Have a Touch Screen? Use the Inking Features in Office

If you have a touchscreen laptop or a two-in-one Windows laptop/tablet device (like a Surface or something similar), you may not be taking advantage of it to its fullest extent. One of the most useful things about having a touch screen is the ability to use Microsoft Office’s Drawing tools. Here’s how you do it.

If your device is touch-enabled, you should see a “Draw” tab in Word, Excel, OneNote and PowerPoint. If not, you can turn on the menu by selecting  File > Options > Customize Ribbon > Draw.

You should see a menu that looks roughly like so (the available tools vary depend on which app you’re in and which version):
One you click on the menu, you’ll see a variety of options. From left to right in the menu above:

  • The Lasso Tool: The lasso tool allows you to select existing ink in your document, where you can then change, move, or delete the ink. You can select individual strokes or entire shapes.
  • Eraser: This allows you to erase points or strokes you make. Click on the menu to select whether you are erasing points or strokes.
  • Black/Red Pen: The black pen (like the red pen next to it) are your default pen colors. However, you can change each of them so you have them be whatever color you want as your default.
  • Star Pen: This, like the red/black pen on the menu, is just another default pen. You can change this to whatever color, thickness, etc… you want to set another default pen.
  • Pencil: Similar to the Pen tools, this pencil tool is another default that can be customized. This is a pencil texture versus hard pen texture.
  • Highlighter: This tool is built to act as a text highlighter and is designed to snap to text to highlight it easily.
  • Action Pen: Using this tool you can edit documents using ink gestures. You can read all about this pen and its gestures here.

Some other cool things you can do with inking tools:

While you can use your finger to use those tools, they’re better if you’re using a stylus built for your device like a Surface Pen, its slim cousin the Surface Slim Pen 2 (or other generic knock-offs), a Dell Active Stylus or the like.

These tools are most useful in OneNote, but they can be useful in any of the Office products. As sometimes it’s just easier to scribble or draw things out when you’re taking notes.

Microsoft, How-To Geek and Office Watch all have more useful tutorials on how to use all these tools.

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