June 26, 2022
  • June 26, 2022

10 Essential Pen-Friendly Windows Apps

By on June 7, 2017 0

Forget about limiting yourself to typing and touchpads. Microsoft’s Surface family, which has recently grown with Surface Laptop and Surface Studio, and a legion of touchscreen Windows laptops, are designed to do so much more than your standard regular computer. Whether sketching artwork, signing documents on the fly, or taking quick notes, embracing the Surface Pen’s deep inking capabilities and Windows 10 truly opens another door to productivity. increased.

If you want to put that trusty Surface Pen to work, of course, you’ll need an arsenal of ink-enabled apps to unleash its potential. But where to start ? Here are some of our favorite pen-centric apps in the Windows Store. There’s something for everyone, whether you’re a note taker, an artist, or just a casual doodler.

Fresh paint

Derek Walter/IDG

Microsoft’s Fresh Paint is a pretty easy-to-use app for someone who wants to explore Windows 10’s drawing capabilities. The app will even hold your hand through the process, giving you a half-finished canvas and big plans for the final version. Fresh Paint will also tap into Bing’s massive image bank or give you a blank slate if you want to indulge in some free-form art.


slide 3 scrble Derek Walter/IDG

With Scrble, you have a free-form notebook for writing and artwork, with options for a traditional lined paper background, chalkboard, whiteboard, spreadsheet, or music sheet . The app is basic without a ton of major bells and whistles, but the pen input is very responsive and the different paper options suit different needs.

The Windows Store app is free, or $3.99 for the full version.

Autodesk Sketchbook

slide 4 autodesk sketchbook Derek Walter/IDG

When it comes to apps built specifically for graphic artists and designers, you can count on Autodesk. Sketchbook is a professional-level drawing program ideal for graphic design professionals or anyone who needs more power than just a tool like Fresh Paint. The app also works with the Surface Dial, giving you greater control over your artistic endeavors. Going with a pro subscription gets you additional art tools, templates, tools, and cloud storage, but will cost you $30 per year.

PDF drawing

slide 5 drawboard pdf Derek Walter/IDG

If you have a Surface Book, Surface Pro 4, or Surface 3, Drawboard PDF is installed on your device (otherwise it costs $9.99 in the Windows Store). But far from being bloatware, it’s a useful PDF app that makes it easy to annotate, highlight, and add other writing to your files. It’s smart enough that you can simultaneously navigate with your finger on one hand and add ink with the Surface Pen on the other. I made it the default PDF viewer on my Surface, and you’ll probably like it too.

3D painting

slide 6 paint3d Derek Walter/IDG

Microsoft’s Paint 3D app might pique your interest in Windows 10 Creators Update features. You can use your stylus to produce artwork that goes beyond the flat, two-dimensional surface you’re used to. Build 3D objects and complete scene, add stickers and share creation with others. Even if you don’t have any artistic talent (like me), the app is still fun and worth checking out.

NY Times Crossword

slide 7 times Derek Walter/IDG

Completing a crossword puzzle on your laptop may lack the nostalgia of putting a pen to a journal. Nonetheless, the NY Times Crossword app for Windows is still a satisfying activity that should give your mind a daily workout. You can try the daily puzzle and archives for seven days, but after that you’ll need a subscription to get full access to the continuous puzzles and ad-free archives.


slide 8 reporter Derek Walter/IDG

Journaliste is an ode to the lost art of journaling, which consists both of recounting one’s experiences through writing and of the creative outlet that comes from art. The reporter offers you a free-form canvas with tools like a ruler, various two-dimensional shapes, and multiple paper choices. The Windows app also works with Surface Dial, expanding your ability to pick and mix colors on a Surface device.


slide 9 neebo Derek Walter/IDG

Generally, I recommend OneNote to those who want a digital notebook for their PC. However, give Nebo a strong look if you want a primarily stylus-focused alternative. It has several innovative features that make the writing process more powerful. You can use gestures such as scratching a letter or a word to remove it. The app will transcribe your handwriting into text in real time. There are also several templates for writing, art, or other uses. However, Nebo only works with a Surface, so you’re out of luck with any other PC.

Zen: coloring book for adults

slide 10 zen Derek Walter/IDG

Adult coloring books are all the rage. No seriously! If you want to know what it’s all about, try it on your Surface with Zen. It’s quite fun and can bring you some peace of mind after a hectic day filled with annoying co-workers, frustrating family members, or both. You can even mix a few DIY colors to personalize your designs.

The app is free, but you can purchase additional book sets for a few dollars each if you want to choose from more art projects.

Color by Disney

slide 11 color by disney Derek Walter/IDG

Maybe what you really need to survive the next meeting is some Disney magic. The Color by Disney app gives you a diversity of coloring books for just about every Disney movie you can imagine. Instead of coloring or illustrating free-form, you touch the shapes that make up the illustration to add color. Although Color by Disney is free, various in-app upgrades are required if you want to access more color bundles or additional characters.