Office with a Stylus: Part 2 – Excel

When you have a Tablet PC such as the Surface Pro 3, it is really easy to get stuck using OneNote for everything. After all, the two are a perfect match. But – there are plenty of other applications out there that can very effectively leverage the stylus. In this three part series, I’m going to look at Word, PowerPoint and Excel, giving real life examples of how I have used the stylus in the software for my classes, and then a quick how to guide if you want to get out and give it a go.

Microsoft Excel is one of my most favourite software packages as a scientist, data nut and science teacher. It is amazing for doing calculations, creating small databases, running analysis, creating small programs and graphing results. All of these historically require a keyboard input, or a bit of mouse action – all the way it was designed to be used.

But what if you pick up your stylus?

Excel_example2  As soon as you do, there are two main things that you can easily do:

  1. You can highlight on the page, in multiple colours
  2. you can annotate all over the page, in multiple colours

I find this workflow really interesting, as graphs and spreadsheets can be notoriously difficult to review because they often print out in really small sprint. No more! Annotating on the screen gets rid of this constraint, instead allowing annotation and review in its created format.


I also get really excited teaching using Excel and using annotations. In the two examples above, you can see how I have used the annotations to show process and bring attention to specific things. I have also used the excel spreadsheet as a digital “whiteboard” and created “graph paper” by making the column width the same as the column height for a section – this allowed me to hand draw a box and whisker plot – a really important part of the teaching and learning process for this chart type. In the graph example, I have deliberately hand written the chart title, because we talked about this and negotiated the title this as a class.

Here’s how to Annotate

  1. As soon as you bring your stylus near the screen in Excel, a new toolbar pops into existence, the INK TOOLS.
  2. From the menu that appears, choose the pen or highlighter you want, and away you go!


Have you tried annotations in Excel? What could this bring to your classroom? Next time we will finish of the series by looking at annotation in PowerPoint – both in the creation phase and presentation phase.

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