How to use the Apple Pencil features of iPadOS 14

iPadOS 14 features all-new Apple Pencil support that will let you write and draw across the OS to interact with text fields, and in the Notes app.

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Image: Apple

When the Apple Pencil was first announced for the iPad Pro back in 2015, it rightfully garnered a lot of attention. It was the perfect companion for the iPad for graphic designers and artists because the near zero-latency input of the pencil meant that you had almost the same drawing experience as on a piece of paper.

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For a few years, the features of the Apple Pencil didn't really change, until Apple unveiled iPadOS 14 at its WWDC developer conference in June 2020. This is when all iPad users started to take notice of the Apple Pencil and the new features that the OS would be brining.

Now that iPadOS 14 has been released, let's take a look at two of our favorite features in the release: Scribble and Notes. Both of these features take full advantage of the Apple Pencil and Apple Pencil 2 on compatible iPad models, so grab your Apple Pencil and follow along.

Scribble features

Scribble is a brand-new feature to iPadOS that lets you write in text fields across all apps that support keyboard input. Instead of needing to type out text, you can just write it in and it will automatically be converted to text using Apple's machine learning. Best of all, this feature works extremely well, even with the worst handwriting that we've seen (a feature I'm sure that many doctors and their assistants would appreciate). Let's take a look at how this feature works in-depth.

Handwrite text

In any text field throughout iOS and third-party apps where you'd typically tap and use the on-screen or external keyboard to type text, you can now just grab your Apple Pencil and begin writing in the text field (Figure A).

Figure A

iPadOS_Handwriting_Figure_A

Want to write in your Google search or URL? No problem, just begin writing on top of the text field with the Apple Pencil.

Image: Cory Bohon/TechRepublic

When you finish writing, and after a short pause, the text field will be populated with the typed text converted from your handwriting using Apple's machine learning. This works exceptionally well, even with bad handwriting.

Delete text

If your handwriting was converted to text and you realized that you don't want to have that word (or the word was incorrectly interpreted) and you wish to remove it from the text field, simply use the Apple Pencil to scratch through the word horizontally or vertically. After a brief pause, the text will be removed and the cursor will be placed at the spot where the text was removed. You can use this to cross out a single word or an entire line of text.

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Select text

If you wish to select text (in the same way that you'd typically tap and hold, then drag the selectors across text manually), you can more easily select text with the Apple Pencil by just circling the text you wish to select. Once selected, you can then copy, paste, or perform other actions on the text using the quick pop-up menus as you would when manually selecting text.

Insert text

If you missed something in the middle of a sentence and want to go back and insert text in the middle, simply tap and hold where you wish to insert new text and the field will expand to make room to write additional text.

Join text

If two words or characters should be joined (or separated), you can join them by drawing a single vertical line in between the characters or words. To separate them, do the same and after a brief pause the words or characters will be separated by a space.

Handwriting and drawing features in Notes

The Notes app in iPadOS 14 has gotten a huge improvement when it comes to handwritten text and drawings that you can create with the Apple Pencil. Let's take a look at how you can take advantage of these new features.

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Handwritten text selection and copy and paste

Machine learning improvements have allowed Apple to take advantage of its onboard machine learning chips in iPads to be able to distinguish drawings from text. This lets you use text selection gestures that you'd typically use on typed text to select handwritten text (Figure B). 

Figure B

iPadOS_Handwriting_Figure_B

Handwritten text can be easily selected and then copied and pasted into another Note or into other apps as typed text.

You can then copy and paste this text into another note, or a completely different application. If the application supports drawings it can be pasted as a drawing, but if the app (for instance a Word document) doesn't support drawings, then it will be pasted as typed text instead of a drawing.

Shape recognition

There's new shape recognition tools when you're drawing in the Notes app. To use this new feature, start drawing a shape (it can be a rectangle, circle, triangle, ellipse, or even a complex shape like a star). When you finish drawing the connecting line, pause with the Apple Pencil still touching the screen and the Notes app will correct your hastily drawn shape into a properly rounded (or squared off) shape.

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