How to Work with Handwriting in OS X

By Mark L. Chambers

Apple includes some useful handwriting features in OS X. Based in part on some of Apple’s handheld software for its ill-fated Newton (one of the first personal digital assistants, released before its time), the handwriting recognition in OS X gives you the capability to write text on a compatible tablet in your favorite applications.

The basic process of working with handwriting in OS X goes like this:

  1. Attach a Wacom tablet to your Mac.

    Wacom tablets use a Universal Serial Bus (USB) connection, so connecting one to your computer is as simple as plugging in the cable from your tablet to a USB port on your Mac.

  2. Open the desired document on your Mac.

  3. Write on the tablet with the stylus that accompanies it.

    A stylus is the pen that accompanies most tablets. A stylus doesn’t have any ink in it: It’s just a pen-shaped tool with a plastic tip meant for writing on a tablet.

    Your Mac interprets your handwriting and places that text (at the cursor, where you would typically type with the keyboard) in the active application. You’re spared the whole training bit, too.

You aren’t restricted to writing just text on the tablet. You can use your tablet to control the interface of your Mac as you would a mouse. A tablet also works great for graphics applications, such as Corel Painter and Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, and Photoshop Elements. Many artists are frustrated when drawing with a mouse; when you use a tablet, though, you can feel right at home with natural pen or brush movements.

Yosemite also offers a few settings in the Ink pane in System Preferences (accessible from the Dock). From there, click the Ink icon to adjust settings for your tablet.

If you don’t have a Wacom tablet connected to your Macintosh, you can’t view the System Preferences pane for Ink. OS X is smart enough to show you only the settings for your current hardware setup.