Taking the Pen to the iPad

Ten One Inking

The iPad has been successful by anyone’s method of reckoning. Apple has done what it does best — create a compelling device that is useful for many things that people like to do. Many iPad users tell me, and I agree, that it is more useful than they thought it would be. But there is one more use that many users would like to see. It is only natural to take a pen to a slate device, but it doesn’t work very well with the current technology. That should be set to improve when a concept by Ten One Design that adds pressure sensitivity to the iPad gets implemented. Many concepts never see the light of day, but Ten One is releasing this one to developers.


Pressure sensitivity plays an important role in handwriting on a tablet. As demonstrated in the video, it can cause line width to vary based on how hard the user presses on the screen. This is important for drawing applications, and it can also make handwriting recognition (HWR) more accurate. HWR is the magic that happens when handwritten words are interpreted and converted into digital text. This opens up a wide range of applications for inking on the iPad, not the least of which would be the ability to enter text into an iPad app without the onscreen keyboard.

Writing into apps may not be something a user wants to do all the time, but it can be a better method than the keyboard for short text entries. Imagine how useful it would be to write in a search term that the iPad converts to text to send to Google for the search. There are many applications for handwriting input that make sense for a slate device, and the omission is limiting.

Ten One has incorporated palm rejection, which is critical for inking applications on any touch sensitive tablet. Writing or drawing on the screen requires setting the hand down on the display, and that is normally falsely interpreted as a desire to write. Palm rejection makes the iPad able to tell the difference between a hand sitting on the display and a pen point. The application then ignores the hand and only interprets the pen input as it should.

The company is releasing this inking capability as a free software library available to any developer wishing to incorporate the ability into an app. This opens up the door for all sorts of useful implementations for ink input on the iPad. Wouldn’t it be great to see a real ink note-taking application, complete with HWR, appear on an iPad near you? Apple may not think pen input is important on the iPad, but my tablet toting buddies will tell you it’s often a great way to work with the slate.

Related GigaOM Pro content (sub req’d): Handwriting Recognition: A Killer App for the iPad?


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