Microsoft supercharges the pen with OneNote and the Surface Pro 3

Surface Pro 3 Pen

Microsoft has just announced the Surface Pro 3. Not only is it thinner and lighter than the Surface Pro 2, but it’s more powerful and has better battery life. Microsoft has also drastically improved pen support with the new Surface Pro 3. The union between OneNote and the pen has never been stronger.

The new pen in the Surface Pro 3 has been designed with note-taking in mind. You can double click to automatically have OneNote launch on the Surface Pro 3. The pen itself is also a little weightier, so that it mimics the feel of a pen with ink you might use with paper.

Microsoft has also made a handful of improvements to the Surface Pro 3 itself to better accommodate the pen. The display is a 3x2 ratio so that it feels more like paper.

In addition to stellar OneNote support, Microsoft has partnered with a few developers to create compelling experiences for the new pen and Surface Pro 3. Adobe will release a version of Photoshop CC that’s been optimized for touch. The New York Times will release a crosswords app that allows you to write your answers down and have them converted into text.

Photoshop CC

All in all, the Surface Pro 3 and pen look like a killer combo. We’ll have hands-on photos and videos shortly. In the meantime, let us know whether or not you’d use a pen on a regular basis with a machine like this. 


Reader comments

Microsoft supercharges the pen with OneNote and the Surface Pro 3


First, faster, and is it available in Brazil? Now that I got the essentials out of the way I can make my comment.

Omg this is a photographers dream machine! I'll have to get one!!

The improvements with pen support in PhotoShop is awesome!

Don't get me wrong the Surface 3 is a great device, but I was expecting some surprises for some reason. 

I'm just surprised how well the design improvements being achived.  Larger, thinner, lighter, faster, better pen, display, keyboard, battery and Kickstand are the main attractions.  This should be a super hot machine for all the professionals.  Of course, it is a premium machine with premium prices which many don't mind to pay for it.

To me the Surface is poorest at being a laptop. If you are on a train the thing just doesn't sit pretty in your lap. To me the Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro has this thing beat for the same price. It has a better keyboard and mouse and will sit in your lap.

Of course, if your most used mode is Tablet mode, then I would say the Surface is your prefered choice.

Still, I hope one of the accessories is a nice dock - Lenovo has a one connection dock - where I can plug in a bigger screen and keyboard and use it for home. 



They showed a dock in the presentation. They also showed it being used on the lap. If it doesn't wobble too much while typing, it should be fine on the lap. Of course, tablet mode is my most used mode on my lap. I tend to try to find a table if I need to type. Doing any work on a laptop resting in your lap is not the ideal situation. I don't care which laptop you have, it's not ergonomic or comfortable.

Don't be too quick to say that about the Surface Pro 3.  If you actually watch the keynote or look at the details you'll see that the SP3 will work much better on your lap than before and it looks to be very similar to a laptop.  Only difference is that with the kickstand you wouldn't be able to put the keyboard on your knee.  SP3 has a magnetic seal with the new TypeCovers that'll increase the stability and he uses it on both legs or even while crossing them.

There's already a Surface dock, and he shows the SP3 on a docking station so yeah, that's available too.  If not, you could always use a basic port replicator.

We deploy Yoga's as my boss isn't a fan of the Surface Pro, tho we have one of the originals that he uses at times for convenience.  I like the Yogas as an ultrabook, but they're way too heavy for what they are and are actually pretty bad as a tablet because of it.

Be resourceful my man. If you find yourself on a train and the SP3 isn't sitting pretty in your lap, look for a pretty little thing and ask if you can use her lap for awhile for your new SP3. Great pick-up line and you can be sure she's never heard that one before.

I never said the price was any good. 60000 for an Intel hd graphics device ? I'd rather get the hp laptop with 2 gb graphics, i5, and 8gb ram for the same price. 60000 is just too much for this by indian standards. (yes i do know its build is great etc, but i ain't from a super rich house)

Ok, so how is the pen different than the SPro, or S2Pro pen?  Can I use a S3Pro pen with my SPro device and do the same things?

No, they're different technologies. Previous ones were wacom and this one is ntrig. Wacom is much more precise, have much more pressure levels and does not require a battery. But, probably costs more.

I wonder if a firmware update would make it possible.  I know they are different technologies, but seems like it might be possible.

NTrig???? Count me out. They did the Dell Latitude XT2, and it was the worst digitzer screen I have ever used. No longer interested, unless they really did miracles in improvement since then.

Pen support in Win7 is great. I use it all the time. Not sure how it has been improved here. Probably Win8 sucked and they've simply fixed it?

The new pen and ink is a lot more realistic and if you watched the demo it even makes the strokes thinner/thicker on the press and unlike iPad there's zero lag (despite it being n-trig).

Also the clicker is now super charged with OneNote capabilities.  Just like you'd click a pen and start writing on paper notepad, when you double click the pen, it turns on your Surface and opens a quick note view of OneNote. 

I highly recommend watching the keynote to see how epic the device is.

