What you need to know
- Windows 11 will soon support entering content within any text field with a stylus.
- The improved inking experience is currently rolling out to Insiders in the Dev Channel.
- Apple shipped a similar feature called Scribble back in 2020.
Windows 11 Build 23481 shipped to Insiders in the Dev Channel this week. The release notes from the build shared that Microsoft will remove the integrated Teams Chat menu on Windows 11 and several legacy File Explorer options, but the update isn't just about taking things away. Microsoft also announced a new feature to Windows Ink that should deliver a big boost to tablets and 2-in-1s.
In the latest Insider update of Windows 11, Windows Ink can be used to write directly within any edit field. That means any box for text entry supports adding content with handwriting. The functionality isn't limited to specific apps either. It's a system-wide option.
"Windows Ink is being modernized to allow users to enable inking directly onto edit fields. In addition, we are improving the accuracy from the recognition technology and a scratch out gesture for when users need to make edits," explained Microsoft. "The goal with Windows Ink is to let users use their pen and handwrite anywhere they can type on their Windows device."
The feature rolling out to Dev Channel Insiders gradually. We noted this improvement to inking on Windows 11 yesterday, but it's worth highlighting a few facts about the feature. First, it's a welcome addition to Windows 11 that should allow people to keep a stylus in their hand rather than having to swap back and forth between a stylus, touch, and keyboard. Second, is the fact that Apple's iPadOS has had this functionality for years.
In the Apple world, the feature is known as "Scribble." It lets users enter content into text fields anywhere on their device with an Apple Pencil. It also includes some handy shortcuts such as scratching out a word to delete it or circling a word to highlight it for copying and pasting.
Over the years Apple and Microsoft have copied many things from each other. It's a bit surprising to see it took Microsoft this long to emulate Scribble, but the improved inking experience on Windows 11 will be handy for anyone that uses a stylus.
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But to put the "playing catch-up" game in perspective, Windows has supported hand-writing in text fields on the screen since 2005, with Windows XP + Pen support. Apple who famously knocked using a stylus for years, until the iPad Pro launch, finally admitted MS was right on there being a market for this (it's not for everyone, but many people want to handwrite on their screens).Reply
Yes, Apple was first to write directly on the field instead of in a separate handwriting box on the screen, but that's a relatively minor feature that doesn't fundamentally change usability. And that's the piece that MS has finally copied back. On the subject of copying and lagging, MS has been the overall leader in this area, with Apple adding one small nuance first.
Don't get me wrong, it's a good thing and this is a welcome improvement, but like animations: while it's aesthetically pleasing and maybe a little helpful in terms of avoiding confusion, it's not a transformational feature like Inking on the screen was in the first place.
This feature existed 20+ years ago on Windows Pocket PCs!! Go to the forum to see a 14 year old video of it in action! Sadly, with everything cool that Microsoft develops, it was dismally under-promoted and even may Pocket PC users didn't know it existed! :(Reply
I remember the disbelieving looks of many of my peers when I took out my handheld to take notes during meetings. It was known as Transcriber back then.
Check this video out, from 14 years ago (probably created before then) on a Compaq iPaq!!!