The Surface Pen and Surface Slim Pen are mighty tools that only get better when you add some of the best Surface Pen apps to the mix. From note-taking to form-filling to coloring, here are the best apps to grab.
True Paper Feel
The first time you touch your 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.
Leonardo is still in its beta stage. But it has a full set of tools for amateurs and pros alike, including infinite canvas, tons of brushes, grids and perspective lines, and a user interface that's easy to navigate. Whether you're sketching, drawing, or painting, this app will accommodate your needs. While it remains in beta, the price is knocked down to $40, 50% off the full price, at least for now.
Pro Drawing Tools
If you were holding out on Autodesk SketchBook because of the price, you can now get the full version — including some Pro tools — for free. This is one of the best drawing and sketching apps for pretty much anyone, with a wide selection of brushes, surfaces, tools, and features to choose from.
Take Control of PDFs
Drawboard PDF is regarded as one of the best PDF apps available, thanks to an enormous selection of tools. It's a document builder that lets you merge multiple PDFs, has annotations that can be calibrated for scale, and a large number of grid and line templates. If you're often working with PDF files in a professional environment, Drawboard PDF should be near the top of your list.
Write Music With Ease
Musicians out there, take notice: StaffPad 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 playback your creation with its full orchestra of instruments.
Sketchable is a free (with paid upgrades) drawing, sketching, and painting app that has been designed with the Surface Pen in mind. Not only can you use Sketchable for notes or to work on existing images and artwork, 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.
There's just something about a stack of index cards that makes you feel like you've got your life in order. Both sides of cards can be marked up with your pen, and a zoom function lets you jam quite a bit of information onto each card. Cards and stacks of cards can be shared with others, and there's no limit to the number of cards you can create.
For those of you commonly involved in team projects, CollaBoard is an app that works with your Surface device and the Microsoft Hub. It's best described as a digital whiteboard that multiple users can contribute to, all in real-time. With Skype for Business integration and compatibility with PDF, images, videos, and more, the whiteboard can become the central pivot point of your more extensive project.
Microsoft's own free note-taking app syncs across all your devices, but it 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.
Read and Edit PDFs
This fantastic 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 rein over what you can do. Write all over it, highlight the significant 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.
If we're making some suggestions
Thanks to most of the above apps having at least some sort of free version, you can give them a try with your pen essentially risk-free to see if they'll come in handy. And don't worry about mixing and matching hardware; the Surface Slim Pen works with older Surfaces. Don't have a Surface Pen? You can always check out these Surface Pen and Surface Slim Pen alternatives.
Wondering exactly where to start with the apps? Bamboo Paper (opens in new tab) is a lightweight app that delivers a true paper feel while writing. Not only is it great for notetaking and journaling — you can add your own photos to a page — it can also be used to sketch or draw thanks to a custom color palette and a collection of tools beyond just a pen.
Need something more suited for artistic ambition? I've been using Leonardo (opens in new tab), which is now available straight from the Microsoft Store, for some time, and I appreciate the simple UI that scales to any size display and the overall collection of tools. Whether you want to sketch something rough or go for a full work of art, you shouldn't have any problems. The infinite canvas is ideal for letting your artwork flow, and while it's still in its beta stage, you can save $40 off (opens in new tab) off the full price.
Cale Hunt is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. He focuses mainly on laptop reviews, news, and accessory coverage. He's been reviewing laptops and accessories full time since 2016, with hundreds of reviews published for Windows Central. He is an avid PC gamer and multi-platform user, and spends most of his time either tinkering with or writing about tech.
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