What’s All the Fuss About?

Pic­ture in Pic­ture

Computer Active (UK) - - Contents -

What is it?

Pic­ture in Pic­ture (PIP for short) is a way of con­tin­u­ing to view video con­tent in a small win­dow while you carry out other tasks on your de­vice.

Can’t I do that al­ready?

Pos­si­bly, de­pend­ing on which de­vice you’re us­ing. Pic­ture in Pic­ture has been around in one shape or an­other for some time now. Your TV or set-top box, for ex­am­ple, may well dis­play the cur­rent chan­nel in a small PIP win­dow while you browse the elec­tronic pro­gramme guide (EPG). And, of course, any Win­dows PC will let you re­size your desk­top me­dia player win­dow so you can carry on work­ing while a video plays in a cor­ner of your screen.

So, what’s new then?

Re­cently, we’ve started to see PIP pop­ping up on other de­vices, in­clud­ing tablets and smart­phones. In 2015, Ap­ple added PIP sup­port to its ipad range with IOS 9. Mi­crosoft con­firmed its sup­port for PIP in Win­dows 10 ear­lier this year via a Creators Up­date fea­ture called Com­pact Over­lay, which lets you watch videos in an ‘al­ways-on-top’ mini view while us­ing an­other pro­gram in full screen un­der­neath. Even more re­cent is the news that the lat­est ver­sion of An­droid (num­bered 8, and called Oreo) adds built-in PIP sup­port to com­pat­i­ble phones and tablets (see screen­shot right).

How does it work?

In apps that sup­port it you’ll usu­ally find a small but­ton that lets you switch be­tween nor­mal mode and PIP mode. In Win­dows 10’s Films & TV app, for ex­am­ple, you can click (or tap) the square-within- a-square icon at the bot­tom right to switch to mini view. The video-play­back win­dow shrinks down but floats above all your other open win­dows. Click or tap the icon again to re­turn to nor­mal view. The same prin­ci­ples ap­ply to IOS and An­droid apps, though many Pip-en­abled ipad apps will au­to­mat­i­cally switch to mini mode when you press the Home but­ton. In some cases, you can also re­size the PIP win­dow.

Which apps and ser­vices use it?

It’s down to in­di­vid­ual app de­vel­op­ers whether they en­able PIP sup­port or not, so not all apps will let you run them in mini mode. Many built-in apps sup­port PIP in IOS (Video, Face­time), An­droid Oreo (Chrome and Youtube), and Win­dows 10 (Skype, Film & TV app). A small but grow­ing num­ber of third-party apps do, too. Plex sup­ports PIP on ipads, for ex­am­ple, and What­sapp re­cently an­nounced that it will be sup­port­ing PIP on An­droid Oreo.

What would you use it for?

Ba­si­cally, PIP of­fers a way to do two things at once. If you’re watch­ing a movie, for in­stance, and sud­denly re­mem­ber an email you need to send, you can quickly type your mes­sage while the film con­tin­ues to play. Sim­i­larly, if you’re video-chat­ting with some­one and need to check a date in your cal­en­dar app or a fig­ure in a spread­sheet (see main im­age), you can do so with­out hav­ing to end your call or put the other per­son on hold.

Is it a just a gim­mick, or is it gen­uinely use­ful?

In prac­tice, it can take a bit of get­ting used to, but we’d hap­pily list PIP in the ‘gen­uinely use­ful’ col­umn. Any­thing that helps im­prove the multi-task­ing abil­i­ties of mo­bile de­vices is worth hav­ing in our books.


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