With a recent update to Office 365 there’s a whole new set of drawing and annotation tools that let you scribble directly into Word, Excel, One Note, PowerPoint and more. There have been inking tools in Office for a while now (You could find them under Review -> Start Inking), but I always found them a a little hit and miss, sometimes the tool would be missing and hard to see how to get it. The Draw tab looks much more useful.

Be aware that to get this, you’ll need to have an Office 365 subscription, and have updated to the most recent version.

If your device is touch-enabled, the Draw tab is turned on automatically.This should mean that if an Interactive Screen is attached, you’ll already see the Draw tab. Go take a look. See if it’s there!

Otherwise, you must turn it on yourself. Follow these steps to do that:

  • On the File menu, select Options.
  • Tap the Customize Ribbon tab in the Options dialog box.
  • In the box on the right side of the dialog box, tap the check box labeled Draw.
  • The Draw tab remains visible on the ribbon in this app until you return to this dialog box and turn off this option.
  • You’ll need to repeat these steps in Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

MS OFfice Draw


If you’ve done it right, then the draw tab is then visible. There’s several types of pen, and you can add custom ones. Click on the pen to change its properties.

Using these tools, you can now annotate directly into Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents. All the annotations are saved as images within the text, so if you save the file they will be there next time you open the document. They’ll also be visible to anyone opening the file elsewhere – useful for sharing with those who don’t have special whiteboard software, but have Office.

Office Draw

The Ink to Math tool lets you hand write equations or mathematical symbols and enter them directly into your text.

If you select Ink Editing, then you can draw a circle around a word to select it, and draw a line through it to delete it.

How could you use this in the classroom?

  • Edit word documents as a class. Improve a boring paragraph, correct punctuation, suggest alternative words.
  • Exam practice – model how to answer exam questions.
  • Add labels to diagrams and images.
  • Capture images from the Internet using the Snipping tool, paste and annotate.
  • Annotate on top of Excel graphs – highlight key features of the data.
  • Use blank pages in PowerPoint for brainstorming
  • Combine with One Note to capture and share handwritten notes.
  • Easily add freehand diagrams into documents.
  • Quick fill in the gaps activities : Use a thick white pen to black out words in the text. Use the eraser to reveal them. (Rub and Reveal)

For some, where getting hold of whiteboard software is difficult – then at least these tools can give you more options. It also does away with the need to use tools such as Smart Ink or floating annotation tools if you want to write on top of Word documents or Excel spreadsheets.

For more on Office Digital Ink, there’s this guide on the Microsoft website.

If you have older versions of Office, look on the Review tab and you should see Start Inking. This gives you similar tools that let you annotate into your documents. If it’s not there, you might need to play around with your ribbon settings.

If you’ve not played with it before, check it out. It should work on every brand of interactive whiteboard/projector and screen. Let me know what you think in the comments! Save