Welcome to another article about the science behind the Surface Pen! OK, alright, I know! Enough about the pen already! You get it right? Pen is important blah blah blah. After all of these articles and videos you probably know exactly what I’m going to say! Whole brain, low formality, visual and spatial, yadda, yadda.
But I just can’t help myself! I think that digital pen and paper is the most poorly understood piece of technology on the planet. It’s right up there with Artificial Intelligence. Yet it may well be the most important piece of technology to help us think our way out of the holes that we’re in. I don’t know about you but when I look around I don’t think that humanity as a whole is getting smarter. There are forces at work that are inadvertently dumbing us all down. Now I’m not going to go all ‘moon landing’ on you, it’s no conspiracy. It’s just consumeristic capitalism at work. Thinking is not required for you to keep purchasing new shiny next best things. If anything it gets in the way.
One of the ways that you can buck the trend though is to take the time to use a pen and think clearly. But where does this whole pen thing fit into the big picture of work? ’cause it’s clearly not everything.
Pen and Keyboard Balance
For office workers like me, typing is still a huge part of work. In fact I think it’s the biggest part of my work. I’d say that pen based work occupies between 10 and 30% of my time in any given week. And possibly between 70 and 90% involves using keyboard and mouse and sometimes dictation. It’s because work is about more than ideas and thinking, most of it is about doing. So if you’re an office worker too, it’s likely that your computer use has been focused on the doing part.
So, don’t get me wrong. It’s not time to throw away the keyboard. The QWERTY English keyboard design is now over 150 years old. But you’d be hard pressed to find an English speaker that doesn’t know how to use it – at least slowly. It’s hard to imagine it ever going away.
Why the Keyboard is still Important
- You can’t read my handwriting, and sometimes, neither can I. So presenting clear text that everybody can read requires a keyboard, or at the very least handwriting recognition.
- It can be faster to type than to write. There is a misconception here though, you might well be able to type at 120 words a minute on a on an online typing test. But that’s only the case where the content is given to you, you type the words that you’re told to type. If you have to think, create, and type at the same time, you’ll find that you’re typing speed slows considerably. It’s very unlikely that you will hit anywhere near 120 words a minute when you are typing content that you’re creating. On top of that, corrections and formatting also slow you down. But the point stands, you can probably type faster than you can write. Just remember it’s mechanical, it won’t activate your whole mind, so do note taking and thinking work with the pen!
- Editing is far easier to do with a keyboard and mouse. In fact, if you learn keyboard shortcuts, editing tasks are far easier to do with just a keyboard and not a mouse. The mechanical nature of these tasks lend themselves perfectly to the mechanical nature of the keyboard. If you don’t have a repertoire of at least 20 keyboard shortcuts that you use yet… You need to do some work! You simply can’t be more efficient at operating your computer than with keyboard shortcuts.
- Learning to use a keyboard is much easier than learning to write with a pen. That’s because a keyboard is a simple mechanical array of buttons . All you need to know is where the button is. You don’t really need good fine motor skills, spatial awareness or planning. The action is the same every single time, and the computer takes care of the space.
Change how you think
We focus on pen a lot, but that’s because we believe that it needs a lot of attention. It’s also something that surprises and delights Surface owners. The digital pen experience is different to the laptops they’ve had in the past.
Keyboard centric thinking is broken and it needs to be fixed, and set free from its mechanical bonds. But keyboard work is work, and it’s important too. So don’t throw away your keyboard. The keyboard and trackpad on the Surface Pro are excellent by the way. Great key travel and feel. A good size. The trackpad is very handy once you learn how to use it efficiently. And the pen part, well you, like me, might only spend 10 – 30% of your time using it… But it’s the part that you can gain the most from.
If you’d like to know more about anything Surface – including keyboard, trackpad, mouse, pen, touch, cameras, microphones or speakers – then you’re in the right place. Bookmark our blog and subscribe to our YouTube channel.