For hundreds of years pen-and-paper has been a freeform way for people to express their ideas. Years ago Microsoft realized that the computer could become a substitute for pen-and-paper. They released their first Microsoft Tablet PC in 2002 running Windows XP Tablet PC Edition. This Microsoft tablet, over-priced and underpowered, was a total flop, but Microsoft didn’t give up. Now, 14 years later, with the release of the Anniversary Update for Windows 10, Microsoft has brought a true pen-and-ink type of interface to the PC.
Called “inking”, the first we saw of this was with the original release of Windows 10, which included the Edge browser. This browser gives us the ability to draw, write on, and mark up Web pages directly within the browser.
In Edge when you want to “ink” you simply click on the icon in the upper right corner of the browser. Then you use the inking toolbar to choose the type and color of the pen (including highlighter) and start to mark up the webpage. You can share your marked-up pages through email or social networks or save them to OneNote. To make the annotations, you can use a touch screen, stylus, or mouse for your annotations or you can type a note on the keyboard.
The Windows 10 Anniversary Update gives Windows 10 even more inking support with its new “Windows Ink Workspace” feature.
If you use a stylus with your Windows 10 device, you can go to the Settings and choose Devices to find the Pen & Windows Ink option where you can set your preferences.
You can set up your stylus to have the shortcut button on the stylus bring up the Ink Workspace. You may need to pair your stylus in the Bluetooth settings first. You will also see an icon for the Ink Workspace of the notification toolbar at the bottom right of the screen.
While you are in the Pen & Windows Settings, you can also customize your settings to control the pen to your liking. For example, you can state whether you write with your right or left hand. There are several other options for setting up what the pen does when you press its shortcut button. This includes the ability to start apps and bring up the Windows Ink Workspace. You can also control the handwriting panel, show/hide the cursor, and show/hide visual effects.
From the Ink Workspace you can launch pen-enabled apps. Out of the box, the Anniversary Edition includes an updated Sticky Notes, Sketchpad and Screen Sketch applications. These apps are quite useful.
Sticky Notes has been completely overhauled. As always, you can use it to type or jot down quick notes. If you enable Insights in the Sticky Notes settings menu, the Sticky Notes app will use character recognition to read your notes and use Bing and Cortana to provide information on what you wrote. The idea behind this is that you should be able to scribble a date and have it show up on your calendar or scribble a flight number and have it show up as a link. In my testing, however, I found this feature to be pretty hit-and-miss.
The second included app is Sketchpad. This is a digital whiteboard where you can use different styles and colors of pens, pencils, and highlighters to get your point across and share with others or save as an image file.
Screen Sketch, the third included app, is a tool that allows you to mark up your screen. It takes a screenshot of the screen that you are looking at when you launch it. Then it allows you to draw, write, or otherwise mark up the screen and share it or save it.
The interface for these apps accepts commonly-used routines. For instance, there is a ruler to help you draw straight lines. You can snap drawings to the ruler. You can rotate the ruler with two fingers and you can drag it around with a single finger. The ruler works in Powerpoint as well as Sketchpad. Inking also works in Word where you can simply cross out a Word or scribble over a paragraph to delete it. Bing Maps lets you draw a line between two points for directions.
Most Ink features will be available for use with other apps when they take advantage of the Windows Ink platform. I would expect quite a few apps will appear in the future, but the Windows App Store is still lacking in apps so there is no telling how quickly that will happen.