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Microsoft got it Right—Handwriting in Word and Excel with Apple Pencil on iPad (Pro) 2018

So, how does Microsoft stack up when it comes to note-taking apps? If you've been following me for a while, you know I'm not a fan of Microsoft OneNote for a couple of reasons. First you have to log in to use it. Second, you only have OneDrive to synchronize. However, the latest update from Microsoft has provided another option for taking notes by hand. Microsoft has added handwriting capability to their Office apps.

Don’t want to read? Then watch this video explanation.

If you look at Microsoft Word on your iPad or iPad Pro, you’ll see that it still looks the same as you are used to seeing, and you can still perform the regular functions you use Word for. The new handwriting addition is in the top navigation bar under the tab labeled Draw.

Once the Draw tab is open, you can select from three colored pen icons, a pencil, a highlighter, and an eraser. There are also a variety of colors to choose from.

Inside your Word document you can type as you usually would, or you can write by hand by selecting the Draw tab and choosing a pen or pencil, the color, and line thickness. Once you’ve made these selections you can start drawing right inside the document.


Using the highlight function, you can quickly highlight selected text.

The pencil tool allows you to draw and shade with your Apple pencil, just like drawing with an actual pencil.

The feeling of the handwriting is fluid, and there is no latency or delay.

When you add handwritten lines or marks to your document, they stay together as a group of text would. In other words, if you put your cursor in front of them and press enter the whole block of handwritten text will move down, just like typed text would.

This means that you can add spaces between your blocks of text, whether they are typed or handwritten. Then you can insert more text in those spaces, or even an image.

All of the note-taking apps will allow you to use handwriting with typed text in a document, but this app allows you to go in and add spaces between them, while the other apps won’t allow it.


One aspect of this drawing feature that is so exciting is you can use it inside Microsoft Excel. The same Draw tab appears at the top in the navigation bar inside Excel.

While using the Draw function, you can select a cell, reduce the thickness of your pen or pencil line, and write directly in the selected cell.

After you’ve written inside of a cell, it behaves just the same as it would if you typed inside the cell. You can actually move the cell with the handwritten text around to a different location on your sheet. You just touch and hold on to the cell you want to move, select copy, and then drag the cell into its new location.


One of the most amazing uses of this drag-and-drop feature is that you can create your own calendar. Starting at the top of your document, write each day of the week inside its own cell.

Once you’ve written in the days of the week, you can write your scheduled tasks in cells underneath a specific day. Because you can drag-and-drop your writing from one cell into another, you can move a task from Monday over to Tuesday with the touch of a finger.

This feature is really a game-changer because instead of having a static document that’s difficult to make changes to, you have a dynamic document that you can quickly rearrange.


If you use the Draw function in Excel to draw a freeform design that runs over the top of several cells (without selecting a specific cell to write inside of) and then try to use the drag-and-drop feature, the program recognizes that this is a drawn design that spans several cells and it won’t move the design.

These new features have really improved the usability of the Microsoft apps.

The downside of this app is that you have to pay for it. You can download it and use it for free, but if you want to save it or edit with it you have to pay a monthly subscription. It’s a low price, and this feature can be used inside all of the Office 365 Suite, and you can use it on your mobile devices and a PC.

If you already use Office 365 and you do a lot of writing, editing, and creating, this is a great add-on to have.

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