Apple explains the secret sauce that makes Scribble so great in iPadOS 14

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Scribble in iPadOS 14 was developed with machine learning.
Scribble in iPadOS 14 recognizes how you write, not only what you write.
Photo: Apple

Scribble handwriting recognition in iPadOS 14 is a more complex system than many might realize. Identifying letters and words goes beyond simply examining what someone has written. The iPad uses machine learning to recognize the writer’s intent through how they write, according to Craig Federighi, Apple’s SVP of software engineering.

Scribble and Smart Selection make Apple Pencil way more productive

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Apple Pencil 2 in Hand
The Apple Pencil is fancy, and finally getting more useful.
Photo: Ian Fuchs/Cult of Mac

Back when Apple introduced the Apple Pencil, the company positioned the stylus primarily as a tool for artists. And try as I might, I’ve never been particularly great at drawing. That said, it didn’t stop me from picking up an Apple Pencil to annotate documents, edit photos or use as an alternative way to touch the screen.

Then the Magic Keyboard came along with a fantastic trackpad experience. It offered a different way to interact with the screen without touching it with my finger. But now, with iPadOS 14, Apple has rewritten the story of what Apple Pencil can do, and it’s completely changed how I use my iPad once again.

Apple gets it ‘write’ with Scribble on iPadOS

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Scribble is the most significant new feature in iPadOS 14
Apple’s Scribble handwriting-recognition system makes iPad styli more useful.
Photo: Apple

WWDC 2020 Apple finally brought handwriting recognition to iPad. With Scribble built in iPadOS 14, it’s possible to enter text simply by drawing on the screen.

My testing with the first version shows its an amazing feature. But one with room for improvement.

Use the hidden autocomplete in Apple Watch’s Scribble to send text messages

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fountain pen
Autocomplete metaphor.
Photo: Aaron Burden/Unsplash

Unless you hate yourself, or you have an uncommonly close relationship with Siri, anytime you need to reply to a message on your Apple Watch, you pull out your iPhone. Scribble, the watch’s laborious handwriting-recognition input, is fine for very short replies, but it takes so long for anything else that it makes T9 text input look appealing.

But what if there was some kind of iPhone-esque Scribble autocomplete? What if I told you that this hidden feature is already there, and that you just never noticed it? Prepare to have your mind blown.