Use of Stylus with DOCViewer

This idea has been developed and deployed to Canvas

This idea is applicable to any 2-in-1 / hybrid device with stylus capacity eg Chromebook, Surface Pro 4, Yoga, ASUS etc.

Microsoft's recent education event (May 2017) highlighted the increasing opportunities for schools to invest in low cost 2-in-1 hybrids running Windows 10. Since then at least 5 new devices have been released - 5 Budget Windows Hybrids 2-in-1 Tablets and Laptops for Schools – Colour My Learning . Many schools, including our own, are now looking at these as viable alternatives to 1-1 iPads.

The potential of inking is huge, not just in the hands of students but for teachers and marking.

Canvas has just released DOCViewer in Beta. As yet it is not possible to annotate work inline using the stylus (at least on my Surface Pro).

We would love to see inking/hand-written/stylus based annotations being available for those using Canvas via the browser.

This idea has been added to our product plan for Q1 2019 and will influence development within Canvas. Follow this idea to receive updates as they are available.

:smileyinfo: Adding this idea to our product plan means we will be working on it, but it does not guarantee that it will be developed exactly as defined by the idea, or that it will be added to the production environment.

Read more about the feature idea process:

Comments from Instructure

For more information, please read through the .

Community Champion

I tested it on our Lenovo 300e Chromebooks at 4:30 EST. Using a finger or other stylus, the page jumps around as it tries to simultaneously scroll and write on the screen. I tried it with the Google Touch Events API disabled and then again with it enabled. Same behavior with both.

Community Member


Wow, the annotations now work! I only tried Chrome with a Surface 5th gen and the MS pen. It was easy to pencil in comments on a document submitted by a student. This will make grading so much easier/faster!

One does have to push the stylus button to draw on the page, and this is a bit awkward. Be mindful to scroll with a finger on the side of the document to avoid a fingerprint streak of ink. Using fingers to zoom also caused streaks of ink.

IE was not as good, with lots of pen lag.

If there was room for improvement other than having to hold the pen button, it would be the placement of the little checkmark/trashcan icon. It pops up right above the first pen stroke and makes certain characters hard to write, like dotting a lower case i. Thank you so much though, this is a huge improvement!

307014_Surface Canvas ink.JPG

Community Participant

Yay!!!! So below is an email I got to send to 100 staff today!


Great work and thanks Canvas for (eventually) getting this working.. Smiley Happy


Community Coach
Community Coach

As the person who proposed the original idea I am pleased to see the stylus functionality being brought but need to make these comments:

  • Pressing down the button when using the stylus is not easy - it is also not a natural use of the stylus and means you grip the pen tighter which is not great for any long term use
  • The Microsoft stylus are very smooth and holding the stylus down and pressing is not an easy task
  • The right hand button on the stylus is meant to be a click not a click and hold!
  • The functionality for the stylus is not the same as when writing on Word/OneNote and many of our staff who have Surface Pros will be disappointed by this. The quality of writing is most definitely not the same.
  • Doing some testing this morning on Google/Edge and Surface Pro 5, the pen works best when you don't lift off the surface. It struggles when you take your stylus off the screen ie annotating for Maths, Science or drawing features or even just writing letter ts!307011_pastedImage_1.png
  • You clearly need to practice with it and find a (handwriting) style that works - perhaps some work needs to be done with the pen settings? I dont get anywhere near the quality or clarity of writing of gharbor
  • Not all of our staff have Surface Pro 4 pens which will cause an issue I believe?
  • I had hoped for erase functionality through the stylus pen as opposed to the toolbar

Its an improvement but its not what I had hoped for (and maybe not our staff). Am hoping we see more developments.


Community Novice

Although I can write clearer than what  @GideonWilliams  has posted, I agree that this is not the way one expects to write with the Stylus. I'm already back to circling and making check marks and X's with the touchpad and typing comments.  

So to me, it is as if the feature has not been deployed.  The stylus is designed so that a natural grip for writing does not press the "Right-Click Button".  The purpose of the "Right-Click Button" is so that you can do non-handwriting tasks with the stylus without switching to a mouse or touchpad.  It is meant to open a context menu.

I too would like to see the use of Stylus improved.  I would ask for the goal to be functionality like Drawboard PDF in which I can write the clearest while mostly writing math equations and drawing figures.  

Community Coach
Community Coach

Need to see you for some handwriting lessons :O) Agree entirely with what you said..

Community Novice

I've given annotation in SpeedGrader a try with the action button (right-click) down on my stylus, and it works in Chrome and Edge. (I didn't bother going into Firefox.)

Unfortunately, I don't know how long I can maintain the very uncomfortable and unnatural grip on the stylus to annotate student work on SpeedGrader.

Here is my natural pen grip on the Lenovo stylus:

Lenovo stylus natureal grip

And here is the grip I must maintain to annotate in SpeedGrader:

Lenovo stylus Canvas grip

When I tried writing on a student paper, I found the latter quite uncomfortable and unnatural, because not only must I shift my grip upwards along the staff of the pen, but I must also put constant pressure on the button. Writing style aside (and no, it wasn't as good with the second grip, although perhaps more practice is the answer there), it wasn't long before the muscles in my hand began to feel the strain.

For the record, I know of no other application, web-based or desktop, that requires me to hold down a button on my stylus to write or draw. (I'm happy to stand corrected on that.)

So while I wholeheartedly applaud the efforts of all concerned to enable us to annotate in SpeedGrader, I feel that unless the requirement to hold down the button is remedied, a lot of stylus users are going to find it a chore rather than a natural, digitised extension of their normal student feedback routine.

I'll watch this thread with great interest.


Community Explorer


I didn't have the time to check the functionality out myself, but it seems pretty clear that holding a button on the stylus won't be a feasible solution, it's just not the intended way for a Stylus to be used.

From what I'm seeing so far, the problems with implementing a solution that works as good as the IPAD Version, seem to come from trying to do this in the browser and the limitations that those bring to the table. It's a bit late now, but wouldn't it make more sense to create a Windows App (UWA) for Canvas? That should give Instructre the benefit of not having to support / code for multiple platforms and I doubt any Windows User will have a problem with installing an APP for interacting with Canvas if this actually improves usability.


Community Novice

I agree Bjorn.  This solution is not at all a feasible solution.  After excitedly waiting for this to roll out, I am totally disheartened. 

Community Participant


We're using the Dell pens and the button seems lower than on other pens ... it's a massive step forward so thank you Canvas for moving in the right direction on this one!