This is definitely much better.  The Mini I'm guessing will get released in a few months when students are in back to school mode.

The biggest problem is: it is a N-Trig (with all its crappyness + battery). All previous surface pro's were with wacom.

Was really hoping they'd keep the wacom.

256lvl's of pressure sensitivity.  That pritty much eliminates any professional using this in Photoshop.  To give you some perspective, even the cheap Wacom's have 1024, and the high end at 2048.  The Pro 2 offers 1024.  This is a HUGE downgrade.

Would 256 levels be enough for normal note taking in corporate environments? I spend 3+ hours a day in confernce rooms.

For note taking it should be just fine. But keep in mind the extra headache of dealing with battery (which can have short life depending on how much you use). But, if you've used wacom before, it could be hard to go back, imho.

Microsoft blew it with the departure from Wacom, for gimmicks like waking the device with the pen button. Microsoft should have gone for the best 2048 Wacom tech.


"for gimmicks like waking the device with the pen button"

Umm... for someone like me who would love a tablet like this and be able to turn it on with a click of the pen is amazing and I don't see it 'gimmicky' at all.  Also - how can you say they blew it when you didn't even try out the pen yourself?  If you watched the keynote it worked even better than Wacom from what i saw.  The only sucky thing is that it needs a battery.

I have the Dell venue 8 pro, no comparison I know, but I use the pen all the time. Hopefully all these improvements will trickle down into all pen enabled devices, and lead to even more, and better options in the future.

I don't see why some of the OneNote improvements, potentially even a double-tap on the Windows logo shouldn't be able to trickle down.

Exactly, I don't see how software improvements should not come to all Surface devices; sure you don't have a pen button for it, but as suggested a double tap or hold on the win key should be a no brain solution.


my thoughts exactly.  I just bought one today for 150 cuz they didn't release the surface mini.  I wanted a smaller device with good battery/pen support for now, with the hope of getting SP3 later to replace all other devices.  I would think that some of the onenote/windows 8 tricks should be doable, just not as you see with the clicking of the pen etc.

I would definitely use the pen. As a student I feel restricted when using my nexus 7. A pen would be a boon. But guys notice gets a company which is not just making things lighter thinner and all that. This is real innovation! And did the host mention about some rumour of a fruit company borrowing the side by side apps view. :)

Space available with a pen makes such a difference. I used to use a 12-inch Motion Computing LE1600 which is still the best pen experience I ever had (over SP and SP2, not just due to size but also due to the digitizer). Having more space simply making inking better.

Of course the will borrow the side by side view. For me this is the number one point why ALL Windows 8 Tablets are better than my iPad. You just can't chat in Skype while doing anything else. You would have to constantly switch apps back and forth, ridiculous. For me this was only a matter of time that Apple introduces something similar, ever since Windows 8 came with this feature.

Overall let me say it was probably the best Microsoft product announcement done. Except for the "favorite child..." And "my wife is also a bad parent too" blurb from Panay, just a well done surprisingly informative and entertaining presentation. My only question is where does the pen stored?? Is a 24" Surface AIO a possibility, we're at 12". The pen was amazing. I'm just very impressed.

Agreed. Nice announcement. Specifying your favorite child is a serious no-no that will cause problems further down the road with the other kids. That said, I still enjoyed it.

Why would they switch to an inferior input technology if they were going to focus on the pen as one of the killer features of the device???

It sounds really good and interesting to me as a photographer, designer, and all around doodler, but if it's not a precise input device, then I'm afraid it's rather useless to me.  :(

Look at it this way, no technology is static so we have no idea how N-trig has improved their pens. I'm pretty sure that if MS thought it wouldn't pass muster they wouldn't have included it in their premium tablet. Best thing is to try it out in-store.

Don't let people's N-Trig comments get to you.  None of them actually tested it out, and this is a brand new version of it and based on the demo it looks amazing and is more responsive than any Wacom tablet i've seen.   :)

Presumably, PhotoShop can now detect different levels of pen pressure? Surely they wouldn't have called them out on stage without that problem solved. As an aside: what that Adobe V.P. did on the digitizer screen Panay (or most anyone else) could have done just as well... why suits shouldn't do demos....

I disagree.  Having the Adobe VP showed the partnership and trust of Adobe to show that even they use it.  If it's only Microsoft people, it shows it's a one-sided demo.

My wife and I have started using OneNote for shopping lists and other misc stuff.  It works really well even in Android.

On my SP2, I use OneNote for all note taking.. Personal notes, work meetings, my continuing education classes... Love it!

unlike many here I actually OWN an SP2 and routinely use it with adobe CS. Here is what I hope they fix:

-pen accuracy is really low without the special drivers from wacom which are the only way to get pressure sensitivity to work.

-however corner accuracy remains REALLY BAD near the corners even after calibration. A WP central member wrote a custom utility to calibrate the pen using far more points than the stock calibration, but still WELL BELOW what I'm used to from my wacom tabs. Before then I COULD NOT CLOSE apps with the stylus because I kept missing the button.

