15 tips and tricks to get the most out of your Galaxy Note 5

The Note 5 can do a lot of great stuff, you just have to know where to look.

note 5 tips primary
Ryan Whitwam

Optimize that pen-toting tablet to work just the way you want it to

Samsung's Galaxy Note series stands out from everything else in the Android universe with its fantastic S Pen stylus. If you need a stylus, you need a Note—it's as simple as that. The new Galaxy Note 5 comes with a few new software tricks to take advantage of the S Pen, and as always, several of Samsung's custom features just work better on this king-sized device. Let's go over the top things you need to do with your new Note 5 to make it all it can be.

note 5 air command
Ryan Whitwam

Customize Air Command

All of your stylus-based tool on the Note 5 are easily accessible via the Air Command popup, which is triggered with the pen button. This year you've got several new options to explore here, not least of which are configurable shortcuts finally. You can now change what apps are linked in the Air Command UI, so if you want to have Keep or Evernote in there instead of S Note, you can do that. You have six shortcuts here, three of which are configurable.

You can also open the Air Command settings and control whether or not Air Command remains accessible via a floating icon and if it opens automatically when you remove the S pen from its holder. Personally, I think "off" is the best setting for both of these.

note 5 disable

Disable apps

It wouldn't be a Samsung phone without some bloatware, right? You probably know this song and dance by now, open the system settings and find the Device > Applications > Application manager > All. From this menu you can uninstall or disable any apps you don't want on the phone. These will mostly be carrier apps (AT&T has crammed a dozen of them on the Note 5), redundant antivirus apps, and Samsung services you don't use. Remember, if you don't know what something is, don't disable it.

note 5 fingerprints

Add fingerprints

Just like the Galaxy S6, the Note 5 uses Samsung's new (and very good) touch-based fingerprint sensor. You can add your prints by going to the main settings and finding Personal > Lock screen and security > Fingerprints. You'll add each fingerprint (up to four) by gently pressing the sensor repeatedly until the meter reaches 100%. You can enable the fingerprint lock screen afterward so your finger on the home button will instantly unlock the phone. This will also be used for security should you decide to use Samsung Pay.

note 5 briefing
Ryan Whitwam

Disable Briefing screen

Samsung's TouchWiz launcher has come a long way, but the Briefing screen is awful. It's positioned to the left of the main home screen where Google Now or BlinkFeed would be on other devices. Briefing is a Flipboard-powered news feed, but it's very limited and incredibly sluggish. You should just turn it off by long-pressing on the home screen to pull up editing mode. Scroll over to Briefing and uncheck the box at the top.

note 5 grid

Change home screen grid size

So you want to make the home screen a little less busy? This is an easy fix. Long-press on the home screen again to get into editing mode. Down at the bottom is a button labeled Screen grid. It gives you the option of 4x4 and 4x5. The default is 5x5 icons.

note 5 dnd

Configure Do Not Disturb

Samsung has notification silencing options like other OEMs, but the terminology is different. Instead of priority mode, you've got Do Not Disturb (DND). You can access these settings by going to the main system settings then Device > Sound and notifications > Do not disturb. You can turn on DND from here or with the notification toggle, but you'll also want to look at the scheduling options to have DND flip on automatically. Lastly, you might want to add exceptions to Do Not Disturb so your most important contacts can still doing through while the phone is silenced.

note 5 toggles

Customize notification shade toggles

There are some handy settings toggles at the top of the Note 5's notification shade, but the default selection is questionable. How often do you really need to access Samsung Quick Connect? To change the available toggles, tap the edit button in the top right corner. The top two lines in the edit interface are accessible from the notification shade. Just drag and drop the toggles wherever you want and tap Done.

note 5 qs

Pick your Quick Settings

"Quick Settings" in Samsung vernacular is different from "Quick Settings" on other Android phones. What we're talking about here is that first tab of shortcuts in the main system settings. It's a quick way to access the menus you find yourself digging for most often. There's a list of several defaults populated for you, but you can change them by tapping the More button and then Edit quick settings. Simply pick from the list of settings as many as nine settings to keep front and center.

note 5 screen off
Ryan Whitwam

Screen-off memo

You no longer need to wake up the phone and launch a note taking app to jot something down with the Note 5. One of the new features of this device allows you to take a note simply by removing the stylus while the phone is asleep. The screen wakes up in an all-black UI with limited controls so you can get writing. When you're done, tap Save to keep it in S Note. 

note 5 handwriting

Handwriting input almost anywhere

The Note 5's stylus is great for jotting down quick handwritten notes, of course, but it can also be used to input text in almost any field on your phone. To write instead of type, just use the S Pen and hover over top of an active text field. A small blue "T" icon will show up just above it. Tap on that with the stylus and you get a floating window where you can write and have your scribbles immediately translated to text and inserted into the selected field.

note 5 one handed
Ryan Whitwam

One-handed operation

The Note 5 is a big phone, though it's not as outlandishly large compared to other Android devices as older Note devices were. Still, if you need to one-hand the Note 5 for some reason, there's a built-in one-handed mode that can be toggled on in a snap. Press the home button quickly three times in a row and the screen will shrink down to the lower right corner. This UI is about three inches diagonal. You can tap the arrow next to the window to shift it to the lower left corner. This might not be enabled by default on all versions of the phone, so check the setting in Device > Display > One-handed operation.

note 5 multiwindow

Multi-window mode

Samsung includes Multi-window Mode on most of its premium devices, but it makes more sense on the Note 5 than most of the others. The big screen makes it feasible to use more than one app at a time. Not all apps support Multi-window, but a surprising number do.

You launch Multi-window at any time by long-pressing the overview button.  Your current app will snap to the top half of the screen, then you can choose an app for the bottom half. The circle in the middle can be dragged to change the position of the split, and it also reveals function buttons when tapped. The minimize button is particularly handy. It collapses your currently selected Multi-window app to a floating bubble. You can also open apps in floating windows using the minimize function, or simply drag in from one of the top corners of the screen.

note 5 screen scroll

Screen Write and Scrolling screen capture

A new addition to the Note 5's Screen Write feature really takes screenshots to the next level. Using scroll capture, you can stitch together multiple screenshots of a webpage or app. To activate this feature, simply pull up Air Command and tap Screen Write. This automatically takes a screenshot so you can doodle on it. However, down at the bottom a button for scroll capture will appear. Tap that and the UI will page down, take another screenshot, and attach it to the bottom of the first one. You can do this as many times as you want to get a full "vertical panorama" of an app or webpage. You can draw on the final product or simply save it.

note 5 raw

Shoot RAW photos

The Note 5 has a fantastic camera just like the Galaxy S6, but you can try your hand at making them even better with RAW photo capture. A RAW file contains the full output from the image sensor without any processing. These files are big and have to be edited using software like Lightroom on the desktop. However, you have much more power to get a photo looking just the way you want. To enable this feature, first turn on Pro mode in the camera app, then open the settings and find the Save as RAW file toggle.

note 5 themes

Customize your home screen with Themes

Samsung's theme engine is included with the Note 5, and it can really help smooth over some of TouchWiz's rough edges. There weren't many good options when the Galaxy S6 came out, but there are some excellent one now. Of particular interest are the light and dark "Material" themes that give the phone a stock Android vibe. Samsung lists some paid themes in the store, but most are free. You can access the theme store from the main settings under Personal >Themes.