Installing and Using an Ink Device

Since version 10.2, Mac OS X has supported handwriting recognition, meaning you can input text and graphics using a pen and tablet device. This is accomplished through Mac OS X's Ink technology. When you install an Ink-compatible device, an Ink pane appears in the System Preferences utility; you use this to configure how you want handwriting recognition to work. Then, you can input directly into most applications or input into the InkPad application and paste the content into another application.

Installing a Tablet

Tablet devices enable you to input information and execute control using a pen-type mouse you use to "write" on the tablet.



Check out all the details about Wacom tablets on You can purchase a tablet at the Wacom site or at

Installing a tablet is no more complicated than installing any other device. You simply connect the tablet to an available USB port. However, because the tablet needs power to operate, you must connect it using a USB port that provides power to peripheral devices. You can connect it to a USB port on the Mac itself, one on an ADC display, or one on a powered USB hub. You can't connect it to a USB port on the keyboard, though.

Then you install the software provided with the tablet. That is all there is to it.


Because Ink support is built in to Mac OS X, you might wonder why you need to install additional software. You should install the software that comes with the tablet to ensure that the latest drivers are installed. The Wacom software also provides access to advanced configuration options that are beyond those you can configure with Mac OS X's Ink technology. Covering the details of advanced configuration of a tablet is beyond the scope of this chapter. To explore the tablet software, open the Wacom Tablet application installed in the Wacom folder located in the Applications folder.

Configuring Ink

Before you get started with Ink, you need to understand that getting handwriting recognition to work reliably takes some time and experimentation. Unless you have picture-perfect penmanship, you will have to do some trial and error to get it to work reliably. Expect to spend some time and effort configuring and experimenting with Ink. Make adjustments to Ink, and then try writing. Then, make more adjustments and try again. Eventually, you will be able to make it work pretty well.

After you have installed a tablet, you need to turn on handwriting recognition and configure it:

  1. Open the System Preferences utility. Click the Ink button to open the Ink pane (see Figure 22.8).

    Figure 22.8. You use the Ink pane of the System Preferences utility to configure handwriting recognition.


  2. Turn on handwriting recognition by clicking the On radio button.

  3. Use the "Allow me to write" pop-up menu to determine where you want to be able to make input via the tablet.


    If you select Anywhere on the pop-up menu, the Mode button on the InkPad toolbar becomes a Pen to indicate that you can write anywhere. You can click the Mode button to switch back and forth between these modes.

  4. To configure the input sensitivity for your handwriting style, use the slider labeled "My handwriting style is."

  5. Use the InkPad font pop-up menu to select the font that is used in the InkPad writing window.

  6. If you want to hear sounds while you write, leave the "Play sound while writing" check box checked.

You can access additional controls by clicking the Options button on the Settings tab (see Figure 22.9).

Figure 22.9. Use these options to fine-tune Ink to match your handwriting style.


Continue experimenting with writing in the InkPad and making adjustments until your writing is recognized reliably. This will take some time and patience, but if you continue refining the adjustments, you can make it work fairly reliably.


There are numerous adjustments you can make to the tablet, pen, and mouse using the Wacom Tablet application. For example, you can configure the mouse's buttons and the pen's button. Covering the details of this application is beyond the scope of this chapter. If you are going to use a tablet, you should explore this application to better configure your tablet.

Using Ink

After you have configured Ink to reliably recognize your handwriting, there are two general ways you can use it.

One is to make all input via the InkPad application by switching to the InkPad window when you are in another application. For example you can use Ink to write an email message. When you click the Send button the text you input is pasted into the active document window. You can then edit it just like text you typed.You can also write directly in many applications:

  1. Open the Ink pane of the System Preferences utility and select Anywhere on the "Allow me to write" pop-up menu. (You can also click the mode button in the InkPad toolbar.)

  2. Open an application and create a new document, such as a new email message.

  3. Move the pointer into the blank document and start writing. As you write, an InkPad window pops up and shows you the text you are writing. When you release the pressure on the pen, Ink recognizes what you wrote and enters that text in the document (see Figure 22.10).

    Figure 22.10. Here I am entering text directly into an email message.


Not all applications recognize Ink input, but most OS X applications do. The best way to figure out whether an application you use supports Ink is to try it. If an application doesn't support direct entry using Ink, you can always use the InkPad to enter text.


If you click the Graphic mode button (the star) at the bottom of the InkPad window, you can also draw in the window and paste the result into your documents.


The most advanced tablets are incorporated into LCD monitors so you can input directly onto the images on which you are working. Check them out at

    Part I: Mac OS X: Exploring the Core
    Part III: Mac OS X: Living the Digital Life