How to Write on the Microsoft Surface Tablet

Use your finger or soft-tipped stylus on any Surface tablet.
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Whether you have a Surface or a Surface Pro, the compact design of Microsoft's tablets makes them ideal writing tools. In addition to the virtual keyboard, you also have the option to take handwritten notes. Not only does the Surface record these notes, it can translate your writing into text, which you can format and edit. For example, handwritten notes you take in class can be easily incorporated into an essay.

1 Using the Pro Pen

The Microsoft Surface Pro and Surface Pro 2 come with a Pro Pen, designed specifically for the tablet. In addition to working as the tablet's mouse, the Pro Pen is also useful for writing, drawing and marking up Microsoft Office and Adobe Acrobat documents. The pen tip is pressure-sensitive, so when you use an app that supports pen pressure, you can make thin or thick lines depending on how hard you press it on the screen. When using the Pro Pen, don't worry about resting your hand on the tablet. The Surface Pro can distinguish between pressure from the pen and pressure from your hand. If you make a mistake, just turn the pen over and use its eraser.

2 The Surface RT and Surface 2

Unlike the Surface Pro, the Surface RT and Surface 2 don't come with a pen -- for a good reason. The Pro Pen and its features won't work on these tablets. You can, however, use your finger on the Surface RT's screen just like the Surface Pro. A capacitive stylus also works, which you can now get at most dollar stores. A capacitive stylus usually has a rubber or foam tip and works just like your finger, except that it's easier to write and draw with.

3 Writing Apps

Microsoft's OneNote app and OneNote on the desktop both support handwritten notes, whether you use the Pro Pen, a finger or a stylus. Typing is also an option on both apps. If you aren't using a Pro Pen, tap the "Keyboard" button in the bottom right corner of the Surface's virtual keyboard, then select the icon showing a pen and paper. Other popular apps that support handwriting include Shared Whiteboard, a portable tablet version of a whiteboard, and NextGraph, a touch-enabled mind-mapping app. Of course, any app that gives you the ability to draw on the Surface's screen can be used for writing as well.

4 Handwriting Recognition

One of the most useful features in Windows is its handwriting recognition system. This is available on any Windows tablet, not just the Surface. When you launch OneNote, for example, it gives you a large area to write on at the bottom of the screen. As you write each word, Windows transforms the word into typed text. If it doesn't recognize a word correctly, just tap the "?" button and select "Correcting" to erase part of the word and write it again. If you select "Deleting," drag the pen, stylus or finger over the words to delete them.

A published author and professional speaker, David Weedmark has advised businesses and governments on technology, media and marketing for more than 20 years. He has taught computer science at Algonquin College, has started three successful businesses, and has written hundreds of articles for newspapers and magazines throughout Canada and the United States.