Microsoft might be backing Apple’s new Pencil for the iPad Pro in its iOS apps, but the software giant is also supporting third-party options. One of the most popular is Pencil by FiftyThree, and Microsoft is updating its OneNote for iPad app today to support the stylus. If you’re not interested in buying the larger iPad Pro for stylus support, then FiftyThree’s Pencil starts at $39.95 (much less than Apple’s $99 Pencil). You’ll be able to use the stylus to write notes and comments in OneNote books.

FiftyThree CEO Georg Petschnigg used to work on Microsoft’s failed Courier tablet project, so it’s ironic to see the software maker now backing Pencil by FiftyThree. Microsoft revealed its support for Apple’s Pencil inside its Office for iOS apps last month, but it’s not clear if the company will extend support for Pencil by FiftyThree beyond just OneNote.

Compatibility With Older Devices

Pencil’s expressive features, like Palm Rejection, Erase, and Blend, require an iPad with Retina display,(iPad generation 3 or 4, iPad Air, both iPad Mini models) or iPhone 4S or greater.

Compatibility With Other Apps

In addition to Paper, Pencil can be utilized in other apps whose developers have implemented Pencil support. Check your app developer’s website to see if they support Pencil. If Pencil is not supported, it will still work as a passive stylus.

Note that Pencil’s expressive features also only work on iPads with Retina displays, (iPad generation 3 or 4, iPad Air), iPad Mini or iPhone 4S or greater.

Charging

Charging the pencil may require 90 minutes only.

To charge, pinch Pencil’s rubber tip and pull out the battery pack.

The battery pack can be plugged in to any standard USB port. Your computer probably has USB ports that will work. The charger that came with your iOS device will also work if you remove the cord from the base. The battery can only charge when plugged-in the correct way; in most cases you should be able to insert it with the FiftyThree logo facing up.

While plugged in and charging, you will see an orange light on the battery module. This light will change to green when Pencil is fully charged.

Pencil can charge fully from empty in about 90 minutes. While a full charge will let you work for the longest amount of time, it’s fine to partially charge Pencil and get back to work.

Before using Pencil, make sure the battery module is inserted all the way back into the body. The logo on the battery pack should be on the same side as the logo on the body of Pencil. It will only go all the way back in one way, but it won’t work if it’s not fully inserted back into the body.

Erasers

The tip and eraser of your Pencil are built to be durable. How long they last depends on how hard you push on the screen while drawing, but the durability should be comparable to other stylii you have used. You may prolong Pencil’s tip life by using the broad sides of the tip for filling in large areas with ink and by using a light pressure when drawing with Pencil.

At some point, however, they will need replacing. To replace the tip, remove the battery. With the tip facing towards you, hold the battery still and rotate the tip clockwise 90 degrees. The tip will only rotate in one direction. Insert the new tip and rotate to lock the tip in place.


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