iPadOS 14 ScribbleSource: Joseph Keller / iMore

Some of the more significant updates coming to iPadOS 14 revolve around the Apple Pencil. Both the first- and second-generation Apple Pencil are gaining new capabilities in the latest software, which is now available to anyone with a compatible iPad.

First, we have the Scribble feature, a powerful new tool that lets you write with the Apple Pencil and watch as your handwriting automatically transforms into text. Then, there are several enhancements in the Notes app centered around handwriting with the Apple Pencil, such as the ability to copy handwriting like you would copy typed text and data detectors for handwritten text.

And if you're wondering which is the best iPad to use with these new Apple Pencil features, I would argue that it might be the freshly-announced iPad Air 4, thanks to its support for the second-generation Apple Pencil, powerful hardware, and a starting price much lower than that of the iPad Pro.

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Here are the essential details on the changes coming to the Apple Pencil with iPadOS 14.

Scribble

Perhaps the single-coolest feature arriving on iPads this fall, Scribble, is a system-wide feature that lets you write with the Apple Pencil into any text field on your iPad and watch as your handwriting automatically transforms into typed text. This includes text for languages such as Chinese, which can be recognized without having to do anything to adjust your system language.

And when I say "any text field," I mean it. Write in the compose field in Messages, or the address bar in Safari, and Scribble works nearly flawlessly, even for my crummy handwriting. But it's not just Apple's own apps that are playing nice with Scribble out of the gate.

In my testing of iPadOS 14, I have found the Scribble is already working with third-party apps right now, without any updates. While I'm sure there are things developers will be able to do to optimize the experience for their apps, it works very well, even at this early stage.

Scribble goes just beyond writing, too. Scratching out a word in your typed text using the Apple Pencil's tip will see that word deleted. Circling a word with the Pencil will select it for copying or pasting. Touch and hold the Apple Pencil tip between two words to add a space.

Scribble also has a palette of common actions for your app that you can access by tapping the pencil icon in one of the corners of your screen, usually the bottom-left corner. Opening the palette will show you a small set of controls like Undo, as well as a button to bring up the software keyboard. You can reposition this palette just as you can the one for Markup in apps that support that feature.

Scribble is a truly impressive feature right out of the gate, and it plays a very important role in the other major Apple Pencil-related features coming to the Notes app this fall.

Notes

The Notes app is getting some interesting enhancements in iPadOS 14, many of them centered around the Apple Pencil and handwriting.

Powered by the Apple Pencil, handwriting produced by the Pencil in the Notes app can now be copied, just as you would highlight and copy typed text. This feature, called Smart Selection, lets you select single words or entire passages that have been written by hand. Double-tap a to select a single word, triple-tap to select a sentence, just as it works with typed text. Going further, you can swipe your Apple Pencil over large blocks of handwritten text without lifting it to select those blocks in a single motion.

Once you select the handwritten text, you'll have the option to 'Copy as text' pop up. Tap this will convert your handwritten passage into typed text, which can then be pasted into any text field in Notes or any other text-based app. Apple notes that the transcription from handwriting to type takes place on your device so that everything stays private.

Notes is also gaining support for shape recognition using the Apple Pencil. When you draw a shape with the Pencil, hold the Pencil to the screen after you've finished drawing a shape, and watch as it jumps into place as a professional-looking, smooth shape. Notes supports recognition of 16 types of shapes, including lines, circles, triangles, thought bubbles, and continuous lines with 90-degree turns.

Finally, and very impressively, is data detectors. While Notes has supported data detectors for a while, now it supports them with handwriting. Write an address, phone number, even a web URL, and Notes will detect it as such and allow you to tap it. This means that you can write out "imore.com" in notes, then tap it to open iMore in Safari. A straight yellow line will appear under these items when Notes detects them, and that's your cue that it's working properly.

Settings tweaks

These are a couple of smaller Pencil features that nevertheless deserve to be noted. There are two new options in the Apple Pencil section of the Settings app that you should know about.

The first is Only Draw with Apple Pencil. This setting, when you enable it, means that only the Apple Pencil can be used to draw on your iPad. Your fingers (and, presumably, third-party styli) will be used for scrolling and tapping, and won't draw.

The second option is to turn Scribble on and off. This one's pretty straightforward. If the Scribble feature is annoying you, you can turn it off in Settings. Scribble is on by default.

Write away

These features are all fairly impressive. Are you excited to use Scribble on your iPad? If you have any questions about Scribble or the Apple Pencil-related changes coming to Notes, let us know in the comments.

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