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How can we improve Excel for Windows (Desktop Application)?

let pen usage toggle between inking and pointer

The January 2016 Office update defaults the Surface Pen to an inking tool. Most Excel users prefer to use the pen as a pointer. Please give us a toggle in the ribbon to switch between inking and pointing.

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Ingeborg Hawighorst shared this idea  ·   ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →
completed  ·  Dan Battagin [MS XL] responded  · 

(2016-03-15 – Completed) (Edit: Added link to Office Insider signup)

I wanted to let everyone know that in the update to Office that started rolling out to Insiders today, you will find a new preference in the Options dialog to allow you to make the pen select instead of ink by default. Enabling this preference will make the pen function exactly like it did before, plus you can use the options on the Draw tab if you do decide you want to ink. If you are an Office Insider (which anyone can join –, you should get this update within the next day or so. If you are not an Office Insider, it may take another week or two to reach you.

This is a per-app preference, so you can enable selection by default in Excel for instance while leaving ink as the default in Word and PowerPoint, or you can switch all three. To access this preference select File > Options, and then in the Options dialog select Advanced and check ‘Use pen to select and interact with content by default’ in the new Pen section.

We’ll be releasing the second piece, which is the ability to toggle on pen selection via the Draw tab for those that only want to use the pen to select occasionally, with the next monthly update.

Thanks again to all of you for your feedback, and we hope this change addresses your concerns.

Dan [MS]

(2016-02-29 – Started)
I wanted to first thank all of you for your feedback. We’ve heard you loud and clear, and as a result we are actively working on two changes:

1 – For people that want to use the pen as a precise pointer temporarily, we will introduce the ability to do that via a button on the Draw tab. This will keep the new default of having the pen ink on the document canvas, but give the ability to use the pen to do selection when needed.

2 – For people that want or need to use the pen like a mouse by default, we will also add a new preference to the Options dialog that will allow you to restore the previous behavior. If you want to ink, that will be easier than before because you’ll be able to just tap a pen on the Draw tab and start inking, but you will be able to set your default behavior to be that the pen selects, just like it was before the update.

We are actively working on making these changes so that we can get them out to you as soon as possible. Note that you may see #2 (the preference in the Options dialog) appear first, because we are prioritizing getting that change to you based on your feedback.

Dan [MS]

(2016-02-25 – Under Review)
Thanks all for the feedback, we’re looking at this area now.

You’re correct that this is a change with the latest update to Office 2016, if you have an O365 subscription. Throughout Office (and across platforms – Windows, iOS, Android, etc.), we are moving towards having the pen do what it does on paper: draw ink. Using this you can annotate your documents, convert ink into shapes and flowcharts, and more.

You should still be able to use your finger to select, resize, change text color, etc. however. This change should only affect your use of the pen.

Now all that said, we’re always open to your feedback on any change we make, so we are now looking into providing a way to allow you to go back to the legacy behavior.

Dan [MS]


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  • Bert Geers commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    Can I use the pen to write numbers in a cell? (and Excel sees them as numbers, not as a drawing).


  • Sandra commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    It has to be something simpler, click to draw and click to point, switch back and forth whenever the user wants, it can have a default starting behavior, but it is frustrating that I am in excel and it switches to draw and cannot go back to pointer and now I cannot scroll, but few minutes ago it was fine, I probably pushed a button that changed the behavior but cannot returned back to be just a pointer and my worksheet has lines all around... frustrating

  • Ben commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    This confusion and frustration seems to be going on after over a year. It seems on a Surface Pro 4 with the latest version of Office, new documents will acknowledge the times you want to use the pen as a stylus, however, some older documents will not acknowledge this at all and will continuously be in Ink mode no matter what option in advanced settings is selected..

  • Bahram Shirazi commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    Quick question: We havecomments selected pen mode in the advanced options section by checking it off. After running a couple of macros that have nothing to do with the pen excel switches back to draw mode The next time we open the file even though the pen has been checked off in the options section. Any thoughts?

  • Susan commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    So how am I meant to switch my spen back to the pointer on the android app. I have searched everywhere but cannot find the option. I hate this update to excel on my phone

  • Tim commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    I use the pen to draw and now it will by his own switch to mouse pointer mod... I have the lastest update and reinstalled and repaired my office twice...

  • Matt commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    Similarly, this update has caused poor performance with the pen. I use it to draw (e.g. in PowerPoint) and now, in the middle of drawing, it will randomly switch to the cursor and start moving objects around the page. Has been doing this for weeks and after waiting for an update, changing the batteries, and scouring the web for a solution, just stuck and frustrated...

  • Graeme commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    I have the latest update, but now I cant use the pen to draw at all!

    I've tried changing the option (File->Options->advanced->use pen to interact...) but it makes no difference. The pen can only be used select. Which unlike everyone else, is what I wanted to do!!

    It looks like this change has been rushed in and not tested.

  • Anonymous commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    i have downloaded the upgrade and my surface pen is STILL DRAWING - &*(&(^*&%^$%#%. I cannot find anything under draw or options giving me a choice to set default to POINTER. Help from draw hell!!!!!

  • Elouise Magnuson commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    any idea when this fix will be sent out? I am not an insider or super user of any kind and can't figure out how to get the update

  • RMM commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    Please change this, you just made my SP4 pen a paperweight. It is hard to believe this got though even basic usability testing.

    People use the pen as a mouse replacement, you need to understand that.

  • Anonymous commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    Has this been done yet? I don't see any options to disable this horribly inconvenient feature...

  • Anonymous commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    Thank you. This has been frustrating me for several months since 98% of the time, I don't want to use the active pen in Office for drawing, but only as a precise mouse pointer. If there were a toggle in the "Draw" section I might use the pen as a pen occasionally, especially in PowerPoint. Please consider making this easier to find by searching in Google, etc. It took me several months to find this article, searching on various terms several times each week.

  • David C commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    After upgrading the Stop Inking button is not available on the Pen tab. I created a custom tab, added the stop inking button and it does not work. It turns gray every time i try to select it.

  • John Frazier commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    This feature by default is moronic, especially without opt-in or at least notification! I was in the middle of a presentation with my CEO and executive team when I tried to group-select a few cells and ended up scribbling all over the screen. I had no idea what was going on, so I had to stop the presentation, and grab my MacBook Pro to complete it. You made me look stupid, THANKS A LOT GUYS.

  • Gordon Wassermann commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    Thank you very much for responding so quickly to correct this problem (of course it would have been more insightful not to have created the problem in the first place, but I am still very impressed that Microsoft really is listening to its users!)

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