Cursive in Chrome written on a Chromebook in multiple colors
(Image: Andy Wolber/TechRepublic)

In May 2022, Google announced that Cursive, a note-taking app built for Chromebooks that work with a stylus, will soon be installed by default on supported Chromebooks. If you have a stylus-enabled Chromebook—or even a touchscreen-enabled Chromebook—you may experiment with the Cursive app now.

Cursive provides a seemingly-endless scrolling page for a note, which makes it work well for long-form notes you might take while in a meeting or class. As your note-taking fills the screen, you may move the page up with a two-finger scroll to gain more writing space. That feature sets it apart from Google’s other writing and drawing apps.

SEE: Google: Take note of the stylus in the enterprise (TechRepublic)

For example, a scribble in Google Drawings or Slides lets you add a free-form line; a sketch in Google Keep lets you fill a single screen; and a board in Google Jamboard remains screen-size bound, even when you choose to add multiple boards in a Jam.

The core features of Cursive, as they exist in early June 2022, are covered below.

How to get started with Cursive handwritten notes

On a Chromebook with a touchscreen, go to in the browser. If you use a stylus with your device, you may use the stylus to navigate and take notes in Cursive. In most cases, Cursive will work immediately. If the system displays an error message, you may need to adjust your settings to allow third-party cookies.

On the main Cursive page, in the upper left, two buttons display: New note and New notebook. Select New note, and a new, blank note page displays as shown in Figure A. You may write or draw on the note immediately.

Figure A

screenshot of cursive interface with notes
Image/Annotation: Andy Wolber/TechRepublic. Cursive provides a pen, highlighter and various editing tools to allow you to handwrite long-form notes on a Chromebook.

With the pen selected, you may adjust the line color or width. Select the color circle, then pick any of the 28 preset colors; or choose the diagonal line, then pick any of the three preset line widths. With the highlighter selected, you may select from 12 highlighter colors and 3 marker widths. Select the Insert image icon, then navigate to and select any image file. You may resize the image and place it on the page.

You may make some edits with your stylus: Scribble over something to delete it, or circle items to select them. Or, choose the selection tool, then draw a square to select all objects where any portion of the object falls within the square boundaries. Once selected, you can:

  • Move the activated object anywhere else on your page; or
  • Select the three dots, then choose to either:
    • Duplicate the set of selected objects; or
    • Delete the selected objects.

Select the eraser, then select any lines or objects to remove them. Importantly, the eraser removes objects: It doesn’t act like a physical eraser, which you might use to remove only a portion of a line. Instead, the eraser lets you remove entire objects. I encourage you to experiment with the eraser before you need it!

To add a rectangular area, such as a space for another line or paragraph of notes, select the Make space tool icon. Once selected, tap at the point on the page where you want more space, then drag the displayed bottom circle up or down as desired.

The three-dot menu in the upper right lets you:

  • Change background (select from 7 options);
  • Copy all to clipboard;
  • Export as PDF;
  • Switch to stylus mode (or to touch mode); or
  •  Access help.

To the left of the three-dot menu, the undo and redo options let you undo or redo successive steps.

When you finish writing your note, select the home icon in the upper left to return to the Cursive main screen.

How to file Cursive notes in notebooks

Cursive lets you organize your notes in notebooks. This allows you to group all notes for a particular project or class together. To create a notebook, select the New notebook button, then add the title of the notebook and select a cover color.

To filter the notes displayed, choose from:

  • All notes, which shows every Cursive note you have;
  • Any notebook, to display only notes in a selected notebook; or
  • Unfiled notes, to access all notes you have not yet placed into a notebook.

If you choose Unfiled notes, for example, then select the three dot menu (in the lower right of a note); choose Add to notebook, as shown in Figure B; and then either select an existing notebook from the displayed list or choose the + New notebook option.

Figure B

screenshot of Cursive interface showing different notebooks
Image: Andy Wolber/TechRepublic. You may add a Cursive note to a  notebook or leave any note unfiled.

When you have a notebook open and select the three dot menu in the lower right, you may either choose Delete note to move it to the trash or Remove from notebook to return the note to the Unfiled notes group.

On the main screen, the three dot menu in the upper right corner lets you refresh the display as well as access both Trash, to review and potentially recover a recently deleted note, and Help.

What’s your experience?

As of early June 2022, Cursive seems intended for individual handwritten note-taking. In its current incarnation, Cursive lacks the conventional user interface found in most Google Workspace apps and also omits collaboration, which historically has been a core feature of Google productivity apps. Cursive seems a reasonable start for a Chrome OS alternative to full-featured Android handwritten note-taking apps, such as Nebo or Squid.

If you’ve tried Cursive on a Chrome device with a stylus, what was your experience? Has it served as a reliable handwritten note-taking app for your needs? What prompted you to choose Cursive over other alternatives? Let me know what your experience has been, either in the comments below or via Twitter (@awolber).

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