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Top 7 Ways to Use a Laptop with Stylus
September 29, 2019
Why would you want to buy a laptop with a stylus? Will you actually use it or will the pen collect dust like a digital version of an exercise machine in your parents’ basement? A laptop-with-stylus combo is a powerful computing tool, but you need to know some whys and hows to make the most of it.
This article shares the top 7 ways to use a laptop with a stylus, including note-taking, creating more engaging presentations, better communication, drawing, and doing more robust work. Need the best ways to use a 2-in-1 laptop with a stylus? Let’s get into it.
What is a laptop with stylus?
A laptop-with-stylus is a portable computer with a touch screen and digital pen for drawing and taking notes. The 2-in-1 laptop form-factor can be folded back or detached into a traditional tablet shape for easy drawing, note-taking, or annotating.
The 2-in-1 laptop stylus combo is also called a “hybrid” or “convertible.” They come in robust versions like the HP Spectre x360, in more affordable models like HP Chromebooks, and in other laptops and netbooks.
The stylus-and-laptop combo is more than just a way to avoid buying a separate tablet for drawing. It’s an extension of our usual computing habits that lets us add the missing link of scribbling, doodling, annotating, and freely sharing our thoughts back into our daily use.
Best laptop with stylus?
What’s the best Windows laptop-with-stylus on the market? According to expert and user reviews alike, it’s the HP Spectre x360. The less expensive HP Pavilion touch 2-in-1 also gets high marks.
So why all the chatter about stylus laptop machines? In a word, they’re powerful. They also open up a whole new playground of form and function to blend laptops more seamlessly into our work, school, and home lives.
Top 7 ways to use a laptop with stylus
If you’re wondering if a detachable laptop with a stylus is your best bet, see our list of uses below. Students and professionals alike will find a lot of added function in a stylus laptop. While some owners complain they “never use” their digital pens, the ones who uncover ways to use them say they’ll never go back.
1. Note taking
Taking notes during class or in meetings at work is one of the most powerful uses for a 2-in-1 laptop. For one thing, digital pens don’t break or run out of ink during note-taking like your typical tools. But their real power comes from extended usability. You can turn handwritten notes into MS Word files with ink-to-text actions in the OneNote and Nebo apps. That’s incredibly powerful for students and business folk. Plus, handwritten notes may foster deeper learning than typed ones .
Sync your notes
Stylus notes beat the old paper-and-pen setup because they can be synced across multiple devices and shared with friends. Did the professor just put a mind-bendingly difficult slate of equations on a whiteboard? No need to copy it all in. Just snap a pic and drop it straight into your handwritten notes file.
There are dozens of image-to-text apps for converting that pic to written text, too. And while there’s something to be said for copying out those equations by hand, incomplete notes from lack of time won’t give anyone an “A.”
You can insert images, shapes, and tables and use different pen colors and thicknesses. Plus, did the teacher just jump back in time to an earlier topic? No problem. Just drop into that part in your notes, add a page, and keep scribbling. You can’t do that with paper - without scissors and tape at least.
One of the best tricks is importing before you take notes. Is your boss or professor working from a PowerPoint deck? Ask if they can share it before the lecture, then scribble your thoughts straight onto the images. It’s like your own homemade instant textbook, straight from the horse’s mouth.
2. Giving presentations
Presenting just got easier, too. A 2-in-1 laptop makes being in front of the room simpler. PowerPoint is nice, but isn’t there something a little impersonal about it? Bid podium awkwardness a fond farewell with your digital pen firmly in hand.
If you’re getting AARP mailers these days, chances are you fondly remember the old days of transparencies. That early tech used a projector, a clear sheet of plastic, and a marker to let the presenter throw images up on the screen, jotting and drawing on them while they talked. As rudimentary as it was, there was something immediate and engaging about talks backed by this method.
Welcome back, engagement. Why bore your victims with slowly-animated clipart and bullet lists when you can present and doodle on the fly, circling, drawing arrows, and notating on your deck, pictures, or internet screenshots as you present?
The best setup makes creating your decks more fun and interesting, too. Take a screenshot, annotate it freehand, and add personal notes and sketches. There’s something much more interactive and interesting about content that’s created by a human vs brochure-style imagery frozen on the wall.
3. Better communication
“This would be easier in person.” Why does communication work better face-to-face? Of course there’s body language, but don’t emojis and video chat solve that problem? Just think about how you interact in person. Where are your hands? In your pockets? Or are they part of your communication style?
Most of us point, gesture, and show things while we speak. A business meeting or study session is often half talk, half pointing at parts of diagrams, maps, or videos. You may have already shared your screen remotely through a video chat app like Zoom or Skype. If so, you can call out items with your mouse pointer, but it’s awkward.
It’s like being there
A convertible laptop brings a sea change to video chat communication. Users can visit websites and share media during live chats, jotting directly on existing content. For instance, an engineer can circle machine parts in a snapshot or video and explain maintenance to trainees who are thousands of miles away.
