Microsoft: Software updates for Surface Pro pen in the works

Microsoft includes a digital pen with all units of its newly launched Surface Pro tablet. Indeed, the use of the pen in applications was one of the big selling points of the new Surface Pro TV commercial that made its debut on Sunday night.

However, a number of Surface Pro users have since posted up word on Twitter that the digital pen cannot be used in certain applications. In particular, there's been complaints that the pen cannot be used for some of the features in Adobe Photoshop on the Surface.

ZDNet.com asked about this lack of pen application support on the Surface Pro and received a response from Microsoft:

Surface Pro uses Windows Inbox Drivers and APIs (application programming interfaces) for the Surface pen, which support advanced features such as pressure sensitivity and eraser functionality. There are a number of apps in the Store that leverage these new Windows APIs and can take advantage of all that the Surface pen has to offer. The Surface pen does work with Photoshop, which runs on Surface Pro, though advanced features such as pressure sensitivity and eraser functionality may not be available at this time. Microsoft is working with the necessary partners to make advanced features of the Surface pen available across a number of applications in the near future.

It's likely that software updates for the Surface Pro will be made as part of the regular monthly "Patch Tuesday" event. The next such event will be held tomorrow, where it is expected that the Surface RT tablet will receive some WiFi improvements in addition to security fixes.

Source: ZDNet

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Pen support and Wacom driver variation of pen support have always been dodgy. Adobe flips in their own variation, Wacom has dual support technologies to compensate for non-OS recognition that needs the driver to flip modes, and there is also software from Corel that uses both OS and a variation of custom support of features from the tablet MFR directly.

The problem is that with TabletPC, Adobe and others didn't properly move to the newer driver input model. With Windows 7, Microsoft revamped the touch and Pen input APIs but with nobody realizing that Windows 7 had extensive touch and pen technology, didn't take time to support the OS native input features.

With Windows 8, Adobe and others will hopefully be forced to properly support the proper pen API driver technologies, as they are more functional than the technologies that Adobe directly support. (i.e. angle, tilt, pressure levels, shape, are all richer than what Adobe supports with their direct stylus input model.)

As for pressure sensitivity in Photoshop, cute, but a bit 'meh'. Natural painting software or getting nice vector pressure lines are far more useful to graphic designers, where the Photoshop pressure is nice for 'touch up' work, rather than creation.

I haven't had time to test Corel Painter or Corel's Photopaint/Draw, but they have handled pen input better in the past than Adobe with OS drivers. Curious to see if they inherently work with the latest versions.

As other have noted, installing Wacom drivers that can 'flip' based on the software with native input support for Adobe usually fixes any issues. With both external Wacom tablets or TabletPCs with Wacom/other digitizers, there has always been a combination driver solution for full functionality, although not through inherent drivers from the TabletPC MFRs out of the box. (i.e. head over to Wacom and try their beta drivers, etc.)

<- Been designing and drawing on TabletPCs since 2003.

For fun I am writing this with the Surface Pro's pen. It's amazing. I seriously have never used a stylus that felt this good to use. I am definitely faster with the Type Cover, but it writes so smoothly that I just want to use it more.

The more software that picks up the pen, the better. I'm not sure that the 10.6" screen is enough for the more serious artists, but it could be fun for people like me--if I ever felt like buying Photoshop.

That's Photoshop's fault, not Microsoft's. Adobe has never embraced any MS technology over the years, whether it's ink, multitouch in W7 and W8, taskbar previews in W7, Jumplists, Ribbon, etc.

One more reason for me to skip CS6, hopefully they'll get their act together by CS7.

Bern@rd said,
That's Photoshop's fault, not Microsoft's. Adobe has never embraced any MS technology over the years, whether it's ink, multitouch in W7 and W8, taskbar previews in W7, Jumplists, Ribbon, etc.

Most of the Photoshop developers run Macs.

This is why it is so important to "eat your own dogfood." Developers are more likely to fix a bug if they get annoyed by it on a daily basis. You simply cannot develop good Windows software if you run a Mac.

I know that Photoshop has historically had more Mac users than PC, but I'm not convinced it's as dominant as it once was. Amazon gives a higher rank to the PC version of Photoshop CS6 than the Mac version. Granted, this is just retail sales, and doesn't include all-Mac graphics design shops buying in bulk directly from Adobe.

TomJones said,

Granted, this is just retail sales, and doesn't include all-Mac graphics design shops buying in bulk directly from Adobe.
It could also just be the number of hobbyists outnumber the real graphic designers, and by sheer quantity of Windows users, it wins.

