After some teasing, Paranoid Android has unveiled (in a lovely promo image) their plan for multi-window functionality on Android, which they promise to "get right," – Halo.

The premise is simple, yet extremely ambitious in scope – allow apps to give you notifications right on top of your screen, which allow you to pop into that app without leaving the one you're in (no matter what it is), take care of business, and resume your experience uninterrupted. The general concept, which rejects the notion of a distracting notification shade, and shuns implementations like "whacky s-multiwindow,"  is no doubt inspired by Facebook's admittedly awesome Chat Heads functionality, perhaps the most compelling feature of its new Home app.

From a user experience perspective, Halo looks great, and promises to provide a welcomed change from the pull-down shade in favor of a more visually rich and thoughtful method of jumping between apps.


Some of you may remember Cornerstone, a multi-window-ish implementation CyanogenMod toyed with for a brief time before Googler Dianne Hackborn explained the issues with Cornerstone as she saw them, what it might do to Android compatibility, and what the consequences may be.

If you're worried Halo will face the same scrutiny, PA says simply don't be. Paranoid Android emphasizes that Halo's implementation is written "from scratch," and will (theoretically) pass Android's compatibility test suite. A Google+ post explains the technical underpinnings of the system for those interested in a more detailed explanation.

If you're a Paranoid Android fan (or just someone who's yearned for a decent multi-window implementation), keep an ear to the ground – Paranoid Android has not made an official announcement regarding the expected completion of the project, or when you'll be able to get your hands on Halo, but progress so far seems promising, to say the least.

Source: Google+

Liam Spradlin
Liam loves Android, design, user experience, and travel. He doesn't love ill-proportioned letter forms, advertisements made entirely of stock photography, and writing biographical snippets.

  • http://www.facebook.com/amar.a.singh.7 NoIdentity Necessary

    I love this PA circle jerking, every blog, every subreddit, just everywhere ! :D

    They really deserve it though, pushing the boundaries of Android further with every release...

    • HellG

      Rule #1 of the circle jerk,You do not talk about the circle jerk!
      that said....

      • http://twitter.com/winapp2 Robbie Ward

        nexus420 did you even root it

        • Stonehenge mousehole

          420 nexus it fgt

          • HellG

            Oh please don't forget to hit the [Thanks] button and [Donate]

          • Layman76

            Petition to change the site background to #33B5E5!

          • HellG

            All those who agree to this petition say

          • alexcue

            If I helped u in n e way donate button is on th left <--------------

            Signatures on XDA crack me up.

          • HellG

            Don't forget the tags...
            I'm also the creator of this rom
            [WIP][ROM][ANDROID][ROOT]Amazing Great Cool Room[Updated][PowerButtonWorks][MOD]

      • http://kittyanarchy.net/ Ashley Davis

        I think you mean #HALOYOLO

  • Vu Viet Anh

    PA sounds good on paper, but try using it both on my GS3 and N4 results in poorer battery life, unnecessary modifications, and overall increased instability.

    not to shit on it, I know why it exists and why people like it, but I'm just saying, it's not as good as people often think it is.

    • http://twitter.com/observerbg N. Ch.

      A bit of different experience: with PA I get more stability and battery juice on N4 than with stock and other ROMs.
      A matter of personal choice and, egh, experience...

      • http://www.facebook.com/paulmgm Paul Michael G

        Try Carbon with franco.kernel... I'd like to hear you say "other ROM's" after that. I do believe it is a matter of personal choice though. I've tried PA and I have to say hybrid settings does more wrong than right imo and kills the ROM for me.

    • dextersgenius

      I don't know which version you used or whether you flashed the ROM properly, but I've had no poorer battery on my PA compared to stock. In fact, I find my battery life has improved - and it should, in theory too, because compared to stock, PA has a newer kernel and more patches to fix the msm_hsic wakelock issues from Qualcomm, along with other similar patches from CodeAurora. Of course, not all Nexuses are made equal (eg, you have the slow/medium/fast binned chips), so it could be that you're stuck with a poorer quality N4.

      On my fast-binned, highly modded N4 (custom kernel, launcher, themes, icons and a live wallpaper), according to BatteryWidgetReborn, a fully charged battery lasts "1 day 20 hours 45 minutes" http://imgur.com/4y8HcY3
      Note that this is with light-moderate usage. On heavy usage it easily lasts a full day.

