What you can and cannot do with an Apple Pencil on iPad Pro

Posted:
in iPad edited November 2015
The Apple Pencil is more than just a drawing utensil -- it can work as a full-fledged, system-wide stylus with the iPad Pro. But there are also certain tasks that just aren't possible with Apple's new accessory. Here's a breakdown of what it can and cannot do.


You can open apps and links, scroll, and navigate

Let's get the biggest and most obvious answer out of the way first: Yes, you can open apps and scroll and do all general purpose navigation on the iPad Pro with Apple Pencil.

This includes all apps that were not designed for the Pencil. Flicking the stylus as you would your finger invokes momentum scrolling in exactly the same way.

Long presses are also acceptable, meaning you can use the Pencil to delete apps or open a link in a new tab.


Scrolling works fine in any app, as does palm rejection.

You cannot access edge gestures like Notification Center or Control Center

Swiping with your Apple Pencil from the top or bottom of the screen does nothing. You'll need to use your finger if you want to access these edge gestures.

There's no technical reason for this, of course --?it's a deliberate design decision by Apple.

That goes for iOS 9 multitasking as well

The Apple Pencil cannot be used to invoke Slide Over or Split View. Swiping from the right side of the screen gives no response either.

And if you have a second app open in Slide Over, you can't push it off the screen with the Pencil. You also cannot resize apps in Split View with the Pencil.

You can type on the keyboard, enter a lockscreen password, and invoke Spotlight search

If you're a hunt-and-peck typer, the Apple Pencil works as you'd expect with iOS 9's virtual keyboard on iPad Pro. That includes entering URLs in Safari, searching in the App Store, and similar text entry functions in any other apps.

The Pencil can also be used to drag down on the home screen to bring up Spotlight search. And you can scroll to the left to access search and Siri Suggestions.

If you want to bypass Touch ID, you can also pick up your Pencil to enter your lockscreen password.

Third-party keyboards work fine with Apple Pencil, too


Using Apple Pencil with Swype keyboard.


While typing on Apple's regular keyboard is a slow affair with Apple Pencil, it can be a bit more expedited with third-party keyboards that allow swiping and gesture-based input.

Here again, Apple Pencil works as you'd expect, simply replicating your fingertip. Swipe away, smudge-free.

Palm rejection works everywhere

Want to rest your hand on the screen and use the Apple Pencil while you scroll in Safari? It works fine.

Put your hand on the iPad Pro display while you navigate the home screen, type on the keyboard, or doodle in Notes. It just works.

This means your Apple Pencil will work fine with apps that haven't been updated to specifically support the accessory.

You can charge your Apple Pencil with a regular Lightning cable

Though it includes a male Lightning plug for recharging directly via the iPad Pro, Apple has also included a female-to-female Lightning adapter in the Apple Pencil packaging.

That means you can plug in your Pencil to a regular Lightning cable and charge it, if you so choose (and assuming you don't lose the adapter).

Yes, you can trace through a piece of paper


Scribbling on an iPad Pro through a standard sheet of computer paper.


If you want to put a piece of paper on top of your iPad Pro and trace to draw, you can do that. We tested with a standard sheet of computer paper, and it worked fine.

Depending on the thickness of the paper, you may want to turn up the brightness to allow the display to show through the paper. Palm rejection works with paper atop the iPad Pro as well.

But you cannot use the opposite end of the Apple Pencil as an eraser

Despite the fact that it's called a pencil and it features a round cap on the opposite end, there are no sensors located in the cap. Though you may instinctively turn the Pencil around in an attempt to erase, it won't work.

Apps instead must include an eraser option in software. You can use the Pencil to select that, and then erase accordingly.

Multi-finger gestures don't work (obviously)

This should go without saying, but in case it was unclear, there is no way to return to the home screen or invoke the app switcher in iOS 9 with the Apple Pencil alone. It won't pinch to zoom, either.

If you use the four- or five-finger gestures in iOS 9 for multitasking or returning to the home screen, you'll need to switch to your hand. The Pencil cannot replicate all five of your fingers, clearly.

