How To Enable and Use Multi-Window View in Android Nougat

It may sound a little harsh but reality is reality. The Android experience on tablets has been, well, sucky.  The problem for the most part is that Android, when it comes to larger display devices, simply “blows up” the screen to make it work for that form factor. That’s not 100% true to be fair but it is by-and-large and that means that apps, especially under KitKat and Lollipop were ugly at best on Android tablets. Marshmallow improved things a lot and developers were also developing tablet versions of apps which helped at the same time.

The other big issues was productivity. Although you have more screen real estate on a tablet, Android was never really able to take full advantage of it. You could only view one app at a time which meant you were constantly having to use the Recent button on your table to navigate between apps. Productivity, which better than on a phone, was still hamstrung when it came to reaching its full potential.

If there is a banner feature that represents the entire Android Nougat release, it is multi-window viewing. Google, in this case, is very much catching up to Apple’s iOS for iPads as those devices have had the ability to view two apps at once for about a year now. However, what Google has done is fully and properly implemented this for tablets and phones that truly makes productivity much easier than it ever has been on an Android powered tablet.

In this How To, I will show you how to enter into multi-window view in Android Nougat and how to switch between apps once you are in multi-windows mode.  Once you get the hang of it, it is pretty straight forward.

First, be aware that not every app is setup yet for multi-window viewing.  It doesn’t mean that it won’t necessarily work but you may get a small pop-up when you enter in this viewing mode that the app is not compatible.  For the most part, I’ve found all of the Google apps (Docs, Sheets, Slides, Hangouts, Gmail, etc) work with no problem.  Microsoft apps (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook) also work but they throw up the warning.  Just be aware of it and if you encounter any weirdness while in multi-window mode in an app, that could be the cause.  Also, there are some

Switching Between Apps in Multi-Windows View
Switching Between Apps in Multi-Windows View

apps that just don’t work in multi-window mode.  Twitter is an example where if you try to enter the mode with that app, it only goes to full screen, not split screen.

To start, on your Android Nougat device, open up at least two apps on your phone or tablet.  Now tap-and-hold the Recent button on your device (the square icon on the bottom toolbar) and you will see the app you have open occupy the top of the screen with a list of other apps running in the background in the lower half.  You can then swipe through those open apps and tap the one you want to open.  Now you have both apps in multi-window view so you can easily use both of them.

A couple of observations.  First, you will note that there is split line between the two apps.  You can tap-and-hold this and drag it up or down to resize the windows to suit your needs best.  It isn’t static which really makes this feature extra useful, particularly on a tablet.  Second, the apps that you have open in multi-windows view are fully functional.  They are the real apps, not a sub-set of the actual app on your phone.

The Recent button on your phone or tablet is not done however with just entering into multi-window view.  While in this viewing mode, you have two other things that you can do which make the feature really powerful.  First, you can simply tap the button (which is now two rectangles on top of each other and not a square) and the lower window will drop back to show you all of the apps you have open.  Now you can swipe up or down to get to the next app you want to open, tap it and it will be displayed with whatever app you have at the top of the display.

Multi-Windows View in Android Nougat
Multi-Windows View in Android Nougat

Second, and maybe more useful for those doing some serious multitasking, you can double-tap the Recent button and it will switch back to whatever the last app you had open before the one you are viewing.  So let’s say you are working in Sheets and Docs and need to switch between them quickly as you work in each file, just double-tap and you can instantly switch back and forth between them while you have Slides at the top to build that presentation.

The Recent button is not the only button that is is helpful while you are in multi-window view.  While viewing two apps, if you tap either the home button or the back button on your taskbar, you will be taken to your Home screen on your phone or tablet.  Crucially however, your multi-window view is not lost.  Just tap the Recent button again to go back into that view.

Finally, when you are done with multi-windows view in Android Nougat, getting out of that mode is pretty easy.  To do this, just tap-and-hold the separating bar between the two apps and slide it all the way up or down on the screen to the point where only one app is occupying the display.  That’s it.  While the other app you were display is still open in the background, you are now only viewing one app like you do normally in Android.

As you can see, the new multi-window feature in Android Nougat is powerful and well designed by the Android team.  The key now is for developers to update their apps to support it.

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