Remember when people used personal computers - desktops and laptops - to check email, view video and keep tabs on Facebook? Back in that far-away era, I'd have several windows open for Web browsers, a word processor, a photo editor and sometimes a reader for PDF documents.
I miss that capability on mobile devices, particularly on full-size tablets with a decent amount of display space. With iPads and Android tablets, I'm typically limited to one window displayed at a time; other apps run in the background, out of sight. With Windows 8 tablets, I can run two windows side by side, but I'm constrained in what I can do with them. It gets better with the Windows 8.1 update due out next week, but it's still not the free-for-all I had with PCs.
So I marveled at a pair of multitasking features that come with Samsung's new tablet, formally called Galaxy Note 10.1 - 2014 Edition. Sporting a 10.1-inch display, measured diagonally, the Note tablet goes on sale in the U.S. on Thursday at a starting price of $550.
The first of the multitasking features, called Multi-Window, has been available in Samsung devices for about a year, but it works with many more apps now. You can run two apps side by side, such as Facebook on one side and YouTube video on the other.
Like Windows 8 tablets, you're limited to just two apps. You can change how much of the screen each one takes, a capability coming with Windows 8.1, but you can't choose to have a window take up just the top left corner, the way you can on PCs. In addition, Multi-Window isn't a universal feature. Apps for Netflix and Hulu won't work, for instance. You currently have about 18 apps to choose from, including Facebook and a variety of Google and Samsung apps.
With that limitation, it's nice that Samsung Electronics Co. is supplementing Multi-Window with a feature called Pen Window.
With it, simply draw a box on the screen with the included stylus, and choose one of seven apps to open in a new window. Do it again and again until you open all seven apps, if you wish. That's nine in all, counting the two with Multi-Window. Each Pen Window app appears in a window that floats over your main app (or two apps if you use Multi-Window). You can move that window around on your screen and resize