Android N has been out for a little while now as a developer preview and already we’ve seen new, cool, and extremely useful multitasking fearers such as split screen mode, new recent apps shortcuts, and just overall speedier performance. Now, according to ArsTechnica (via developer Zhuowei Zhang), Google could be adding another multitasking gesture that will certainly be welcome to such a device as the Pixel C, and that’s Freeform mode.
Much like Windows or OS X, freeform mode in Android N will allow users to open applications inside separate windows. Mind you the home screen isn’t replaced by a full-fledged traditional desktop but rather just apps living in multiple instances which act much like windows found in popular desktop OSes.
Once freeform is enabled, users can open applications via the Recent Apps menu and tap a button that appears next to the close button which will fire up the app in a floating window. These windows can be dragged around and resized to your heart’s content as well as be open the same time another window is present. In order to open a second window, one must visit the Recent Apps menu again and tap the button presented at the top of the desired app. And in case you were wondering, if you already have a window open and you visit the Recent Apps menu, your window is still present as one tile and can easily be accessed again.
Code has been found in Android N referring to freeform mode, however the feature hasn’t been made present until now.
This new tool for multitasking will definitely be very welcome to users who own a Nexus 9 or Pixel C, no doubt. Tablets like that have plenty of potential as they are aiming to be productivity tools, however have proven to be pretty null up until now. When Android N hits mainstream, Android tablet users are going to be pretty happy… you know, as long as Google doesn’t axe this feature before N goes public.
If you wanna try out the new freeform mode for yourself, you’ll have to flash a custom recovery to your device, connect it to ADB, and enter a certain command line prompt. We suggest trying it out on a device with a nice, big screen and plenty of RAM to keep all the apps alive and not crash.
Here’s ArsTechnica’s full instructions:
How to enable freeform mode
If you managed to stumble into the Android N Preview via the super-easy “Beta Program” over-the-air update, these instructions probably aren’t for you. If you want to enable the feature the hard way, you’re going to get your hands dirty with some old-fashioned command line image flashing like in past Developer Previews. Enabling freeform mode will also probably stop your device from being able to install future Android N over-the-air updates until you reset back to a stock system. You’ll need the usual prerequisites of a device with an unlocked bootloader and Android N installed, plus a computer with fastboot and the Android SDK Tools.
Step one is to flash a custom recovery like the TeamWin Recovery Project (TWRP). Search for your device, download the appropriate image file, and put it in the same folder as your SDK tools. Reboot your device into fastboot mode by holding Power + Volume Down until you see the fastboot screen. Plug the phone into your computer, open a command line to your directory, and type “fastboot flash recovery [name of your TWRP image]”. After the flash finishes, boot into recovery mode using the volume keys to scroll through the menus until you see “recovery.” Next, confirm the choice by pressing Power.
Once you’re inside your custom recovery, you’ll need to mount the system partition as writable. In TWRP, press the “Mount” button and check the “System” box. Then comes the magic part: On your computer, open an ADB shell (open a command line, type “ADB Shell,” and hit enter), then type the following and hit enter after each line:
sed -e “s/live_wallpaper/freeform_window_management/” android.software.live_wallpaper.xml >freeform.xml
That should be it. Boot up Android normally, and in the Recent Apps screen, you should see a square button appear on each item next to the “close” button. Press the square button and you’ll put an app in windowed mode. Enjoy!
Are you looking forward to this feature in Android N? Let us know what you think in the comments!