Windows 10’s handwriting keyboard allows you to enter text into any application with a pen or other stylus. It even works on old desktop applications.

RELATED: How to Use (or Disable) the Windows Ink Workspace on Windows 10

This feature is separate from the Windows Ink Workspace, which directs you to applications with special support for pen input. The handwriting keyboard allows you to use a stylus in any application.

Finding the Handwriting Keyboard

This feature is built into Windows 10’s touch keyboard. To open it, tap the touch keyboard icon next to the clock on your taskbar.

If you don’t see the keyboard icon on your taskbar, right-click or long-press on your taskbar and enable the “Show touch keyboard button” option in the context menu.

Tap the keyboard button at the bottom right corner of the touch keyboard.

Tap the handwriting keyboard icon, which looks like a pen over an empty panel.

The handwriting input keyboard appears. By default, it spans the entire width of your display. To shrink it, tap the “Undock” button to the left of the “x” on the top right corner of the panel.

Touch the title bar of the panel with your stylus or finger to drag it around your screen and position it wherever you want it.

Once you switch to the handwriting input panel, it will automatically appear whenever you tap or click the keyboard icon on your taskbar. You’ll need to tap the keyboard button at the bottom of the touch input keyboard to select the default touch keyboard if you want to use it.

Writing With the Handwriting Keyboard

You can input text in any application with a text input field. For example, we’ll be using Notepad here, but you can do this in any traditional desktop program or new Windows 10 app.

With the text field focused, write a word on the handwriting panel with your pen. Windows will automatically detect the word you’re writing.

Tap the space button on the right side of the panel with your stylus and Windows will enter the word into the text field you have focused. Just write a word, tap the “Space” or “Enter” button on the panel, write the next word, and continue. Windows should automatically detect the correct word if your handwriting is clear.

If Windows doesn’t automatically detect the word you’re writing, tap it on the suggestion bar. If you need to erase the previous word or a few letters, tap the backspace button at the right side of the panel. You can tap in the text field with your stylus to re-position the cursor or select text.

Handwriting Options

RELATED: How to Configure Your Pen and Its Buttons on Windows 10

You’ll find a few options for configuring how your pen works at Settings > Devices > Pen & Windows Ink.

For example, the “Show the handwriting panel when note in tablet mode and there’s no keyboard attached” option makes it easier to access the handwriting input panel on tablets with a stylus. When you’re using a tablet device with no physical keyboard attached and you’re in desktop mode (not “tablet mode”), Windows will automatically open the handwriting panel.

Direct Pen Input

RELATED: How to Use Sticky Notes on Windows 10

Some applications support direct pen input. For example, you can open the OneNote or Sticky Notes applications included with Windows 10 and write directly in a note to take handwritten notes. Use the Windows Ink Workspace to find more applications that support pen input.

The handwriting input panel can be useful even in applications that allow you to write directly with a stylus. For example, Microsoft Edge allows you to take notes on web pages and save your notes. Just tap the pen-shaped “Make a Web Note” icon on Edge’s toolbar.

However, Edge’s pen support doesn’t actually allow you to enter text into web pages. To do this, you’ll need to focus a text field in Microsoft Edge and open the handwriting keyboard.


By default, Microsoft automatically collects information about your handwriting input to better understand your writing and improve its recognition of your text.

You can change this setting if you like. Head to Settings > Privacy > Speech, inking, & typing. Click “Stop getting to know me” to stop Microsoft from collecting this data.

Profile Photo for Chris Hoffman Chris Hoffman
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.
Read Full Bio »