From just reading this article it seems to be the same issue that's existed for years with 'Tablet PCs' (that's convertible laptops/tablets released before Surface and Windows 8 were thought of, think Windows XP Tablet Edition onwards).

The Windows inbox drivers support pressure sensitivity and full pen use for virtually all programs, but an odd few (the most noteworthy being Photoshop) require you to install a Wacom (or whoever the pen technology is from, eg. N-trig) driver to get full functionality.

Guess they need Adobe to either play ball and update their pen support to the Windows APIs that have now been out for years or Microsoft/Wacom will have to write a compatibility layer. Believe that's what n-trig did, though have no first hand experience.

adam.mt said,
From just reading this article it seems to be the same issue that's existed for years with 'Tablet PCs' (that's convertible laptops/tablets released before Surface and Windows 8 were thought of, think Windows XP Tablet Edition onwards).

The Windows inbox drivers support pressure sensitivity and full pen use for virtually all programs, but an odd few (the most noteworthy being Photoshop) require you to install a Wacom (or whoever the pen technology is from, eg. N-trig) driver to get full functionality.

Guess they need Adobe to either play ball and update their pen support to the Windows APIs that have now been out for years or Microsoft/Wacom will have to write a compatibility layer. Believe that's what n-trig did, though have no first hand experience.

This is true, and VERY annoying. Hopefully this will get Adobe to actually support the universal pen drivers included in Windows, so none of us will have these annoying issues, even in Windows 7 and Vista.

I just gave up on pressure sensitivity in Photoshop on my tablet PC. I'm not a graphics artist and while it's a cool demonstration I never use it.

I was one or the One that Made the Photoshop comment on twitter. Let me clarify....

The Pen does work in Photoshop.... just the Pressure Sensitivity does not work.

My daughter also has a Wacom Tablet, we were worried their software might over right Microsoft Driver. Will be testing it tonight.

On that note, MY Daughter LOVEs the Surfave Pro and I have barley been able to pry it from her hands....... in her Eyes, OneNote MX is now AMAZING

Well it's up to Adobe to update their software. I wouldn't expect anything from them, they are the worst when it comes to fixing bugs, updating software.

MorganX said,
Flash, yeah. Adobe Creative Suite has been excellent for a long time, Surface Pro Pen issues not withstanding.

No, Adobe CS suite is horrible, it's the most bloated thing that I am forced to have on my PC. Not a good example of what i'd call a "great Windows application". Uninstall Adobe CS and then boot up your computer. It's a world of difference.

DClark said,
How does a program slow down Windows if you are not using it? Unless you haven't heard of MSCONFIG.

I have no idea what Adobe does, but MSCONFIG has nothing to do with your boot times, it only can improve login times from the welcome screen onwards. Adobe's CS suite installs a whole bunch of other stuff which can't be disabled by MSCONFIG (e.g. fonts) that causes slower boot times.

We definitely have differing experiences. CS6, Photoshop, is one of the best pieces of x64 and GPU accelerated coding I've experienced. It opens faster than MS Paint. I'm not sure what all you're loading, but Photoshop doesn't affect boot times unless you're out of OS partition space and CS6 shouldn't be installed on your boot partition anyway.

MSCONFIG is relevant as DClark said because that's where you can turn off items that load on boot which are the only things that affect your boot time as far as installed applications go.

I would check your system config and the quality of your system. Seriously. If you have boot time issues, I'd check your HD and your System RAM. I guess I consider myself lucky, boot issues haven't existed for a long time. Of course, I've had an SSD for quite a while as well. But even before that, since Windows 7 and a Physical OS Partition, booting just hasn't been even an afterthought.

FalseAgent said,

No, Adobe CS suite is horrible, it's the most bloated thing that I am forced to have on my PC. Not a good example of what i'd call a "great Windows application". Uninstall Adobe CS and then boot up your computer. It's a world of difference.

Yeah for "Desktop Apps" its the program creator talking with the new APIs that are included in Windows 8 that support the PEN and touch features.

So far my biggest complaints with desktop apps that don't support touch or pen very well are:

Spotify (Touch doesn't work)
Chrome (Pinch to zoom doesn't work)

Its just a matter of time before these things catch up.

Exactly; this is windows after all, and one thing that you could be sure about, is receiving updates.

Surface's RT's mainstream support ends on 4/11/2017; pro on 7/10/2017.