The Surface Pen is a mighty tool that lets you get more done on your Surface PC. To really maximize the Surface Pen’s ability, there are some essential apps you should check out. From note-taking to form-filling to coloring, here are the best apps to grab if you love using your Surface Pen.
For those of you who commonly involved in team projects, CollaBoard is an app that works with your Surface device and the Microsoft Hub. It’s best described as a digital whiteboard that multiple users can contribute to, all in real time.
With Skype for Business integration and compatibility with PDF, images, videos, and more, the whiteboard can really become the central pivot point of your larger project. A free trial is available for 30 days, and after that you’re looking at varying monthly rates.
There’s just something about a stack of index cards that makes you feel like you’ve got your life in order. If you’d rather not carry around a big stack of cards wherever you go, why not make the switch to digital with the free Index Cards app? You can forever use the basic set of tools without paying anything, but there’s also a 14-day trial for the Pro version (unlockable for $5) that includes a search and tag function, dynamic font size, and plenty more goodies.
Both sides of cards can be marked up with your pen, and a zoom function lets you jam quite a bit of information onto each card. Cards and stacks of cards can be shared with others, and there’s no limit to the number of cards you can create. For a quick and handy way to keep things organized, definitely give Index Cards a try.
Drawboard PDF (about $10) is widely regarded as one of the best PDF apps available, thanks to an enormous selection of tools, a document builder that lets you merge multiple PDFs, annotations that can be calibrated for scale, and a large number of grid and line templates.
If you’re often working with PDF files, especially in a professional environment, Drawboard PDF should be near the top of your list. If you feel like the set of tools that comes with the standard version isn’t enough, there’s a subscription-based Pro version (about $25 per year) that adds a ton of extra features.
Musicians out there, take notice: StaffPad (about $70) is an app designed for Surface that makes it incredibly easy to annotate music. As you handwrite your music, it’s automatically and precisely converted into an engraved score.
Once you finish writing, let StaffPad play back your creation with its full orchestra of instruments. Happy with what you’re hearing? Print your music or share it as an MP3. If you’re musically inclined, this is the app for you.
Sketchable is a free (with paid upgrades) drawing, sketching, and painting app that has been designed with the Surface and its pen in mind. The user interface is constantly being tweaked by the developers to make it easier to use, and any problems are noted and taken into consideration for fixing.
Not only can you use Sketchable for notes or to work on existing images and artwork, you can use it to create an entirely new work of art thanks to its wide array of tools. If you have even a bit of creativity in you, this app will be hard to put down.
Microsoft’s own free note-taking app syncs across all your devices, but it really shines when you add the Surface Pen. Take notes on blank or grid backgrounds, highlight text or draw pictures using various tools, then easily sync with OneDrive to keep your notes with you wherever you go.
OneNote lends itself well to group projects (as do all Microsoft Office apps) thanks to the ability to work together on the same files at the same time. For more pen-oriented office tools, consider a subscription to Office 365.
This amazing PDF reader and editor is completely free, which is frankly surprising considering what you’re getting here. Just open a PDF file and you’re given free reign over what you can do. Write all over it, highlight the important bits, and save it as a new file. This is especially useful for quickly filling out those annoying forms that you usually have to type information into.
Toss in a dark mode for easy reading, a printing function that works straight from the app, and multiplatform support so you can use it on your Windows phone, and you have one of the top PDF apps out there to use with your Surface Pen.
The first time you touch your Surface Pen to the screen with Bamboo Paper open, you’ll wonder just how they made it seem so much like real paper. Take notes using the six writing tools, add pictures to your pages and write over them, and share your ideas with others using Bamboo Paper on other platforms.
Choose from lined paper for notes, blank paper for drawings, or grid paper for math and notes — this is a great free, multipurpose app with a superior virtual ink experience.
Nebo (about $6) is a note-taking app that was designed specifically for Windows 10 and the Surface Pen, and this is evident as soon as you start using it. Mathematicians will love the ability to create interactive equations and diagrams, and you neat-freaks out there can set clear titles, well-spaced paragraphs, and bullet lists to keep everything nice and tidy.
For easy access to all your notes no matter where you are, Nebo documents can be opened and viewed in your favorite browser, your email app, or Microsoft Word.
Zen: Coloring book for adults
If you just scoffed at the idea of coloring books for adults, please give this a try before the scoffing continues. The free version of the app has a relatively large selection of images to transform, and if you decide to pony up for the full version, you’ll have an almost limitless selection of coloring options.
Powerful coloring tools and all the colors in the rainbow, combined with the Surface Pen’s accuracy, will have you relaxed in no time. Seriously — give it a try.
If you were holding out on Autodesk SketchBook because of the price, you can now get the full version — including the Pro tools — for free. This is one of the best drawing and sketching apps for pretty much anyone, with a wide selection of brushes, surfaces, tools, and features to choose from.
This app naturally works with Surface Pen, and adding a Surface Dial to the mix will only take your creative process to the next level.
Your favorite Surface Pen apps
Do you have an app that you just can’t live without when it comes to using your Surface Pen? Let us know in the comments.
Updated June 13, 2018: I’ve refreshed this list, adding a couple of new apps to ensure you’re still getting the best collection for your Surface Pen.