      PA devs are professionals - they are *actual* devs who know how to code, and also know Android inside-out - not like so called "devs" of some other ROMs who only know how to kang stuff on Github and compile it. PA respects Android's core design principles. They do not include ugly hacks in the codebase.

      I have been using PA exclusively for the past two years now on different devices, and it's been overall a very stable experience (with the odd unstable build or two in the early days). They have been constantly innovating with new features developed from scratch.

      Finally, if you're not on a Nexus, all bets are off (PA team only support Nexuses officially).

      • SlenderSniper

        I'm going to have top come back to this once I unlock my N4. I'm a heavy user and a battery that lasts a full day on heavy use sounds extremely appealing.

    • alexcue

      I've never had a Nexus or AOSP device, so I'm sure the experience is much better there, but I agree...on my GS3, *any* AOSP ROM gives me worse battery life. And the camera performance seems worse, because of (AFAIK) proprietary camera drivers. It sucks because I really do love the idea of PA, but TW ROMS just perform better on my S3. Womp womp.

  • Freak4Dell

    I'm a huge fan of CM, but I may just have to give PA a try on the Nexus 7.

    • dextersgenius

      If you're trying it out on the N7, make sure you use a custom kernel like faux123's or motley. Stock PA kernel on N7 has lag issues.

  • Ryan O’Neill

    But it still doesn't accomplish the goal of multi-windowing. You can't see or use two apps at once, since the second app covers the first.
    Don't get me wrong, it's a cool innovation. But it's not the "multi-windowing" that I was expecting when I clicked on the article.

    • Ivan Myring

      That is exactly my thoughts on this. I actually really like the note 2 multi window

    • Greg Sanders

      It suffices to say that any real attempts at multi-windowing would get you in trouble, unless you are hardcoding a solution for the Galaxy series....

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Paul-Henschel/100001880994979 Paul Henschel

      there is nothing to accomplish because that approach is simply not working out. it is something you show your friends once but then cease using it.

      samsungs approach is not about getting tasks done. think of it, most apps interact with you in one way or another, or notify you when a task needs to be carried out. could be a chat, incoming file, playstore update, dropbox has managed to upload your file, music player playing your songs, etc. what good would it be to clutter this tiny screen with two apps now? are you seriously implying you watch youtube while displaying gtalk right next to it in case it decides to throw news? you won't. you don't even do that on a desktop, because the concept is fundamentally flawed.

      facebooks approach is contextual. you are aware of the things that are going on whereever you are - if you want it (by explicitly unlocking the bubble). apps open as floating popup, just enough for you to be able to interact with them. and by interaction i don't mean silly hardcoded pop-ups, you get the fullblown app. if you're done: one tap and you are back to where you were.

      you will have to actually use it before making up your mind. i read a lot of garbage about chatheads coming from people who haven't tried. but this idea, this concept, is no doubt the most usefull addition to android in a long long time. hats off to facebook for that.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Pratik-Holla/1041154510 Pratik Holla

        I think think the PA concept here is significantly better than what samsung has offered. There is a difference between a feature that is meant to be only shown off and a feature that can actually be used on a daily basis with everyday tasks. The idea that you would want to have two apps open at the same time even on a screen like the Note 2 doesnt make much sense because sharing that screen real estate between apps just degrades the experience of using both apps.

      • Elemetrix

        I've used multiwindow to watch a film while browsing the internet, taking notes while browsing and I often use it to just pop-up a music player or imdb.

        Chatheads works well though so keen to see this.

      • http://evildevnull.com/thinktank/index.php?action=collapse;c=14;sa=collapse;d227fb2388ec=9e8bb86861f0686e54bcbaae99929bbd#c14 George Leon

        No, As an engineer, for me Samsung's Multi-window is used when you are comparing the specifications of competing products. Looking at a submittal & documenting or communicating about the data in the submittal or specification, or for marking up drawings for ETO product changes while reading notes from a specifying engineer.

        Just because it isn't useful for someone working retail or in a cubicle somewhere, doesn't mean it's not a productivity enhancing features for others.

