I own a first generation refurbished Apple Pencil. I bought it when I picked up the new 5th gen iPad mini. It’s a delight. I use it for freehand note-taking when I don’t want to tip-tap into the onscreen keyboard or lug around my folding bluetooth keyboard. I use it doodle and draw. I use it to annotate PDFs. I especially love how it knows what is the pencil and what is my hand so I can rest against the screen and still get work done.
My pencil keeps its charge for days with light use. When I need to top it up, I can stick it into my iPad’s lightning port. In under 10 minutes it goes from flatline to 100% charge. Yes, it looks a bit odd sticking out like that, but it isn’t for long and it’s easy enough to rest the iPad on a desk until the charge is complete.
Keep track of your current pencil charge in your iPad widget gallery. The Batteries section shows how much juice is currently available:
When talking about charging, you should think about that tiny cap at the end of the first generation pencil. Fortunately, there are many extremely useful and inexpensive helpers for keeping track of the cap and the charging adapter, the short flat item at the bottom of this picture. It’s used for charging off a USB lightning cable by providing a female-to-female connector between the cable and the pencil:
Many third party gizmos service these tiny pieces. You can purchase replacement magnetic caps that better stick to your pencil and replacement charging adapters for when you lose them. If you’d rather not lose them in the first place, consider a simple holder set like this one. Mine is clear silicon and did not include the tip that covers the nib. The holders make sure the two tiny pieces aren’t easily lost, and that they’re kept along-side the equipment that uses them:
In addition, I purchased a magnetic sleeve to attach my pencil to my iPad and/or its smart cover when not in use. Again, this helps ensure I don’t lose the things I need. I roll the flat part away from my hand and find that it doesn’t interfere with holding the pencil or writing with it.
I use the Selvy PenScript keyboard plug-in to convert handwriting to text. It’s available from my normal keyboard. I tap-and-hold the globe to select it. Make sure when installing that you enable it in Settings > General > Keyboards.
As you see from this screenshot, I also installed the Kaomoji.HW keyboard that allows me to draw emoticons. It’s not very good at its job but it’s pretty hilarious to play with.
The SelvyPen keyboard is surprisingly useful across apps. It’s as easy to enter a URL as it is to type free text.
If you’re looking to enter large tracts of text by hand, Nebo does a great job with handwriting-to-text conversion, allowing you to enter information into notebooks using your pencil. Notice how the app keeps track of the ongoing interpretation in light gray just above the handwriting:
Use the ellipsis (3-dot) menu on the right to convert paragraphs to text and remove the handwriting entry. The accuracy is surprisingly good.
For annotating PDFs, I use Notability. I admit that it’s mostly because I already own it and it’s a great app. There are many other excellent options on the market. I’d love to hear what else you recommend. I apologize for all the blurring but I was reviewing someone else’s work and I wanted to respect their privacy:
For presentation, I have a half dozen apps of varying quality and I can’t really recommend one or the other as being particularly outstanding:
What other apps, tweaks, and gadgets have you found to enhance your pencil-using experience? I love my pencil and am always looking for more ways to get the most from it!
- Many readers agree with my use of Notability
- Mike recs Concepts. “I use it as a vectorized infinite whiteboard for sketching and note taking.”
- Teddy likes GoodNotes, “which will hide the UI when projecting to an external screen. Also has a nice laser pointer with a trail so you can make temporary markings as you go” and PDF Viewer for annotation.
- Paper by WeTransfer gets a thumbs up from Paul.