How to Use the OneNote for iPad Drawing Tools – by Jonathan Wylie

These days many schools are colleges are looking towards a Bring Young Own Device setup, whereby students choose and supply the device they will be working on in the classroom and in their own time. One of the challenges that teachers may have to contend with when adopting a BYOD strategy, is uniformity of functionality and capability across any variety of devices used within a class.

Fans of OneNote will be pleased to know that it is available on iPad, and can still be used as the focal point for real-time collaborative work in a BYOD environment. The following post comes from the blog of Jonathan Wylie (@jonathanwylie), and explains all about how to use the OneNote for iPad Drawing Tools. As a Microsoft Innovative Expert Educator and Instructional Technology Consultant for Grant Wood AEA, Jonathan is well versed in using apps like OneNote, Word, PowerPoint and Sway to enhance productivity and share content to others.


How to Use the OneNote for iPad Drawing Tools

by Jonathan Wylie – Instructional Technology Consultant and MIEE

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Recently, Microsoft updated OneNote for iPad to include the one thing that iPad users were missing most from their Windows versions of OneNote – Draw tools. Given the touch capabilities of the iPad, this is a very useful addition. For the classroom this means students and teachers have the option to use handwriting in OneNote, or annotate existing notes, images and more with the new drawing tools. Here’s how they work.

The drawing tools are accessed via the new Draw tab on the toolbar. If you don’t see a Draw tab, make sure your OneNote app is updated to the latest version. Tools available include a thin pen, a medium pen, a highlighter, an eraser, a selection of inking colours, pen thicknesses, and a variety of palm rejection options.

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To start writing, select the type of pen you want to use then choose a colour from either the four default colours on the toolbar, or from one of the 16 colours that reside in the colour wheel. Note that there are only four colours to choose from with the highlighter pens.

Next, choose pen thickness. You will see that line thickness varies depending on whether you choose the thin, medium or highlighter pens, but there is enough variety here that you will likely find the thickness you want from one of these pens.

The palm rejection options are a little more sophisticated than the horizontal guard you get in apps like Notability. In OneNote for iPad, there are different options for left and right handed people, and accommodations are made for a few different ways that you might hold your hand on the screen while writing on the iPad.

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If you make a mistake, the eraser can come to your aid, but it might not work exactly the way you think it might. The eraser will remove entire lines at a time, as opposed to small parts of a line. For writing, this generally means the entire letter. Basically, everything you draw until you lift your stylus, or finger, will be erased in one fell swoop when you use the eraser tool. In essence, it works the same as the undo arrow. Both tools produce the same results.

To add text to your page, you don’t have to revert back to the Home tab. Instead, you can tap the text mode button to momentarily revert to typing. Once you are done typing, you can tap a pen to resume your drawing activities.

All in all it is a very successful implementation. In the future it might be nice to see the addition of a shape or line tool, but this is a great start and it adds some very useful functionality to an already great free app. The draw tools are perfect for annotating over pictures, screenshots, maps and more, but many will just use it for handwriting, and as research shows, there is nothing wrong with that.

Comments (2)

  1. Amy Collins says:

    Clearly explained how to use the OneNote for iPad drawing tools. It's very useful!

    Amy Collins

    –A researcher at Creative Biogene(, a US biotech company.

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