        Personally, I don't care about Youtube, Facebook, or any of that other crap. It is a business tool that works well for those that require it.

      • Michael Snead

        Whaaaat? I realize this article is old but... I love the multi-window feature of my S4! I've used it a lot. I totally wish I had this on my tablet! It would be very helpful to have evernote on one side and bible or browser or whatever on the other. I've also used it for having chrome on one side and hangouts on the other so I can look something up or look at something. Also used it with youtube on one side, etc. It's WAY more useful with the multi-window-manager app that allows you to drop any app on it, though requires root. Still, that shouldn't matter when judging the usefulness of a "multi window" feature.

  • Jones

    What the hell is wrong with the notification shade?? This article is just hating on the notification shade left and right, even calling it "distracting", and I am just lost as to at what conference it was decided the notification shade sucks?

    It's probably my favourite part of Android.

    • Andrew

      Agreed. I've noticed in the past that writers suddenly and inexplicably decide something sucks, purely because a new idea has come along that may potentially work a bit better. I love it too.

    • selonmoi

      Agreed. For me, the notification shade is a perfect mix of in-your-face and out- of-your-way.

      I'm not at all convinced by chat heads. Personally, I've found they can obstruct whatever I'm trying to read, and they're easy to accidentally dismiss when trying to move them out of the way.

    • http://AndroidPolice.com/ Liam Spradlin

      I wouldn't really say my post is "hating on" anything, per se. The worst I said of the notification shade is "The general concept, which rejects the notion of a distracting notification shade ... " Which is, in my mind, an interpretation of PA's own words regarding Halo.
      Is the notification shade a great feature? Yes. Do I think Halo is also a really great idea and implementation that is perhaps refreshing? Also yes.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Paul-Henschel/100001880994979 Paul Henschel

      after halo you will revert your opinion. i love the shade, but you don't realize how much it is in your way.
      this is the same that windows people say. notifiicationcenter, who needs it, we have livetiles. they just don't know. you just don't know. because there are no alternatives

      it is simply unfit for multitasking and it wasn't meant for it. it is a nice hub for checking out whats up when you have time, but for carrying out tasks on the spot is is terrible and it does not get the job done. think of it, every task you want to respond to kicks you out of your context. you end up who knows where. you pull the thing up and down, waiting for stuff to finish. whenever you are in apps that shut it down you'll have to jump home and just cope with android closing your app meanwhile.

    • poppiesgdd

      I totally agree, and I definately want failo removed from the rom , or at least some way to switch it totally off.

  • apomk2

    Can someone explain to me why having a notification right in your face is somehow less distracting than having it slightly above your face?

    "The premise is simple, yet extremely ambitious in scope – allow apps to give you notifications right on top of your screen, which allow you to pop into that app without leaving the one you're in (no matter what it is), take care of business, and resume your experience uninterrupted."

    That's not ambitious, that is *exactly* what notifications are currently doing. I don't have to change a single letter in that sentence above and it would still apply. I know it's shiny and everything, but seriously people.. let's not go all out hipster on this.

    • dextersgenius

      The point is not to make notifications less distracting but to give it easy access so you can be done with it and get back to whatever you're doing as quickly as possible. Also note that this behavior is configurable per-app. So for instance if you have a notification from an important app, say, an eBay sniping app - that you just cannot afford to miss, it would be desirable for you to be able to jump directly into the app as quickly as possible. And while you're in the app, you can still see what's going on in the background - perhaps you're keeping an eye on a different auction, or maybe you're watching a movie but you don't want to pause it. Okay so maybe you want to pay full attention to the movie and would not like distractions.. but say, you're "listening" to a music video on the YouTube app - you know that the video will stop playing as soon as you jump into a different app - but this won't be the cases with a popup app running on top of YouTube.

      Now in normal Android, you'd have to pull down the notification bar, then open the app, then do whatever that needs to be done, then press back multiple times (or press the recents button) and go back to your original app. Compare that to just tapping on a notification and having the app open directly on top of whatever you're doing, then simply tapping out back to your original app. Not only is this faster in terms of clicks/taps, but from the system as well, since Android will not have to re-draw the screen or re-render the UI elements from the previous app. Point being - this is more efficient.

