The Microsoft Surface Pen is a nifty gadget which I’m still wondering how to usefully deploy.
It’s a pen with a soft nib which writes on a Surface Pro tablet screen, perfectly rendering a digital version of natural handwriting, which is quite extraordinary.
The pen integrates with Microsoft programs such as Word and OneNote through Windows Ink. Windows 10 has ink support built in through apps such as Sticky Notes and Sketchpad.
Both are intuitive and easy to use for making handwritten notes which can be converted to PDF or image files. It’s a nice way to send a personal message to someone as an image file through WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger.
How useful is the Surface Pen?
This is the question. I feel it’s cute, but in a novelty way, more a gimmick.
It’s a long time since I’ve used handwriting for notes or communication. I’m more likely to use an audio app today if I want to record a meeting or conversation. In the office or at home, I’m faster at typing on a keyboard than writing.
I’m about to start an online MBA and that’s where I think the Surface Pen could come into its own.
While watching a video or listening to a lecture, it’s easier to jot thoughts down with a pen than it is to type them. By using one of the Windows Ink apps I’ll have a saved digital file to read and refer to afterwards without needing to scan pages or flip through a notebook.
The Surface Pen sells for $140 through the Windows Store, which is expensive given its limited scope for deployment.
I’m also paranoid about losing it. I carry my Surface Pro in a leather sleeve and slip the pen inside with a portable mouse. The mouse is easy to feel and unlikely to slip out, but I worry about the pen.
As things currently stand, the Surface Pen is a fun gadget rather than a practical necessity.