-Adobe needs to support the MSFT stock driver from the gate out instead of requring the additional wacom drivers. That or ship it with the wacom drivers out the gate. This is not a ding to MSFT but to Adobe, but MSFT should just work it out. You tout PS so much only to have it not work well with the pen when you first buy it, and then you have to chase around forums for the special link to the wacom drivers.

-OGM, put a pen slot really. I've lost 3 already!

also another thing many are not aware of, windows crashed PS on surface for better part of its lifetime. Only about 2 months ago did they get around to fixing it. if your surface went to sleep, PS would crash on start every time. Yet panos touted surface pro 2 and PS...yet it would literally crash it all the time. This CANNOT happen again or I'm going to lose my cool.

I do not believe it was the wacom driver, it was the surface hardware. And you HAVE to use the wacom driver if you want pen pressure in photoshop.

well, apparently it is an n-trig pen which is inferior to the wacom. ha ha. what a cruel world I suppose. cost cutting measure?

Based on the demo, those were all resolved. :-)   It looked really accurate to me.  But again, dont let bloggers and commenters decide that for you.  Test it out yourself when it's out before you judge it.

well, my PS CS on SP2 still crashes the graphics driver a lot. I thought they had fixed it but apparently on yet another update, it broke...ah.

I swear if MSFT can't at least launch PS without crashing, Panos should come down hard to the windows team for making such crappy drivers or come down or adobe for not pushing MSFT hard enough to stop preventing people from doing manual driver upgrades. People with the same GPU as SP2 report that the latest intel drivers fix some of the problems. But SP2 outright refuses to update its drivers as they must come from MSFT with their special sauce.

I'm a heavy one note user, I rely on it deeply. That said, if the pen/SP3 interface is as realistic as demoed, then it will knock most competition out of the water. Finally, a digital "notebook" that can be used effectively at work, school & home.

To the guy that said the surface pro 3 uses ntrig ND not wacom technology. Show us where that is stated/writen.

It doesn't matter what it uses.  It simply matters how it works, and based on the demo it was really good and acurate and the new stroke widths based on pressure are really awesome and realistic.

if you're a graphics designer, the pen is a HUGE step backwards. I'd almos say that SP3 will not work for them. shame. so close to perfect for this market if they had only stuck with wacom and address the issues with sp2.

You forgot to mention the decrease of the parallax between the movement of the pen and its inking on the tablet. This is big since it's something I notice on my pro 2. The ink isn't always right at the tip of the pen. From the demo it looks like they fixed this.

So as someone mentioned - pen storage?? They're isn't the ridiculous battery clip adapter storage thing on the side of this pen but I'm pretty sure if there was a storage slot (which I didn't see) they would have shouted about it.. Does that mean no storage at all?? I foresee lots of lost pens.. :(

can you store the pen with the device internally and not megnetically? otherwise the pen just gets lost or is a pain to carry around.

1) Any pen technology not based upon Wacom is just an evolutionary dead end that will hamper professional usage. 

2) They clearly DID NOT get Adobe on board this.  That s just a marketing line.  By the looks of it, the touch enabled version of Photoshop is just what they were already working on in for non-touch/high resolution screens.  Adobe has been slammed again and again fo the microscopic menus in Photoshop - this complaint has come from high resolution touch and non-touch Windows users AND Apple users with retina displays.  Congratulations - Adobe has finally fixed the problem that has made Photoshop CC nearly useless for those with high resolution screens for the past couple years.  It shouldnt have taken this long to just get menus and icons scaled for devices.

They probably switched to NTrig because the pen can click when not near the tablet to wake and do other things due to its battery. Wacom pens are passive, reacting to the screen, so they couldn't do such a thing. Just a thought.

Good god. I am excited about the Photoshop announcement. This is what I primarily use my first generation for....hell yes!

I can finally get rid of my Motion Computing LE 1600 dinosaur of a tablet. I've been using that setup as a poor man Cintiq. I'll be using the pen on the SP3 for note taking and art.

Edit: Nevermind. An Ntrig digitizer is a deal breaker. I guess I better start saving for the Wacom companion device :(

Lenovo has stood by Wacom. Although Wacom has out performed nTrig in the past, it's possible they might have caught up or even surpassed Wacom in this iteration, so best to try it out or wait until a full review becomes available.

I use Wacom on a Lenovo convertible and also have seen the lack of accuracy near the corners and the parallax error noted by others. Not sure this is due to drivers or hardware. Wacom though good, is not perfect, at least on Windows devices.

- Click to wake
- Double click to wake and start writing immediately
- Super responsive zero-lag writing
- No more annoying paralax
- Thin/thick strokes based on width (realistc writing)


A basic question: does the pen act as an overlay on ANY software, thereby permitting markups on, say, and Internet Explorer Web page. Or, does it require specific software like OneNote and Adobe mentioned in the article? I'm a high school math and science teacher. I'd like to use this pen for classroom presentations (preferably projecting the image on a screen, but that part is easy). I just want to know what documents i can use this pen on, especially is I can mark on a Internet Explorer webpage