How to search Google using Apple Pencil and handwriting

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google handwriting apple pencil
Only one of these can be used to search Google.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

Did you ever open up Google on your iPad, and wish that, instead of just typing your query using the always-accessible keyboard, you could write it anywhere on the Google home page using a finger, or an Apple Pencil? No, me neither. But that doesn’t make the possibility any less real. Now, with a simple settings tweak, you need never type a Google query ever again.

Handwriting search

google handwriting search
This is probably harder than just typing
Photo: Cult of Mac

This essential feature can be used on any touch-screen device, and supports any scrawling method. Thus, you can use a finger on your iPhone or iPad, or an Apple Pencil if you prefer. It’s possible that some folks may prefer this for accessibility reasons, but for most people it’s just a neat gimmick, probably included by Google in order to help improve the accuracy of its handwriting recognition algorithms.

How to search Google with your handwriting

Step one is to enable handwriting recognition on the Google homepage. Go to Google.com, then scroll down and tap Settings. Then tap Search Settings. On this screen you’ll see a preference called Handwrite. Tap Enable to switch on handwriting recognition, and tap Save at the bottom of the screen.

Now, back at the home page, just write on the screen. Where? Anywhere. Just write anywhere on the page and your words will appear in blue. If you pause, they will be processed into regular text, and sent to the search box. To search, tap the usual magnifying glass icon.

That’s it, pretty much. To toggle recognition on and off, you can tap the little handwriting icon down at the bottom left of the screen. You will also see a list of suggestions at the bottom, based on what Google thinks you have written. You can tap one of these at any time to send that particular text to the search box.

It’s a gimmick, and it messes with the usual behavior of the screen (scrolling, for example), but it’s a fun one. But it’s also worth checking out, if only for the novelty of searching Google with your own handwriting.