Ink gestures in Microsoft Word


This past winter I rebuilt a proof-of-concept app that enabled gesture markup of rtf files. A standalone editing application is fine, but in order to make the editing gestures really useful I knew they needed to be integrated with Word.

Shown below is my first attempt at such an integration.


In this GIF animation ripped from a screen capture sequence you can see two different gestures drawn, recognized, and their actions applied to a Microsoft Word document. In this case, one word is bolded and the other is underlined.

Programming up the Microsoft Word Addin is a bit like adjusting an aerial antenna on a TV: twist here, tug there, and whala things magically seem to work. As you can see, there’s work to do. I need to prevent the caret from appearing in the text. Hopefully, this will prevent the TIP button from showing when the stylus is in contact with the screen. Also, I just have a small handful of gestures working.

I did take the advice of a couple readers to my earlier efforts and decoupled the actions with the gestures themselves. Now you can have the single underline gesture mean which ever gesture action you want–not just underline word. If you compare the current Word animation to the previous animation you’ll see, for instance, that the bolding and underline gestures are reversed. The new implementation can just as easily define the gestures the other way (although there’s no user interface at this point to make such a change. This is a first pass, after all. 🙂 ).

In the coming days (hopefully not weeks!) I’ll make the Microsoft Word addin available as a download. I look forward to hearing everyone’s feedback and integrating in your suggestions.

Step by step.


  1. A few years ago I did something similar for a project called ProofRite [] In addition to mark up, it supports reflow for review of annotations and the ability to mark up paper copies and reinsert those markings in the document. Really great to see something similar in MS Word. I’d love to try out the beta!

  2. Wow, I could really make use of this! Why doesn’t the touch interface do this for us already!! Count me in and don’t forget to email us when its available! (I’ll never remember to come back and check…)

  3. Kevin C: Thanks for the link. Very impressive work. I’m going to link to the site and video.

    Kevin E: I’ll add you to the alpha list. Can you send me your email address at