iPad + Apple Pencil

I am sitting here typing on my 12.9 M1 iPad Pro with the magic keyboard and I love it. I live on this device 90% of the day and the more I can use it for the happier I am. While staring at the screen something hit me though. I have my pencil sitting on top of the device at all times, and I am not sure it gets used more than once a month.

I would love to use it more while reading to highlight and share out. I know some apps support it, but it boggles my mind that Safari reading mode does not. I tried Matter for this reason, but the app gives me more than I want and I really like Good Links. I use Apple Notes which has support, but meh.

So if we can use this thread to explain what others use their pencil for it would be greatly appreciated. (Maybe we can turn this into place where people share their setups as well)

Like you I use mine rarely. Usually for signing things that I’d otherwise have to print, sign and scan.

I’ve previously used it for annotating comments on a PowerPoint, but find the Comments functionality more useful (and less invasive) most of the time.

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Occasional signing of PDFs and highlighting in the Kindle app.

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I’m only saying this because I was looking into this same issue a long time ago. Definitely do a search here on pencil and you’ll see some answers.

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I find my Apple Pencil is invaluable.

  • I use it to mark up submissions from students (via PDFExpert)
  • I use it to take meeting minutes (in Zoom Notes) for everything from one-on-one meetings with students to faculty meetings to faculty senate meetings (and I export the hand-written notes directly as PDF for archival records)
  • I use it to flesh out ideas for teaching or research (again in Zoom Notes) … this is my go-to substitute now for the stacks of scrap paper that used to sit around my office
  • I use it to annotate over PDF research documents (in Bookends)
  • I now use it to markup over lecture slides during the lecture using a combination of Curio + Epic Pen (more on this setup over at this link)

I do not see my iPad as a replacement for my desktop machine (a MacBook Pro), especially tied to an ergonomic keyboard with a trackball and a 27in 4k monitor.



PDF annotation. Lots of PDF annotation. Sometimes I even annotate PDFs of blank grid/lined paper for notes or brainstorming.


I use the pencil almost exclusively on my iPad. I do a lot of drawing in an ideation/communication sort of way, not an art sort of way. My favorite apps for this are Good Notes and Linea and Muse.

One approach to making the pencil more valuable is to look into the concept of “visual thinking” and build up some skills in making marks. Here are a couple of resources that I’ve found helpful:

Both individuals are well worth an internet :rabbit: :hole:.

p.s. Some fun uses for the pencil are to practice writing calligraphy, follow along with Mo Willem’s pandemic series “Lunch Doodles” (I prefer the app Paper for this) and the ol’ standby, adult coloring.

p.p.s. @DrJJWMac, I hadn’t heard of Epic Pen and it looks perfect for me/my teaching style. Thanks!


Related: Maggie Appleton

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I use mine for drawing in Affinity Designer, notetaking in GoodNotes, and often as a stylus. Less finger grease on the screen and more precision for smaller UI targets.

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I use my Apple Pencil regularly to highlight academic PDFs and to underline/add notes to scripts for sermons and presentations which I’ll deliver directly from the iPad. It’s great if I need to make a last minute adjustment/addition or underline a word that I might stumble over.

My handwriting is poor, so I’ve not been able to make effective use of it to make meeting/lecture notes.

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I use mine for drawing in Procreate and Affinity Designer. I edit photos with Pixelmator Photo. I edit podcast with Ferrite Pro. Sign documents, write notes, use Scribble instead of typing. I highlight quotes on Scribd and Kindle.

One of my favorite thing to do when its time to edit my essays and short stories is to annotate my own work. I convert them to PDF and comment, add corrections on my work with PDF Expert. That way, I can track my own thoughts and edits. It help me grow as an amateur writer. I learned this method from Margaret Atwood where she has manuscripts with her own comments written all over her typewritten pages.


I’m an extremely frustrated Apple Pencil user.
I want to use my iPad to take meeting notes which, in theory should be pretty simple, right?
So why am I frustrated? Because I want to work with Craft and Drafts to take advantage of all the automation available and send actions to OF for example. Trying to use the Pencil in those apps is painful and very distracting. Can’t use them in meetings.
GoodNotes (and others like it) doesn’t cut it. They live inside themselves and mostly share only via PDF. My college student kids use it.

Scribble isn’t ready for prime time in my opinion. Having to wait that millisecond for the text to transform just interrupts my train of thought. Not to mention trying to insert a new line. Tap tap tap.

So there you have my afternoon rant. I’m open to any suggestions!

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I love my Apple Pencil. What a terrific device! I love to do art, scrapbooking and doodling in Procreate which is a wonderful art type app that is extremely cost affordable.


This video really opened up what the Pencil is capable of: How To Create Wonder Woman Theme Song in GarageBand for iPad — Tutorial [4K] - YouTube

And for those who don’t know it, this is a pretty good channel. I don’t consider any new Apple device until I have seen iPhonedo review it.

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Not a day goes by that I don’t use my Apple Pencil. I’m in the camp that mostly uses it for marking up PDFs and handwritten notes. When I present information on screen, I use the pencil to create call out boxes and the like. I use the feature that converts handwritten text to typewritten text for searches and for composing emails and the like. I recently burned my Apple Pencil to a crisp (Maillard reaction and Apple Pencils) and had to wait about a week for a new one. I realized how hard it was to do all the things I do on an iPad without the pencil. I’m pretty reliant on it.

One of my favorite things to do is markup documents with the Pencil while riding in an Uber. Dorky, perhaps, but I always found it hard to pull out a laptop or get much work done on my phone while riding in a car. But it’s seamless to pull out my iPad and get real work done without skipping a beat.


Bought one, probably the most useless (for me) Apple device I have purchased. Not used more than half a dozen times as my 12.9 iPad is usually in landscape mode on a stand with an Apple external keyboard attached.

Honestly I will probably downgrade the iPad next time to a base model as compared to using a Mac I find it frustrating in so many ways.

For me, the Pencil has two benefits:

  • Doing infrequent tasks (signing docs, making a screenshot markup less fat-fingered, etc.)
  • Getting into a productive flow state during long periods of reading/reviewing and design

Neither are regular for me but I appreciate having the right tool when they come up. I feel like I’ve gotten my cost-per-use down to a reasonable amount.


I try to force myself to use it more, and sometimes succeed. Key use cases for me:

  • Layback general device navigation, sometimes the extra length of the pencil makes reading RSS, magazines, twitter, FB etc better.

  • If you use the pencil to navigate a little more, keeps your screen clean, fingerprints are a big issue for me.

  • I do quite a bit of photo touch-up on iPad, impossible without pencil.

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I’m in the camp that’s trying to justify purchase of pencil. Don’t draw and usually can highlight PDF using fingers alone. Periodically need it when doing heavy annotations. Having to charge pencil’s battery when need arise to use it is also a turn off.

The pencil runs a long time without being charged and it charges very fast.