simultaneously. You can’t grip the corner of a window and drag diagonally; you have to adjust the edges one at a time to get the width and height you want.

Tapping the Recent Apps button while in freeform window mode does an helpful thing: the the parade of recent apps fills up half the screen, and the current windowed apps are swiftly organized into easily accessible icons. This makes navigating between apps easier than it’s ever been on Android.

Playing around with this feature requires taking a few steps that aren’t for the casual user. Then again, if you’re playing around with the beta version of Android N, then you’re probably nothing close to a casual user to begin with. To get the full scoop, head over to Ars Technica’s write-up and follow the directions at the bottom. In the meantime, let us know what you think of Android N and the potential for freeform windows in the comments below!

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