Windows 10’s Anniversary Update improves on Windows 10’s stylus support with a new “Windows Ink Workspace” feature. It’s designed to make using a digital pen faster and easier with a Windows 10 tablet or convertible device.

Aside from being a dedicated launcher for pen-enabled apps, the Windows Ink Workspace includes new Sticky Notes, Sketchpad, and Screen Sketch applications. You’ll also find more options for controlling how your pen functions in the Settings app.

How to Open the Windows Ink Workspace

To launch the workspace, click or tap the pen-shaped Windows Ink Workspace icon that appears in your notification area.

If you have a stylus or digital pen with a shortcut button, you can also quickly launch the Windows Ink Workspace by pressing the button on the pen. For example, if you have a Surface Pen, you can press the button on the pen to launch the workspace. That’s the default setting, at least–you can customize what the button does from the Settings app.

How to Launch and Find Pen-Enabled Apps

The Windows Ink Workspace is like a Start menu for getting stuff done with a pen. Rather than hunting down individual apps, you just grab your pen, press the button, and then tap the app you want to use with the pen.

It opens as a sidebar on the right side of your screen and provides quick access to apps like the new Sticky Notes, Sketchpad, and Screen Sketch tools, along with quick shortcut tiles to launch pen-enabled apps you recently used. These shortcut tiles are just another way to find and launch pen-enabled apps without your other installed applications getting in the way.

You’ll also see “Suggested” apps from the Windows Store here, and you can click or tap “Get more pen apps” to view a special page on the Windows Store that lists only pen-enabled apps. This gives you a faster way to find pen-enabled apps, like Microsoft’s own Fresh Paint application for digital art.

How to Use Sticky Notes, Sketchpad, and Screen Sketch

RELATED: The Beginner's Guide to OneNote in Windows 10

The three main Windows Ink Workspace apps are provided by Windows and designed to make using your pen easier and faster.

Use Sticky Notes to jot down notes with a pen (or just type them out with your keyboard) and refer to them later. Sticky Notes is a more lightweight app that’s ideal for quick notes. For more detailed, extensive note-taking, you’re probably better off with Microsoft’s OneNote.

When you open Sticky Notes, you’ll be asked if you want to “Enable insights”, which will make Windows use character recognition read your sticky notes and use Bing and Cortana to provide more detailed information. For example, if you jot down a flight number, Sticky Notes will perform character recognition, recognize the flight number, and turn it into a link. Click or tap the link to view up-to-date details about that flight number. This is entirely optional, and the main purpose of the Sticky Notes app is just for writing notes with a pen or your keyboard.

Sketchpad is basically just a digital whiteboard. You’ll find options for choosing different styles of writing, from thin pencil to colored pens and thicker highlighters of different colors. There’s also a virtual ruler you can enable that will allow you to draw a completely straight line. Place the ruler, draw, and your line will stay snapped to the edge of the ruler. You can save an image of your whiteboard to an image file or use the share button to send it to someone through another app.

Screen Sketch is a fairly simple tool that allows you to mark up your screen. When you launch Screen Sketch, it will take a screenshot and give you drawing tools you can use to annotate it. Draw or write whatever you want over your screen, and then you can save the sketch to an image file and send it to someone or use the share button to share it with another app.

If you just want to save a screenshot without annotating it, use the Windows+PrintScreen keyboard shortcut instead.

How to Configure Your Pen and Customize the Workspace

To customize the Windows Ink Workspace, head to Settings > Devices > Pen & Windows Ink. You’ll find a variety of options for controlling your pen and the Windows Ink Workspace here. For example, you can tell Windows whether you write with your right or left hand and choose what the button on the pen does when you click, double-click, or long-press it.

How to Disable the Windows Ink Workspace Icon

If you don’t plan on using a pen with Windows 10 and you want to get the Windows Ink Workspace off your taskbar, you can turn it off just like you’d turn off other system icons.

To do this, head to Settings > Personalization > Taskbar > Turn System Icons On or Off. Locate the Windows Ink Workspace icon here and set it to “Off”.

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Chris Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek. He's written about technology for over a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times and Reader's Digest, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami's NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read more than one billion times---and that's just here at How-To Geek.
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