Desktop Annotation on a SMART Board & Why It’s Important (Part 2 of 3)

Marja Vitti
News on May 31 2018

In case you missed the first part in our series, we’ve been on a mission to test the desktop annotation capabilities on classroom interactive flat panels. We’ve been looking at this feature for Microsoft Office applications and a web browser on five popular interactive flat panels:

  • SMART Board 6000 Series
  • Newline TruTouch UB Series
  • Sharp Aquos Panel
  • ClearTouch 5075 H+ Panel
  • Promethean ActivPanel

Desktop annotation is the ability to easily write with digital ink over your desktop or applications. It should be a key feature of any interactive flat panel (IFP). It allows you to work collaboratively on documents or draw attention to a specific item being displayed to your class. In this series of articles, we will look at how writing with digital ink in your Microsoft Office applications works on different interactive displays.

When evaluating this feature, here are a few things you should consider:

  • Are you able to write over your application, and still use that application? For example, if I highlight text on a PowerPoint slide, will the highlight stay with the slide allowing you to advance through the presentation?
  • Are you only writing on a layer over the application? If so, can I save my writing?
  • In an application like Excel, can you write directly into a cell, or are you only able to write over the spreadsheet?
  • Do I need to indicate by selecting a tool from the application’s navigation that I am a pen after I have picked up a pen?
  • Does the display recognize the difference between my pen and finger?
  • Can multiple users write in different colors at the same time?
  • When I write in a web browser, does the ink stay with the individual tabs on the browser?
  • Do I need to download special software to enable annotation features?

We encourage you to use the bullet points above and watch each video to decide for yourself which interactive display best suits your needs.

Desktop Annotation on the Newline TruTouch UB Series

Let’s try to do the same things on the Newline board that we did on the SMART Board.


Opening the desktop annotation tools on the Newline panel was easy. We just swiped up from the bottom of the screen. This opened a separate “overlay” page with a tool bar. From there, we could become a pen, eraser, or a highlighter. However, the functionality was limited.

There is only one overlay page, so to write over the slide in PowerPoint we had to minimize the overlay, switch slides, re-open the overlay, then erase the existing annotations. There is a screen capture option, but it did not capture any of the notes we made. None of the notes could be saved, even as a separate document.

When it comes to writing in other Microsoft applications or a web browser, writing remained the same. Newline’s desktop annotation feature does not have text conversion or search capabilities, so we were limited to just writing over our documents or websites.

Teachers would have a better experience using Microsoft Inking Tools.

Desktop Annotation on the Sharp Aquos Panel


Sharp’s desktop annotation capabilities fell somewhere between Newline’s and SMART’s.

To enable Sharp’s desktop overlay, we had to download their “Overlay Pen Mode Software” from the Sharp website. Once we opened the application, we were able to annotate over our PowerPoint presentation.

Similar to Newline, Sharp’s desktop annotation uses an overlay, so we could not use any of PowerPoint’s navigation tools, access other desktop applications, or write over the next slide. To do so, we had to minimize the overlay application, switch slides, and then add a new overlay. Otherwise, the annotations made on the overlay for the first slide appear on the second. In this editing view, we could save the annotated pages in an overlay document.

Things changed a bit when we switched into presentation view; we could swipe through slides as a mouse, make edits as a pen, and erase by choosing our tool from the toolbar. Plus, we could save our notes to the presentation.

Next, we looked at how Sharp’s desktop annotation works within Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Word.

We were only able to convert our writing to text, so we quickly realized that the desktop annotation feature is only suitable for writing over these types of applications, not for making changes to them.

Sharp’s desktop annotation feature within a web browser has a bit more flexibility than it does in Microsoft applications. From the pen application tool menu, we were able to complete a web search, however this opens a separate web browser window. Once we navigated to our desired webpage, we could ink over the page using an overlay and save our annotations as an overlay document.

Although Sharp had more flexibility within presentation mode, we could not make any changes to our Excel and Word documents and were limited in all applications because of the overlay.

Questions? Comments? As always, we’re here to help – visit us at or email our PD team at