Digital Inking on the Microsoft Surface

Making the hardware decision these days for schools these days is normally driven by the budget.    What is the best we can get for the budget? Should it be 1-2-1 or shared devices?  Well here is my case that the technology you buy shouldn’t necessarily be brought on budget alone (but it is important) but how you can innovate in the classroom from both the teacher and student perspective.

Why does this mean you should buy a Surface?

Of course it doesn’t – however, I would like to explain the fundamental difference between Microsoft as a hardware manufacturer and its partners out there like Dell, Lenovo, and Asus.    The Microsoft manufacturing partners are amazingly important in delivering a range of great devices for Windows 10 to run on.    Whereas the manufacturing arm of Microsoft (Aka Surface) is an opportunity for engineers to innovate with hardware designs, to allow for innovation and for people to work in a way they are familiar with

The prime example is the Surface Pro and the Surface Go as the 2-in-1 device of choice with the Surface pen!    Back in the day of Windows XP Tablet Edition,   the pen was almost an add on interface to the device.   Allowing for limited handwriting, the size was big and bulky, battery life was limited


However with the advent of Surface (starting with the Surface Pro 3) then pen and digital inking are absolutely at the heart of using Windows 10 in a way to innovate.

The Surface Pen

The writing with the Surface Pen is now in its 5th generation since the launch of the Surface, which in turn shows the importance of digital inking within the Surface environment.     Digital inking is available throughout Windows 10, including the new Sticky Notes app, and Microsoft Office 365.  Let’s have a look at some of the best ways you can use your Surface device with the Surface Pen.

First of all, use your Surface the right way!


If you are a Surface owner, you have the ultimate 2-in-1 device,  be it a Surface Book, Surface Pro or Surface Go, and using the Surface Pen should be the most natural experience.


With a stylus, you can choose to use the pen with the screen in the natural upright position. Users will tend to hold there hand back from the screen.   This means writing is not accurate at all, and making notes almost impossible!

With the advent of applications like OneNote which has been built on digital inking, means devices can be used in a more natural way.

On a Surface, Pro or Surface Go simply unplug the magnetic keyboard and then rotate the device so it’s like an A4 page.

Next, rest your palm on the screen, and then the device will only sense the nib of the pen, allowing the use of the device in a natural way

With the screen separated, the tablet nature of the Surface allows you to treat the device as a piece of paper and resting your palm on the screen allows you to be a lot more accurate in making notes. Applications like Microsoft Whiteboard, or even Sticky Notes, allows you to get the best from the Surface pen, make sure you try them out.

You can also expend the natural pairing of the pen and the device by going to Settings (Windows Key + I) and choosing Devices, then Pen & Windows Ink.  Here you can fine-tune the experience of your Surface Pen.

Choices such as are you left or right-handed, really show the design thought that has gone in behind the use of the pen,  you, of course, choose how the button reacts when pushed, see the diagram below.


Deciding what you want the pen button to do when pressed can save time for the Surface user!  Click once, Double Click and Press & hold can all be configured independently.   So if you are a OneNote user simply get into your notes by single-clicking the pen button can save you mountains of time

Now we are comfortable with the position of our device for inking, lets launch Microsoft Word and see how we use digital inking on an application we would traditionally use only a keyboard.

This really shows how integral the Surface Pen is to make the device as productive as possible with the Microsoft 365 suite.



Inking in Microsoft Office

You will notice on any version of Office 2016 & above you now have a Draw menu


So as you can see in the Pens section you have a range of pens including glittery pens which are ideal for younger students! To get writing its simply a case of selecting your pen (and with your device positioned for you) just start writing.     Once you have started writing or drawing you can have your drawing played back to you by using Ink Replay.     This is ideal when drawing an example or even showing off how to form letters for handwriting.


Ink to shape allows the production of perfect squares and ellipses when you are drawing freehand. Just make sure your shape joins up and the AI helper behind the scenes will do the rest for you.

Ink Editor allows you to edit /review your documents in a natural way, check out the video below to see some of the functionality from the Ink Editor

So as you have seen, getting started with digital inking is simple with the Surface Pen and Microsoft Surface.  As we move forward to show you other pen aware applications, you begin to see Surface Pen is integral to allow innovation in the classroom.

Next steps

Check out the following research

Find out more about Surface by checking out our Surface Resource pack here at