Or, just press the home button. With your Pencil, if you want.

Apple Pencil won't work with your older iPad, or iPhone

Another obvious one, but for the sake of clarification, the Apple Pencil was designed in tandem with the iPad Pro and only works with Apple's 12.9-inch tablet.

The iPad Pro features a lower-latency display using a bespoke subsystem, sampling Pencil-to-screen interaction at 240 times per second. The iPad Pro only uses that high sample rate when it senses the Apple Pencil is in use, and then scales back to half that when a fingertip is being used.

None of that technology is found in your iPhone 6s or iPad Air 2. So don't bother buying this $100 accessory if you don't have an iPad Pro.
Sean146
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 118
    Can you use two Pencils on the same screen simultaneously?
  • Reply 2 of 118
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post



    Can you use two Pencils on the same screen simultaneously?



    I was lucky enough to get just one Pencil, I don't have access to a second one.

  • Reply 3 of 118
    radarthekatradarthekat Posts: 3,030moderator
    Very well covered. Thanks for this article.
  • Reply 4 of 118

    Can you use it to copy text from one application and paste that text etc. into another?

  • Reply 5 of 118
    How good is it to write with it? Can I use the iPad Pro and Pencil as a replacement for my Moleskine?
  • Reply 6 of 118
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by jzawacki View Post

     

    Can you use it to copy text from one application and paste that text etc. into another?




    Yep. As noted, you can long-press, which works fine for standard text selection and copy/paste. Works just like with your finger.

  • Reply 7 of 118
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by sflagel View Post



    How good is it to write with it? Can I use the iPad Pro and Pencil as a replacement for my Moleskine?



    I have atrocious handwriting and I filled out a lengthy document with it yesterday. The best compliment I can give the Pencil is it perfectly replicated my atrocious handwriting with no issues.

  • Reply 8 of 118
    sflagel wrote: »
    How good is it to write with it? Can I use the iPad Pro and Pencil as a replacement for my Moleskine?

    I believe so. I went to the Apple Store yesterday to try just that and was blown away by the palm rejection. It worked flawlessly, even with a non Apple stylus that I currently use. I tried the same software (Adobe Sketch) on both the iPad Air 2 and the Pro and there was no comparison. The palm rejection seems to be backed into the touch controller software at a system level which is fantastic.
  • Reply 9 of 118
    nagrommenagromme Posts: 2,834member
    As a life-long Wacom fan (I have one before me right now), I will say that I always liked the IDEA of side-buttons and eraser end. The idea. But in practice, I've found both features super annoying. Tapping a tool is quicker than reversing the entire stylus in your hand, and besides, I'd rather have the precision point for ALL edits, including erasure. As for side buttons, they force you to be careful how you hold it, they don't feel good, and I hit them by mistake occasionally. If they save time, it's not enough to be worth it. If ever simplicity was a virtue, it's in an artist's pencil.

    Interesting about edge gestures. I guess they want you to feel free to draw right up and past the edge--and back again--in all apps.

    Surprised--and very pleased--that palm rejection works in all apps with no software support needed!
  • Reply 10 of 118
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by nhughes View Post

     



    Yep. As noted, you can long-press, which works fine for standard text selection and copy/paste. Works just like with your finger.




    Correction: You can long press with the Pencil to bring up the "Select" pop-up menu in a text editor (Pages) or text entry field (search/URL bar in Safari). Basically, anywhere with a blinking cursor. However, long pressing with Pencil does not work to select text on a website itself. You can, however, begin the initial selection with your finger, then refine the selection and copy with the Pencil.

  • Reply 11 of 118
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by sog35 View Post

     

    Does the pencil have universal mark up ability?

     

    For example if I have a Word document can I scribble on it?

    If I have an email or photo can I do the same?

    What about a PDF file?




    Depends on the app and whether they have drawing support. I don't see a way to draw/scribble notes in Pages. I can do that on a PDF in PDF Expert. I don't have an Office 365 subscription, so I don't know if you can scribble in the Word app. As for email, I use Mailbox and Gmail for my accounts. Gmail supports scribbles, and it works great, but Mailbox doesn't support it. Basically, if you can do it in an app with your finger, you can do it with the Pencil.

