Microsoft Improves OneNote Inking, Readies Apple Pencil Support

Soon, users of the note-taking app can turn blob-like circles and slightly askew squares into sharp-looking shapes.

Microsoft OneNote

OneNote will soon allow users to convert their hand-drawn doodles into precise, computer-generated shapes, Microsoft announced.

"Ink Shape Recognition is a new mode that will automatically convert your hand-drawn shapes into perfect-looking shapes while inking," wrote Ian Mikutel, a Microsoft OneNote Ink product manager, in an Oct. 20 blog post detailing the new feature. "It recognizes over a dozen shapes including basics like circles, triangles and squares, but also more complex shapes like quadrilaterals, pentagons and hexagons."

A new Convert to Shapes button will appear on the Draw tab of the OneNote's main menu. "Once enabled, simply draw shapes with your pen (or press the button to the left of Convert to Shapes to draw with mouse or touch) and watch as your shapes automatically are converted into better-looking versions of themselves," Mikutel instructed. "It's great for everything from basic flowcharts and mind maps to Venn diagrams."

Ink Shape Recognition will make its official debut in a November update to the OneNote apps for iPad, iPad Pro and Windows 10. Also in November, the company will release an update enabling iPad Pro and Apple Pencil support.

Announced on Sept. 9, Apple's iPad Pro is the Cupertino, Calif. device maker's long-rumored tablet for the enterprise. Packing a 12.9-inch display with split-screen technology and Apple's third-generation 64-bit A9X mobile processor, the iPad Pro is "the most capable and powerful iPad we've ever created," said Apple CEO Tim Cook.

Accompanying the new business-aimed tablet when it goes on sale next month are a Microsoft Surface-like Smart Keyboard and the Apple Pencil. The latter, a $99 stylus, allows for more accurate pen input and enables on-screen drawing.

Microsoft also is supporting another "Pencil" for iPad, this time from FiftyThree, makers of the Paper app.

"We're happy to announce Pencil and Paper's new partner, OneNote, the popular digital notebook app by Microsoft that syncs across virtually all of your devices," announced FiftyThree on its company blog post. "Connect Pencil to OneNote on iPad to write with enhanced precision, and take advantage of its unique draw, erase, and Surface Pressure features."

Naturally, Microsoft's own Surface Pen is getting some attention from the OneNote group. The app will support the new version of the stylus and its interchangeable writing tips.

During the Oct. 6 unveiling of the Microsoft's Surface Pro 4 tablet and Surface Book laptop, the company also showed a follow-up to its Surface Pen with 1,024 levels of pressure and provides full year of battery life. "The new Surface Pen has increased pressure sensitivity, adds an eraser at the top and lets you click and hold for Cortana—all while still letting you click once to open a blank page of OneNote—even if your Surface is locked," Mikutel noted.

"The new Surface Pen Tip kit lets you choose a pen tip with the right feel for you. Stay with the medium tip for the familiarity of a #2 pencil or swap it for a low-friction tip similar to a fine point pen," he continued.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...