Microsoft

Five apps to make use of your Microsoft Surface pen

The Microsoft Surface has plenty of ways to make use of a digital pen, but not all apps are created equal. Here are five apps that excel at their respective tasks.

Windows 10 was greatly improved by the Anniversary Update, especially for Microsoft's line of Surface tablets and laptops. The new Windows Ink Workspace further cements the importance of the stylus to Windows 10, and it does so with style.

If you're fortunate enough to have a machine that works with a stylus there are a lot of features to check out. More and more pen-centric apps are appearing on the Windows Store—but which are worth your time?

Taking notes, simulating a whiteboard, turning handwriting into text, annotating PDFs, and doing math aren't just possible: These five apps make them practical.

Bamboo Paper

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Image: Brandon Vigliarolo/TechRepublic

Wacom, the maker of Bamboo styluses, had its technology baked into the first two Surface Pro models. While Wacom may have been ditched for N-trig its Paper app still works great—and is a must-have—for Surface users.

SEE: Microsoft Surface Pro 4: The smart person's guide (TechRepublic)

Bamboo Paper is a note-taking app that tries to mimic a paper notebook. Its notebooks have different pages you can flip to, you're free to write anywhere on the page, and you can even paste images in.

Notebooks can be shared with Bamboo Paper users on Android and iOS too. It's a great app to use if you want to ditch a notebook in favor of your Surface.

Mischief

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Image: Brandon Vigliarolo/TechRepublic

Infinity is a difficult concept to grasp. Imagine a surface that can be zoomed or shrunken as much as you want, that can be moved in any direction as far as you want, and that you can draw on to your heart's content. That's Mischief.

There are a lot of artists using the Surface Pro who love mischief for its infinite canvas and vector formatting. The premium version even allows you to add layers and export directly to a PSD file: Handy for Photoshop users.

The not-so-artistically-inclined among us can still find a lot of use for Mischief, especially as a mind-mapping tool. Infinite canvas means infinite space to map out ideas too.

Nebo

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Image: Brandon Vigliarolo/TechRepublic

Taking notes on a tablet with a stylus is all well and good, but what if you want to share your scribbles later on in a more readable fashion? That's where Nebo excels. This note-taking app gives you OCR recommendations as you're writing and allows you to convert handwritten lines into text instantly.

SEE: Microsoft Surface Book: The smart person's guide (TechRepublic)

Nebo can export documents as DOC files or send them in emails and has a wide range of formatting options. It also allows you to write out math formulas and create diagrams, all of which can be sent along with the text it generates from your handwriting.

If you're interested in checking Nebo out—or think you might be in the future—do it now. It's normally $8.99 but is free until October 30th.

Xodo PDF Reader and Editor

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Image: Brandon Vigliarolo/TechRepublic

PDFs gain a new degree of utility when you can write directly on them with the Surface. Xodo lets you scribble, mark up, add signatures, fill forms, generate PDFs from the camera, create new blank PDFs, and basically do everything you could ever need to do with Adobe's ever-present document format.

Xodo isn't just on Windows, either: It's on Chrome, Android, and iOS devices.

FluidMath

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Image: Brandon Vigliarolo/TechRepublic

Not everyone who uses a Surface is taking notes, writing, or drawing: Sometimes they need to do math too. Surface users who want to write a formula and have it turned into text can do it with FluidMath.

The app is described as being for educators, but it's capable of doing a bunch of math functions that professionals use. If you find yourself wishing your could do math on your Surface then FluidMath is worth a look.


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About

Brandon writes about apps and software for TechRepublic. He's an award-winning feature writer who previously worked as an IT professional and served as an MP in the US Army.

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