  • Reply 12 of 118
    irelandireland Posts: 17,568member
    The lack of an eraser is a glaring oversight. I've seen many artist on video already yearn for this ability. I'm surprised Ive didn't include it, it's so clearly a good idea. Especially not the likes of note taking apps.
  • Reply 13 of 118
    It appears that Apple has found the right balance of what you can and can't (should and shouldn't) with the Apple Pencil.
  • Reply 14 of 118
    irelandireland Posts: 17,568member
    nhughes wrote: »
    Basically, if you can do it in an app with your finger, you can do it with the Pencil.

    You cannot invoke edge gestures, so no.
  • Reply 15 of 118
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Ireland View Post





    You cannot invoke edge gestures, so no.



    Edge gestures are an iOS function, not an app function.

  • Reply 16 of 118
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Ireland View Post





    You cannot invoke edge gestures, so no.



    And I was referring to his questions about taking notes/scribbling.

  • Reply 17 of 118
    jfc1138jfc1138 Posts: 3,090member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Ireland View Post



    The lack of an eraser is a glaring oversight. I've seen many artist on video already yearn for this ability. I'm surprised Ive didn't include it, it's so clearly a good idea. Especially not the likes of note taking apps.



    Not really, as mentioned a requirement you completely change your holding of the device simply to erase something is clumsy and time consuming compared to using the same hold for all functions, I've used Wacoms since the mid nineties as a total mouse replacement(my desk real estate being better preserved with a small tablet than having to leave a big mouse runway always open, especially with my larger or dual monitors) as well as image editing tool and have tolerated that interruption in my flow but not been happy about it, a quick tap to select "eraser" with a defined size is much less of an interruption. Probably partially the burden of the name, much like the Apple Watch isn't actually a watch the Apple Pencil actually isn't a pencil.

  • Reply 18 of 118

    Thanks @nhughes this clears up a lot of misinformation. 

     

    Glad to hear you can generally navigate with the Pencil or otherwise use the Pencil as you would your finger.

     

    Thumbs up for this write up.

  • Reply 19 of 118
    Hopefully Pencil 2.0 resolves the issue with not being able to flip the pencil over and erase like you would do with a wood and graphite pencil.

    Even MS Surface's stylus does that. And the Surface devices aren't that great, whereas the iPad Pro is so focused. But even it has its issues. I was was going to buy ASAP, but I really want all apps to use the entire screen first and also need the pencil to work naturally. I guess will have to wait a short while as I am sure at least one, but possibly both issues may be resolved in a subsequent software update. Hopefully the pencil eraser can be added in via software. And hopefully, it's accurate enough.

    I'm guessing since this was Apple's first alternative input device for the iPad, that they were focused on other things (and possibly there wasn't time to solve the riddle of putting sensors AND a lightning connector on one end). Also, as the purposed limitations of what you cannot do with the stylus are revealed, it is obvious Apple was already thinking of the "but Steve Jobs said..." naysayers.

    the point is clear. The Pencil is Apple's way of additonally making sure you have everything you need to do whatever you need to do however you need to do it on a device that is still and will continue to be the best machine to operate with your fingers alone.

    The OS will always be purely finger UI driven. In other words, you miss nothing without the Pencil. BUT you gain much with it. Perfect.

    Now just give me a natural erase mechanism without the need to "select" it in software.That sort of takes me out of the creative flow.
  • Reply 20 of 118
    Very Good Article!
    ireland wrote: »
    nhughes wrote: »
    Basically, if you can do it in an app with your finger, you can do it with the Pencil.

    You cannot invoke edge gestures, so no.


    I suspect that the pencil UI will evolve to support some of these issues -- on a system level or an app level ...


    The edge gestures, pinch/zoom, rotate, etc. could be done with a combination of the pencil and one or more fingers.


    For example, press the pencil on a precise location and use a finger to zoom or rotate around that precise location.

    For edge gestures they could supply a system-wide button or buttons.
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