How to use Apple Pencil with Pages for iPad

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Pages smart annotations
Pages’ pixels might finally be better than paper.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

In Pages 4.0 for iPad, you can use Apple Pencil for more than just tapping stuff. Now you can use two great new iOS-only features in Apple’s word processing software. Smart Annotations lets you mark up text just like a teacher would — scoring red lines through words, running a highlighter over a sentence, etc. And a new drawing mode means you can easily add a sketch to a page just by tapping it with the pencil.

The drawing feature is neat, and brings Pages into line with Apple’s Notes app. But Smart Annotations will be a game-changer for many people, because it replicates something many folks still prefer to do on paper. Here’s how to take advantage of the new Pages features.

Drawing in Pages for iPad

The new Pages drawing tools are a gussied-up version of the standard iOS 11 markup tools.
The drawing tools are a gussied-up version of the standard iOS 11 markup tools.
Screenshot: Cult of Mac

To add a drawing to the body of a Pages document, you just long-press the Apple Pencil onto the screen and start drawing. This first tap brings up a resizable panel into which you can draw. If you prefer (or if you’re not using the Apple Pencil), you can tap the + icon at top right, then choose the symbols panel (the one that lets you add stencils of animals and cars), then tap the Drawing button at the bottom.

In drawing mode, you’ll see a familiar-but-different panel of tools at the bottom of the screen. These let you choose pencils, erasers and paint, and also to pick a color. But the panel’s options go beyond the usual Instant Markup tools found in other parts of iOS 11. For instance, there’s a proper color picker, so you’re not limited to just four colors plus black and white. You can also adjust the tools by tapping them a second time. In most cases, you can adjust the size and opacity of the pencil, crayon or pen.

Once you’ve completed your drawing, just tap Done. It then becomes a normal Pages object, which can be dragged different places and resized.

The super-intuitive new Pages drawing tools make it really easy to add quick illustrations to your work.

Smart Annotations in Pages

Pages Smart Annotations move with the text as you edit it.
The Smart Annotations move with the text as you edit it.
Photo: Cult of Mac

Smart Annotations may be Pages’ best new feature. It lets you mark up text using the Apple Pencil just by picking up the stylus and using it. You don’t have to launch a special mode, or tap a button (although there is a button if you insist on doing it this way). You just start writing, as if you were marking up text on real paper with a real pen.

For editors, this is a game-changer. It’s so much easier to mark things up like this than it is to use even well-designed PDF markup tools. In the book publishing business, editors still use paper galleys for final tweaks.

The big difference between Smart Annotations and paper, though, is the smart part. These annotations are tied to the text, not to the paper. That is, if you edit the text, the annotations stay with it. For instance, if you highlight a sentence, and then edit that sentence, the highlight stays.

The Smart Annotations feature is still in beta, so some things don’t work all the time. I’m sure I copied and pasted a paragraph, for example, and the highlight moved with it. But when I try it again, I can’t make it work.

Smart Annotations: A game-changer for editors

You can export the annotated document as a PDF, and the annotations stay with it. You can also share a document for collaboration via iCloud. People you share it with will be able to view your Smart Annotations and make some of their own if they like.

Imagine having a single manuscript, shared between author, editor and proof-readers, and you’ll see how powerful this feature is. You can also view and delete Smart Annotations on a Mac. I wonder if this feature will remain Pages-only, or if Apple will add it to the standard iOS text tools for other developers to use. It might be neat for coders, for example, and would be fantastic (and ironic) used with plain text notes apps.

The new Pages update brings several other nice additions. You can (finally) switch between portrait and landscape orientation for documents, you can add an image gallery, and you can view pages in double-page spreads. You can also use Pages to create iBooks, which is a huge new feature that we’ll cover in another post.

Price: Free

Download: Pages from the App Store (iOS)