A kickstand and colorful keyboard attachment are the two things that have come to define the Surface and Surface Pro tablets. Both features are great – spectacular even on the Surface Pro 4 and Surface 3. There’s a third feature that nearly every Surface has. It ensures its status as productivity powerhouse. I’m talking about the Surface Pen that every modern Surface device is compatible with today.
The Surface Pen started out as a little plastic gimmick, to be honest. Originally a slightly updated Wacom Digital Pen, early Surface Pens felt cheap, came in black and snapped into the power port that the Surface Pro came with back then. Microsoft kept that original pen for two generations, moving to a refreshed, silver Surface Pen with less pressure sensitivity and better build quality for the Surface Pro 3. The Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book ushered in the modern Surface Pen.
Here are some tips to get the most out of the latest Surface Pen.
The New Surface Pen is Worth the Upgrade
I never get tired of explaining to people how big an improvement the Surface Type Cover that arrived with the Surface Pro 4 is over the one Microsoft made for the Surface Pro 3. The same is true with the Surface Pen, the modern version is better than its immediate predecessor in a few ways.
First, it keeps the action button that was around in the last-generation Surface Pen, but also has an eraser cap so that it feels a bit more natural to erase with. Second, magnets inside mean that you can stash the pen on the actual device instead of a ridiculous looking loop that you will certainly lose in a few week’s time. Third, it has interchangeable tips that allow users to create the exact feel they are looking for. With the Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book, there’s over 1000 different pressure sensitivities, though that’s not a feature that extends to the Surface 3 and Surface Pro 3.
Microsoft sells the new Surface Pen for $59.99 at the Microsoft Store. For those that have a compatible Surface, the upgrade is worth it. The Surface Pen comes in standard silver, black, blue and gold to match the current generation of Surface Type Covers. Why it doesn’t come in red is anyone’s guess.
Surface Pen Button Keys
The new Surface Pen has just two buttons, with all activities featuring one or the other in some way.
The top button on the Surface Pen is entirely for shortcuts. On the flat edge of the new Surface Pen is another button. It’s for right-clicking on items that you’ve selected with the pen already. OneNote uses this button to let you use the Lasso tool and select batches of content in your notebooks.
Use the Surface Pen Shortcuts
Press the cap on the Surface Pen and you’re able to go straight from a lock screen to being able to scribble down notes. That was the case that Microsoft made for the Surface 3 and its Surface Pen. Despite adding a new operating system to all Surfaces and pushing an updated version of OneNote, the company’s approach remains the same. Microsoft wants you to see the Surface Pen as a gateway to your device.
Press the Surface Pen’s eraser cap once and you can create a new OneNote entry. Press the cap twice and you snatch a screenshot of what is on your screen. You’re free to add notes on that screenshot too. Hold the key cap down for a few seconds and you activate Cortana, the personal assistant built into Windows 10.
Download the Surface App
Download the Surface app to your device to get better control of how you’re Surface Pen behaves. The app features options for adjusting pressure sensitivity, plus drop down menus for deciding what each of the button presses do.
The Surface App comes pre-installed on all Surface devices that support it.
Switch The Tips
For most people, the Surface Pen is an alternative to writing in a notebook or drawing on paper. In both cases, how the tip of the Surface Pen feels when rubbed against their display is key. The right tip also plays a part in how comfortable someone feels using the Surface Pen full-time.
If you buy a Surface Pen you’ll get a pack of four different tips to use with your Surface Pen. Use the end of the plastic holder that they come in to carefully remove them and decide which is best for you. If you’re a Surface Pro 4 or Surface Book user that has a pen, but doesn’t have the extra tips, consider buying a pack of them for your Surface Pen. They cost $10 from the Microsoft Store.
Surface Pen Apps
Here are some great apps that show off what the Surface tablets and Surface Pen can do.
Good luck with your Surface and Surface Pen.