It’ll take work extracting “freeform windows” from the Android N Developer Preview
Freeform jazz shouldn’t be this hard. Or maybe it is and we just don’t know it. Chew on that for a second. But getting the freeform windows feature out of Android N in its current state is going to be hard — we mean that it’s definitely not for the casual user.
But it’s possible and worth the effort for those wanting to get a huge head-start on developing apps for a windowed mode in Android. We’ll give those in the know the quickie.
Fair warning: if you plan on getting OTAs from the Android Beta Program, this process involves unlocking your bootloader and flashing a custom recovery — you may not get those OTA updates until you uninstall the recovery.
- Get the Android N Developer Preview installed.
- Grab a custom recovery package (like TWRP), put it into your SDK tools folder and flash it.
- Boot into recovery and mount the system partition as writable.
- Hit the following strings in an ADB shell:
sed -e “s/live_wallpaper/freeform_window_management/”
- Reboot into Android and enjoy!
From what we’ve seen so far, it’s not too bad. To get an app into a window, hit the recent apps button and tap on a special button topping the app card you want. Drag the edges — though, not the corners — to resize the window and the top of the window to move it. As long as you’re in freeform mode, you may have as many apps as you’d like this way through activating them from your recents or starting up new ones from within apps. Swipes close the windows just as the X’s do.
Downsides? Well, for starters, combining split-screen with the windows gets to be a little claustrophobic for our taste. There’s no taskbar for apps, though, so everything gets piled onto your screen at once. Plus, the app scaling is pretty rough. But there’s refinement in order and we’re a ways off from this feature becoming official.
If you’ve tried Jide’s Remix OS, you’ll really feel comfortable with the notion of windowed Android apps. Heck, Remix and this Android N beta even share mouse control, too!
And if you’re on Windows … well, you’re already there.