On Windows Ink

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One of the areas we focused on today was Windows Ink, an all-new experience, putting the power of Windows in the tip of your pen. Windows Ink enables you to write on your device as you do on paper, creating sticky notes, drawing on a whiteboard, and easily sharing your analog thoughts in the digital world. Windows Ink is integrated into apps like Maps, Microsoft Edge, and Office.


In a world where billions of post-it notes are sold each year and more than 70% of people spend more than one hour a day using a pen, productivity can increase by incorporating writing into the computing experience. We’re using Windows Ink to help people turn their thoughts into actions on their Windows 10 devices.

Microsoft is hosting Build 2016 at the moment, its developer focused conference with thousands of developers (and others) in attendance. One of the innovations featured at Build today was Windows Ink, for pen-based interaction with a Windows device.

Some thoughts:

1. I like seeing vendors trying new things and adding new capabilities to their software and hardware. Of course, Microsoft used to offer a Tablet PC based version of Windows back in the 2000s that supported stylus based input in some applications. Hence Windows Ink isn’t entirely new, but it is a new take on an old idea.

2. The phrase “productivity can increase by incorporating writing into the computing experience” bothers me. I agree that doing maths equations or music composition via a keyboard is a poor experience, and that a pen would be better (how big is this market?). In my workflow, when I want to write something, I choose a pen and paper journal or sheet of paper because that’s hugely productive; much more than using a computer. I’ve tried styluses and other forms of digital writing before and in my work, nothing beats the good old pen and paper. Your mileage may vary, and perhaps the world is at the tipping point for more digital ink – we do now have the Apple Pencil out of Cupertino and the Surface Pro / Book range out of Seattle with stylus options – so perhaps it is time for digital ink. We’ll see.

3. Whenever I see someone with a Samsung phone with the fabled S-Pen I always ask if they use the stylus for input. In its advertising Samsung holds the S-Pen up as a wonderful input device, but to date none of the people I’ve asked have said they use the stylus. Have device, have stylus, not use. Interesting.

4. I have observed some users – a minority though – of the Surface Pro 2 or 3 using the stylus to take handwritten notes during meetings or conference presentations. It’s in ink, and they’ve kept it that way rather than converting it to standard text.

5. In Microsoft’s favour with Windows Ink is the research of recent years on handwritten notes vs. keyboard. Net-net: handwritten notes in lecture theatres and meetings is better, because you have to pre-process what you hear and you take notes, rather than just type like lightning and get everything down.

6. So will Windows Ink stink or stick? I’ll take a watching brief …

2 thoughts on “On Windows Ink

  1. Hi Michael,

    Thanks for the heads-up. I am one of those Samsung Note3 owners that uses their stylus.
    On multiple occasions I have used the stylus to make handwritten notes of presentations using the S-Note application and convert them to text afterwards. The accuracy of conversion is surprisingly good, what limits the usability for me is
    1. Ergonomics: sitting in the audience and writing notes on a 5-inch screen without an supporting table is sub.optimal, and
    2. the speed of the writing. if you use the direct conversion to text you need to stick to slower writing,
    For me it is better to write down the notes and do the conversion after the meeting. Anyhow, I found that post-processing of my notes brings me the best learning. Whether I do the note taking with electronic ink or paper & pen. You may argue about the efficiency of my post-processing way, yet I find it most effective.

    I have used multiple versions of electronic pens, yet still found the limited speed often the limiting factor. So I am eager to see how well the Microsoft ink will perform there. If the speed is insufficient, it is a show stopper.

    1. Thanks Michiel … good to hear about your work and use of the Note3 with stylus. Much appreciate the insight.

      Post-meeting processing of notes is never efficient. But that’s not the point. It’s highly effective, which is why I’m not surprised that you do it.

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