How to use handwriting recognition with Surface Duo and Gboard

Surface Duo Handwriting Gboard
Surface Duo Handwriting Gboard (Image credit: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

One of the fun things about a new form factor is figuring out how to do new things with it even with older tools. While Microsoft's SwiftKey sadly does not yet have handwriting recognition, Google does with its free Gboard keyboard.

Here is a quick guide on how to enable it as well as see it in action.

  1. Download Gboard from the Google Play Store (free)
  2. Follow the prompts to set up and enable Gboard on Surface Duo
  3. Open Gboard settings via the cogwheel, or open Gboard under Apps

Surface Duo Gboard Cog (Image credit: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)
  1. Select Languages

Surface Duo Gboard (Image credit: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)
  1. Tap English (US) QWERTY and select Handwriting

Surface Duo Gboard (Image credit: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

After that, any time there is a text input field, you can use SwiftKey for typing, but use the keyboard select button (bottom right corner) to choose Gboard. By default, it goes to QWERTY, but you can select English (US) Handwriting by long-pressing the space bar. And that's it.

Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

Now, with Surface Duo, you can use the Surface Slim Pen (or any Surface Pen) to start writing in the handwriting recognition field.

Although I take a dramatic pause in the above video for effect, you could continuously write if you prefer. It is a fast and seamless experience and ideal for those who like to ink over typing. And since this is just a regular keyboard, you can use it globally throughout the OS for any app you choose.

Microsoft Surface Duo


Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central. He is also the head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007, when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and watches. He has been reviewing laptops since 2015 and is particularly fond of 2-in-1 convertibles, ARM processors, new form factors, and thin-and-light PCs. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.