4. Doing homework or office work
Keyboards are great, but we can’t do everything on them. “Showing our work” often means sketching out diagrams or using handwritten circles, lines, arrows, and boxes. The same goes for workplace communication. Opening a dedicated drawing app can be clumsy, but a 2-in-1 laptop and a OneNote file can make our efforts more natural.
Just like with presentations, students and pros alike can write and draw on screenshots and images, annotate documents, and sketch to accompany any data. Working this way is faster and more intuitive, and it can also more clearly showcase your findings.
Want to collaborate better with teammates? Some of the best Windows laptop with stylus setups bring the excitement of a shared whiteboard into everyday life. Imagine you’re working with a team in a conference room. On the wall, you can see a screen showing a spreadsheet. Every group member can chime in, making notes everyone else can see.
Now imagine that meeting room is spread out across 15 cities in five different countries. That’s a reality with 2-in-1s and detachables like an HP convertible laptop with a stylus pen.
Of course, drawing is one of the best features of these devices, but how useful is it? The best graphics tablets for artists come from Wacom and Huion, yet many artists prefer drawing with a 2-in-1 laptop with a stylus. Why? Because laptops are generally more portable and have much longer battery life than tablets.
Another advantage of the laptop-and-stylus setup for drawing is that there’s no file-transfer process from your tablet to the computer for post-editing. All your work with Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop can happen within a single unit.
Art on the fly
In fact, anyone who’s on-the-go a lot or working in multiple locations with different collaborators should consider a 2-in-1 laptop. It’s the easiest way to go from one place to the next without fighting an endless sea of cables and peripherals. It’s especially breezy with detachable screens like the ones on HP detachable laptops.
A laptop pulls out of a backpack easily and is ready to go, whether you’re on a park bench or in a conference room. Plus, both laptop/stylus and graphics tablet screens use the same input technology, so there’s virtually no difference in performance between the two.
“I think better on paper.” That’s a common refrain among creative types, from novelists to artists to business luminaries. Many creatives find that typed words feel too one-dimensional. The right-brain, left-brain myth has been largely debunked, but there’s no denying that keyboards feel less freeform or flow-inducing than freehand writing .
One of the best perks of these laptops is that they unshackle the hands and can do the same for the “artistic spirit” of brainstorming. The power to plan, think, and schedule while pulling in resources from the web gets a leg-up when we can scribble and sketch on our findings at will.
At least half of brainstorming is research. But it’s frustrating when we see something great online that fits into our plans - and then it whisks away on the digital wind. “Where was that great thing I saw” doesn’t blend well with the creative life.
This is where a 2-in-1 laptop can come to the rescue. When you’re minding your own business on the web and inspiration strikes, don’t just bookmark a link to preserve your source. That’s well-intentioned, but two weeks later when you come back to it, you may not have any idea why you liked it so much.
A stylus can change all that because you can take a quick screenshot and sketch notes right across it. You can tell your future self why you took the shot and why it’s important. You can even add links if you want to make it easier to find the source again.
Animation pros need to draw, but drawing on a tablet isn’t always the best option. A convertible laptop can soothe the pain. Just like with drawing, using a laptop for animation means you can create artwork on the same device where your animation software lives - whether that’s the Adobe Creative Cloud, Autodesk, or Blender.
Some professional animators use apps like Rough Animator to see what their work may look like once they exit the coffee shop and head back to their studios. That’s handy tech, but it adds an unnecessary step that laptop-with-stylus users can skip.
Many animators learn the way the rest of us do - at the “University of Google.” Wikipedia, YouTube, and dedicated tutorial sites offer the best free animation education in the world, right at your fingertips.
With computer animation, the learning process is a stop-and-go journey of read about it, watch videos about it, and try it. That process gets slicker if all the reading and trying happens without switching from a computer to a peripheral and back again.
Starting with a 2-in-1 laptop can make the publication process painless, too, because animations and GIFs can go from concept to creation to published in one smooth flow and from a single location.
Even the best tablet laptop-with-stylus setup can seem like a luxury until we do the math. For note-taking, it’s sublime, letting students and professionals scribble and take pictures of lecture notes and equations. They can then import those notes into MS Word files with handy ink-to-text applications.
Dropping in photos, tables, and doodles becomes a powerful reality, making it easier to give more engaging live presentations. The same goes for collaborating across great distances.
This approach can change the way we work, present, take notes, collaborate, communicate, brainstorm, research, draw, and animate. Cutting out the need for peripheral tablets and wires makes this the portable choice for creatives and business types alike.
2. Psychology Today; No, You’re Not Left-Brained or Right-Brained
About the Author: Tom Gerencer is a contributing writer for HP® Tech Takes. Tom is an ASJA journalist, career expert at Zety.com, and a regular contributor to Boys' Life and Scouting magazines. His work is featured in Costco Connection, FastCompany, and many more publications.