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How to Write with a Stylus on Your Surface

Your Microsoft Surface tablet accepts your handwriting when you draw on it with a stylus—a specially designed, plastic-tipped pen.

Because both models of Surface accept a stylus, you can write by hand anywhere that Windows accepts typing. You can handwrite a letter in Microsoft Word, for example, or write in the name of a newly created folder.

As you write, Windows converts your handwriting to words and drops them into the appropriate place.

The key is to call up the handwriting panel by following these steps:

  1. Tap where you’d like to enter text.

    Tap any place that accepts text—an e-mail, a Word document, an entry in a calendar—even the name of a new file you’re saving.

  2. If the handwriting panel doesn’t appear, tap the taskbar’s keyboard icon, shown in the margin.

  3. If a keyboard appears instead of the handwriting panel, tap the keyboard switching key and choose the Stylus option.


    The handwriting panel appears.

  4. Begin writing in the handwriting panel, in cursive, block letters, or a combination.

    As you write, Windows quickly begins recognizing the separate words, listing them in order along the panel’s left edge. After you’ve written a short phrase, tap the Insert button. Windows inserts the words as text.


If all goes according to plan, you’ll write your words, insert them, and move on. To bring yourself up-to-speed, tap the little question mark inside the rectangle. Tiny visual tutorials show how to correct, delete, split, and join handwritten words.


The Surface with Windows RT requires a capacitive stylus, the inexpensive type of stylus sold nearly anywhere. (The ones sold for an iPad work fine.)

The Surface Pro, by contrast, comes with its own bundled digitizer stylus. More expensive than the capacitive stylus, the digitizer stylus allows finer, pressure-sensitive control when drawing. The Surface with Windows Pro includes a special screen with palm-blocking technology that makes it easier to take notes.

Both types of styli work in drawing programs, including Office OneNote, and the bundled desktop program called Paint.

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