      In any case, we're still lacking all the details, so I suggest we reserve judgement until we see an actual completed implementation.

      • Mike Wilson

        AOKP has a 'Last App' button that you can place on the NavBar for this very function. Doesn't need a windowing system.

        • dextersgenius

          Yes, but you'd still need to drag the notification bar down and tap on it. Also, what if you were in the middle of a game and miss an important notification? What if you still want to see what's going on in the background? With high-dpi and bigger screens, a windowing system - even a simple one - makes sense. We're no longer on those old 240x320 screens anymore.

          • irtechneo

            I understand your point but in all honesty if I am in the middle of a game I don't want a "chat head" window sitting on top of my game getting in the way. I liked the chat heads on Facebook Home but I constantly found myself getting annoyed with them being in the way and having to move them around all the time--which to me is not efficient. To each his own.

          • dextersgenius

            Again, this is configurable per-app. If you don't have any important apps or notifications, then you may not find this useful. In any case, the whole thing is fully configurable. If you don't want to use it, just don't enable it and you can still enjoy the other features of the ROM - hybrid engine, PIE etc - again, *if* you want to. You can run PA like a pure AOSP ROM if you want to.
            No one is forcing anything upon you. It's all about choice. I, for one, welcome and encourage attempts like this to enhance or provide an alternative user-experience. We need out-of-the box thinking like this - this is Android's biggest strengths.

        • Ryan O’Neill

          Or, I just use a 3-finger swipe gesture (using GMD Gesture Control) to go to the last app.
          But same idea - there are far more practical ways than this new windowing system.

  • storm14k

    So why would we want to go back to the days of the iPhone with notifications popping up in the way and interrupting me? The whole point of the shade is so that mortifications don't intrude and allow you to deal with them on your own time. So why does that all of a sudden suck? Just seems like a step backwards. And its not multi windowing so why is it being called that?

    • JLM

      I think PA comes up with features that aren't for most people but the people that want them, really want those features(that they didn't know they wanted until they saw it). Some of the ideas that came from them as far as I'm aware are:

      - Hybrid mode - ability to run apps in tablet or phone mode if the app has different modes, as well as changing color of nav bars depending on the app

      - PIE and expanded desktop - increasing screen real estate by removing top and bottom bars and sliding in from the end of the screen to activate nav/status ring
      - Halo - multi-window/multi-tasking ability

      If they keep this up they'll probably come up with some stuff that will actually be popular with everyone and maybe popular enough to become part of stock android since PA also open sources all of their work.

  • http://www.facebook.com/tautvydas.kaziukonis Tautvydas Kaziukonis

    I love Samsungs multi window feature. It's not perfect but listening to music on youtube and texting or browsing web at the same time is pretty cool.

  • Xye

    I don't like Paranoid Android for battery and stability issues (may be) caused by those custom features I don't use.
    But a Multiwindow view is something I'd kill for!! It's almost the only missing feature in Android for me.

    • dextersgenius

      What issues? Which device are you on? PA works great for me on my Nexus 4 - better than the stock ROM.

  • Laborin_HK

    Probably too early to say anything, but it's going to be interesting to see where this goes. PA manages to impress me each time :)

  • didibus

    MultiWindow is a must now. Floating app, side by side docking, etc. they are all required. The "chat head" thing is not needed though. It could just be you click on the notification in the notification shade, and instead of switching app, it opens the app of the notification over your app. And honestly, this is only nice because there is no quick way to return to the previous app. If you use the task switcher, there is a chance the previous app has lost it's state. And the back button would first go back in the open app, and then return to the previous app, which could have also lost its state.

  • http://www.androidgeek.in/ Serra Stone

    Gawd, I hope someone ports this to work with every rom like they did with Pie.

  • http://twitter.com/ryandigweed0 ryandigweed

    Can't wait :)

  • turbocel91

    Where do i find the apk?

  • Robert Christopulos

    I use "Floating Apps" to do multi-windows multitasking and just love it. Works perfectly on my rooted Motorola Xoom running a custom Kit Kat 4.4.4 Rom from Omnirom. Both the Rom and the Floating Apps are part of a whole suite of tools that have transformed my 3 year old Xoom from an aging and ibsolescent tablet into a wonderful tool on the very bleeding edge of Android technology.