Apple Working on Surface Pen-like Handwriting Features for Apple Pencil

Posted on March 10, 2020 by Mehedi Hassan in Apple, iOS with 10 Comments

Apple seems to be planning something big for the iPad this year. Not only is the company expected to finally add full-fledged trackpad support to the iPad, but it could also introduce some new Apple Pencil features to rival the Surface line.

According to a new report from MacRumors, Apple is working on a new feature called PencilKit for iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 that will introduce some new features for the Apple Pencil.

The main feature being support for the pencil being able to turn handwritten text into actual text on iOS text inputs. Microsoft’s Surface Pen has supported this feature for years, thanks to the modern keyboard in Windows 10, and it looks like the Apple Pencil will soon support something similar.

The new feature would allow users to write handwritten content on a floating interface that pops up whenever a text field in iOS is tapped with the pencil. It apparently works with any text input field available in iOS, and Apple could also enable third-party apps to use this feature.

Apple is also working on a new “Magic Fill” feature that will help users with drawing shapes, which sounds like a feature that lets you draw a rough shape that’s automatically polished and improved by iOS. Microsoft’s Whiteboard app has a similar drawing feature for shapes and tables.

Although these new features do sound exciting for those with an iPad, they may not show up on iOS/iPadOS 14 as Apple’s plans are yet to be finalised.

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Comments (11)

11 responses to “Apple Working on Surface Pen-like Handwriting Features for Apple Pencil”

  1. aaaabbb

    Cupertino, bring out your photocopiers!

  2. tonchek

    Something completely new then. Revolutionary, even!

  3. RobertJasiek

    The number 1 feature of an OS update is its availability - will iPadOS 14 be available for all devices with iPadOS 13?

    New features are nice in themselves but meaningless in a broader context as long as more basic features are unavailable (such as Files recognising all files of all apps, battery usage time since last charge (Why was this very meaningful aspect dropped and replaced by many useless aspects?), free choice of default apps for file formats, in the case of the absence of the latter fully capable Apple default apps including - currently not given - the Books app functionalities of mark all + share files and display epub files correctly) so that I do not invest in things (such as a stylus called pencil) using new features.

    • SvenJ

      In reply to RobertJasiek: If you limit it to only those iPads that shipped with iPadOS 13 then I feel safe answering Yes. However, if you include every iPad that can run iPadOS 13, it's almost a given that the answer to that is, No. Every update has had some cut-off in legacy devices that weren't supported. That should be expected, given the alternative is that every iPad ever made would have to support every OS ever created. That's just not reasonable. I fully expect every iPad that supports a pencil of some sort will get iPadOS 14 and many that never supported a pencil will as well.

    • digiguy

      In reply to RobertJasiek:

      My guess is that A8(X) devices will be dropped this year... After all the Air 2 is already at a record longevity in terms of support.... Then it will be A9 2017 ipad. The first pros and all the pencil ipads should be supported for a couple more updates...

      Having said that, yes IpadOS needs improvements to the file app... and better external display support...

  4. bluvg

    In reply to r2d22:

    Funny how Jobs was furious with so many "great artists" (from his perspective).

  5. nbplopes

    My Toshiba M300 back in 2005 with Windows XP Tablet Edition did what is described with the stylus (Pen input support for text field).

    Never found that practical. The only app I used using such a feature well was Franklin Covey Tablet Planner (discontinued). Mainly because, it translated for search, but it would still keep the visual handwriting, even in an input field as small as a password.

    It will be interesting to see Apple approach. It will probably not be much different, but have learned that details matter. Apple is usually good with details.

    Apart from this feature, I think the main effect is that probably more apps will support pen. The iPad has many pen enabled apps, but each use their own ink engine. Having a pen engine embedded in the OS can potentially capture developers that don’t have the budget to build one but have great ideas ...

  6. sglewis

    In reply to nbplopes:

    You nailed it. People are clearly confusing using a stylus as your interface mechanism with supporting a stylus to draw within an app or write notes within an app. The iPad is still touch navigated, with ink or text input via virtual keyboard or stylus.

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