When the Windows 10 Anniversary Update ships this summer, it will do so with some innovative pen and ink technology from Adobe Systems.
At its Build 2016 conference last week, Terry Myerson, executive vice president of Windows and Devices Group, said with Windows Ink, you can write on your device as you do on paper, create sticky notes, draw on a whiteboard and easily share your analog thoughts in the digital world.
“With Windows 10 now running on over 270 million active devices, we’re celebrating with our fans by delivering the Windows 10 Anniversary Update,” he said. “This significant update will help you interact with your Windows 10 devices as naturally as you interact with the world around you — using your pen, presence and voice.”
In a demonstration of the technology during a keynote at Build, Microsoft engineer Bryan Roper said Microsoft’s goal with Windows Ink is to really combine the naturalness and the speed of pen and paper with the power of a PC.
There are several parts to this, he noted. “No. 1, we’re going to put this pen front and center so you know what to do with it,” Roper said. “No. 2, we’re going to make sure that we solve for the tasks that people are reaching for pen and paper most for. And No. 3, I’m going to show you how Windows Ink is actually a deeper platform that enables faster and more fluid Ink flow throughout the entire Windows experience.”
Roper demonstrated how Microsoft is extending inking experiences into Office, a maps app that it has delivered and then also in Adobe. “Now, beyond Office, beyond maps, we know that Windows Ink is a platform for everybody, and Adobe’s embracing this,” he said as he demonstrated the power of the new technology. “I’m going to talk you through something they made for us. Check this out. What you’re seeing right now, it’s going to come up, so that’s a stencil called a French curve. Adobe does not want their tools to get in the artist’s way. All right? But watch what happens. Simultaneous pen and touch is enabled with the Windows Ink platform. Look how that artist is easily able to use touch and pen together to be able to actually make these perfect lines on the shoe with the French curve stencil. I mean, that’s awesome. This is empowering new experiences. The tech is not getting in the way; it’s enabling. That is the goal.”
Indeed, Windows Ink brings the power of Windows to the tip of a user’s pen. “More than 70 percent of us spend more than one hour a day using a pen,” Myerson said in a blog post. “We lose notes in our notebooks, take pictures of whiteboards, and can’t do equations or music composition with a keyboard. Windows Ink is an all-new experience, putting the power of Windows in the tip of your pen, enabling you to write on your device as you do on paper, creating sticky notes, drawing on a whiteboard, and easily sharing your analog thoughts in the digital world. Windows Ink is integrated into apps like Maps, Microsoft Edge, and Office. And today, we demonstrated how developers can incorporate Windows Ink into their apps with as little as two lines of code!”
Microsoft engineer Kevin Gallo also spoke at Build and noted that with the Universal Windows Platform, Microsoft has been creating new ways of interacting with its devices that go beyond touch and mouse to include vision, writing, speech and more. It’s more than just the inputs and outputs; it’s about creating experiences that transcend a single device and enabling developers to orchestrate experiences across devices, he said.
Adobe Teams With Microsoft on Ink Tech for Upcoming Windows 10 Update
With the Windows Ink APIs, “Together we will unlock new natural ways of interacting with our apps with Windows Ink,” Gallo said in a blog post. “Just two lines of code enable you to bring the ‘Hello World’ of Windows Ink into your apps through the InkCanvas and new InkToolbar controls. One level down, the InkPresenter provides a powerful and flexible way to extend the InkToolbar and to create customize ink experiences. In all cases, the platform provides beautiful low-latency ink rendering, handwriting recognition, and ink data management.”
Anubhav Rohatgi, group product manager for design at Adobe, said Adobe and Microsoft have been working together to add simultaneous pen and touch capabilities inside of Adobe Illustrator. Developers and designers can use Adobe Creative Cloud tools on Microsoft devices, namely the Surface Pro, to allow creativity to flow wherever they are, he said. The Illustrator blush is extremely responsive because it uses Windows Ink. Being able to use pen and touch makes the whole experience feel more intuitive and efficient.
“Adobe has been a close partner with Microsoft for years—for example, Adobe has added native support for pen, touch, and high DPI displays in several of our CC [Creative Cloud] apps for Windows and the Surface Pro, Rohatgi said. “As the leader in creative tooling, Adobe has been providing to Microsoft our expertise in the needs for improving the user experience on Windows for our creative users, and we’re delighted to see Microsoft bringing this to the Windows platform and Surface devices.”
Rohatgi said the focus of the demo at Build was to show the benefits of using pen and touch simultaneously with Illustrator as an example. “The summer update to Windows 10 will deliver this new capability which hasn’t been available before,” he told eWEEK. “We provided a demo of Illustrator which shows how a creative can replicate their natural way of working with pen and touch at the same time. This is how creatives are used to working with pen and paper, so now we are seeing the digital drawing experience come even closer to a natural drawing experience.”
To perfect the technology, Adobe worked together with Microsoft for more than 18 months to influence simultaneous pen and touch. Microsoft took stylus and inking workflows seriously right after Surface Pro 2 and did a great job with Surface Pro 3, he said.
“It is still the only active stylus in the market,” Rohatgi noted. “On hover feedback really helps users discover stylus functionality and work with the stylus on touch- and stylus-enabled computers. Microsoft is also investing a lot in inking and stylus and looking to get broad adoption of stylus by other OEMs.
Rohatgi said he believes the pen and ink technology Adobe delivered to Microsoft to be very significant. “The default inking experience on Windows is significantly better,” he noted. “This used to take a lot of engineering resources to build well in the past but is now part of the OS natively.” However, Rohatgi said Adobe did not develop this technology for Microsoft from scratch. “We only used the APIs in our application,” he said.