If it seems like the soon to be completed Windows 10 Creators Update isn’t bringing anything too exciting to the table, there might be something that you’re overlooking. Are you aware of the Anniversary Update that was released last summer? Windows Ink isn’t just about pen support for drawing squiggly lines on the screen. It’s also a serious attempt to improve the way we interact with devices.
I spend a lot of time editing documents. While I’m happy with my Dell XPS 9350 notebook, I wonder if I made a mistake in not considering a Surface Book Pen. Now that Microsoft has added intelligence and Office 365 integration to Windows Ink, Surface Book brings more to the table. Microsoft is a longstanding advocate of natural input methods. Beyond the traditional mouse and keyboard, it offers plenty of ways to interact with devices. Microsoft has seen some success on the Surface line of hardware, where the pen has become a favorite feature.
Windows Ink promises faster document editing, as well as intelligence for performing mathematical calculations. It will also automatically add Cortana reminders. These are all features that are available now with the Anniversary Update. But what particularly struck my attention was the integration with Office 365.
Windows Ink allows you to strike through words to delete them, circle text to select it, highlight text with precision, and transform drawings into shapes. The Windows Ink Workspace allows you to write sticky notes that are intelligent. Therefore, anything you write with a pen can be read by Windows and acted on in some way. The Windows 10 Creators Update also adds a Stroke Eraser. Think of it as CTRL+Z for Windows Ink.
Integration with Office 365 is even more important because of the Windows Ink Workspace. With the exception of Screen Sketch, Windows Ink isn’t about collaboration or sharing. It is your personal, unstructured workspace. And until Windows can learn how I think, God help it, I’m not convinced that Cortana will know what to do with all my sticky note jottings. But editing documents with a pen… That is something I could buy into.
Many technologies look good on paper but are beyond useless in reality. However, Windows Ink could be a significant differentiator if the hardware was more common. Microsoft could also do a better job of communicating that Windows Ink is a thing. The one place where you might see a viable use for Windows Ink is on a phablet or smartphone, but I think we all know the story there.