9 essential apps if you own a Surface Pen

What are the best apps to use with a Surface Pen?

The Surface Pen is a mighty tool that lets you get more done on your Surface PC. To really maximize the Surface Pen's ability, there are some essential apps you should check out. From note-taking to form-filling to coloring, here are the best apps to grab if you love using your Surface Pen.

See Surface Pen at Microsoft Store

Drawboard PDF

Drawboard PDF

Drawboard PDF (about $10) is widely regarded as one of the best PDF apps available, thanks to an enormous selection of tools, a document builder that lets you merge multiple PDFs, annotations that can be calibrated for scale, and a large number of grid and line templates.

If you're often working with PDF files, especially in a professional environment, Drawboard PDF should be near the top of your list.

Download Drawboard PDF at Microsoft Store

StaffPad

StaffPad

Musicians out there, take notice: StaffPad (about $70) is an app designed for Surface that makes it incredibly easy to annotate music. As you handwrite your music, it's automatically and precisely converted into an engraved score.

Once you finish writing, let StaffPad play back your creation with its full orchestra of instruments. Happy with what you're hearing? Print your music or share it as an MP3. If you're musically inclined, this is the app for you.

Download StaffPad at Microsoft Store

Sketchable

Sketchable

Sketchable is a free drawing, sketching, and painting app that has been designed with the Surface and its pen in mind. The user interface is constantly being tweaked by the developers to make it easier to use, and any problems are noted and taken into consideration for fixing.

Not only can you use Sketchable for notes or to work on existing images and artwork, you can use it to create an entirely new work of art thanks to its wide array of tools. If you have even a bit of creativity in you, this app will be hard to put down.

Download Sketchable at Microsoft Store

OneNote

OneNote

Microsoft's own free note-taking app syncs across all your devices — but it really shines when you add the Surface Pen. Take notes on blank or grid backgrounds, highlight text or draw pictures using various tools, then easily sync with OneDrive to keep your notes with you wherever you go.

OneNote lends itself well to group projects (as do all Microsoft Office apps) thanks to the ability to work together on the same files at the same time.

Download OneNote at Microsoft Store

Xodo

Xodo

This amazing PDF reader and editor is completely free, which is frankly surprising considering what you're getting here. Just open a PDF file and you're given free reign over what you can do. Write all over it, highlight the important bits, and save it as a new file. This is especially useful for quickly filling out those annoying forms that you usually have to type information into.

Toss in a dark mode for easy reading, a printing function that works straight from the app, and multiplatform support so you can use it on your Windows phone, and you have one of the top PDF apps out there to use with your Surface Pen.

Download Xodo at Microsoft Store

Bamboo Paper

Bamboo paper

The first time you touch your Surface Pen to the screen with Bamboo Paper open, you'll wonder just how they made it seem so much like real paper. Take notes using the six writing tools, add pictures to your pages and write over them, and share your ideas with others using Bamboo Paper on other platforms.

Choose from lined paper for notes, blank paper for drawings, or grid paper for math and notes — this is a great free, multipurpose app with a superior virtual ink experience.

Download Bamboo Paper at Microsoft Store

Nebo

Nebo

Nebo (about $3) is a note-taking app that was designed specifically for Windows 10 and the Surface Pen, and this is evident as soon as you start using it. Mathematicians will love the ability to create interactive equations and diagrams, and you neat-freaks out there can set clear titles, well-spaced paragraphs, and bullet lists to keep everything nice and tidy.

For easy access to all your notes no matter where you are, Nebo documents can be opened and viewed in your favorite browser, your email app, or Microsoft Word.

Download Nebo at Microsoft Store

Zen: Coloring book for adults

Zen

If you just scoffed at the idea of coloring books for adults, please give this a try before the scoffing continues. The free version of the app has a relatively large selection of images to transform, and if you decide to pony up for the full version, you'll have an almost limitless selection of coloring options.

Powerful coloring tools and all the colors in the rainbow, combined with the Surface Pen's accuracy, will have you relaxed in no time. Seriously — give it a try.

Download Zen at Microsoft Store

Snip

Snip

Snip is an incredibly useful tool that takes full advantage of your Surface Pen to easily share ideas. The execution is simple; you drag a box around the part of a screen you want to capture, write all over the snipped screenshot, then send it to someone else as an image, a URL, or a video containing the entire drawing process.

Snip is still a Microsoft Garage project, but that doesn't mean it isn't already a powerful tool. Try it today and see just how easy it is to get your point across.

See Snip at Microsoft Garage

Your favorite Surface Pen apps

Do you have an app that you just can't live without when it comes to using your Surface Pen? Let us know in the comments.

Updated July 31, 2017: We added a couple of new apps to the list to ensure you're still getting the best collection of apps for your Surface Pen.