Microsoft Ink on the Mac

Microsoft Ink on the Mac

For the last six months or so, Microsoft has been making a concerted effort to add support for “ink” to several of its products. Ink means the ability to annotate or add new content to a document with a stylus or touchscreen. Ink is supported in Office for Windows 2016 and in the recently released Windows 10 Anniversary Update. It is not supported in Office for Mac. Figure 1 shows ink annotations on a PowerPoint deck. Ink is part of Microsoft’s Natural Interfaces initiative.

Microsoft Ink on the Mac

Figure 1

Microsoft has even mentioned ink in television commercials. The “Meet the Bug Chicks” commercial makes extensive use of ink, and even mentions that the Mac has no inking because of there is no touch screen on the Mac. Figure 2 shows the portion of the Bug Chicks commercial where the Mac is mentioned.

Microsoft is right on both counts: ink is a very natural way to perform many different tasks, and there is no touch screen (nor a stylus) on the Mac. One place where ink is a natural, real improvement for a task is equation editing in Word. Just compare Standard Equation entry…

with this Ink Equation entry.

Standard Equation entry requires more keystrokes and mouse clicks, and a great deal more thought, whereas Ink Equation entry is almost completely natural.

(Please don’t think I am at all critical of the Equation Editor in Word. Nothing could be further from the truth. I have used it often, and continue to do so, and have encouraged others to use it in other blog posts: Post1 and Post2.)

However, never being one to back away from a challenge, I really wanted to find a way to use ink on my MacBook Pro. This blog post shows you what I was able to pull together. I will show you what can be done with ink on the Mac, what my setup is, and give you some helpful hints if you want to replicate this.

For the necessary “stylus or touch screen”, I used an iPad Pro and Apple Pencil. To get the stroke information from the iPad to the Mac, I used AstroPad for iPad. I ran Office for Windows 2016 in a Windows 10 Anniversary Update VM on my MacBook Pro with Parallels Desktop 12. Note that the Windows 10 Anniversary Update is the first publicly available Windows 10 build with ink support. My complete setup is shown in Figure 5.

Microsoft Ink on the Mac

Figure 5

You can see the final result below (Annotating a PowerPoint presentation). (The little picture-in-a-picture frame shows you (sort of) what is happening on the iPad.)


In case you are wondering, the ink annotations are viewable, even when you open the PowerPoint file in PowerPoint for Mac 2011, a version on PowerPoint that has no support for ink entry.

Figure 8 (Creating a sticky note) shows a use of one of the Windows 10 ink-enabled tools: the handwriting recognition keyboard.

Microsoft Ink on the Mac

Figure 8

I have been using ink on the Mac with this setup for about three months, and I like it a lot.

Some Helpful Hints

Windows 10 won’t be able to detect AstroPad and the Apple Pencil, so you will have to manually enable inking and handwriting recognition. This shows you how to enable inking in Windows 10…

and this shows you how to enable the handwriting recognition keyboard.


If you have any questions on Microsoft Ink on the Mac, comment below!

2 comments on “Microsoft Ink on the Mac