Microsoft’s Research team has designed a unique app which lets you annotate e-books using your device’s attached pen.

The app comes with all the standard tools of any document editing app; but what makes it so special is the acquired ability to morph existing text from the document around your own annotations.

When editing or reviewing a document, people directly overlay ink marks on content. For instance, they underline words, or circle elements in a figure. These overlay marks often accompany in-context annotations in the form of handwritten footnotes and marginalia. People tend to put annotations close to the content that elicited them, but have to compose with the often-limited whitespace.

We introduce SpaceInk, a design space of pen+touch techniques that make room for in-context annotations by dynamically reflowing documents. We identify representative techniques in this design space, spanning both new ones and existing ones. We evaluate them in a user study, with results that inform the design of a prototype system. Our system lets users concentrate on capturing fleeting thoughts, streamlining the overall annotation process by enabling the fluid interleaving of space-making gestures with freeform ink. – Overview from the Microsoft website.

Summarised below are the commands which you can use to insert text wherever you want:

  • Diagonal flick on text: To make space to write on the top corner of a paragraph.
  • Horizontal flick between words: To add input into the middle of a sentence.  For example, you can cross out words and correct their spelling.
  • Vertical flick between two lines: To add input between the last and first lines of different paragraphs.
  • Horizontal flick in the margin: “This gesture indicates that any subsequent ink will push the underlying content away”, allowing you to annotate comfortably in the margins.

Making such advanced pen-based text annotation features exclusive to Windows 10X and devices such as the Surface Duo would give the new form factors a unique selling point; but since this app is only being demoed by Microsoft Research, it’s not yet determined when it’ll be ready for release.

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