Advantages, disadvantages, types, and uses of a stylus

Tablet with a stylus pen for drawing

A stylus pen is an input device that is used on touch-sensitive screens. It is used to draw, write and give commands on the touchscreen and they are used by devices such as laptops, smartphones, tablets, or touch displays. It is used as a substitute for using a finger to touch which can scratch the screen but others may have more functionality. The stylus is also more precise than the finger when touching a specific icon on the panel.

The main types of stylus pens are passive also known as capacitive and active stylus which offer more functionality. They are more convenient and efficient to use than using fingers but their main disadvantage is that they are expensive and active stylus may not be compatible with all devices. Styli are used for touching, drawing, notetaking with tablets, annotations, and taking digital signatures among other functions discuss in the article.

Types of the stylus pen

Stylus pens can be categorized into 2 types depending on how they interact with the screen. The main difference between an active and passive stylus is that an active pen is an electronic input device that communicates with the device while a passive one is just a replacement of the finger.

Capacitive or passive

The passive stylus is also known as capacitive since they work by conducting electric charges from the hand to the device. They are just a replacement for the user’s fingers. They have a thick point end compared to the active stylus. The touch from these pens is registered either by blocking the light or interfering with the electrostatic charge on the screen depending on the technology of the touchscreen used on the device.

They are old technology and mostly they replace the finger hence they are cheap. Passive pens are the most common type of stylus used today. Because of the thick point end, they cannot be used for most precision operations like picture editing, but are mostly used for basic operations.

Active pen

These are more advanced pens that not only touch the screen but also communicate with the device. An active stylus is an electronic device that requires a battery to operate. The endpoint is thin for precision compared with a passive pen. They offer more functionality on top of touch such as pressure sensitivity, have memory, and can even erase a drawing. Active pens are used for more precision tasks such as annotation, image editing, and other graphics-related functions.

Active stylus uses Bluetooth to connect to the device using specific protocols. This means they can only be used by specific devices and not all like in the case of passive pens. Because of the additional functionality, they are more expensive than the capacitive stylus.

Advantages stylus pen

  1. Stylus pens are used as substitutes to finger since they are thin and hence more precise when touching icons. They are more accurate than fingers.
  2. Stylus leaves the screen clear compared to the finger. Fingers carry a lot of dirt that can be left of the screen while pens don’t.
  3. Most stylus tip is made of rubber material that doesn’t scratch the device’s screen. This means screen life is increased when you use a stylus pen 
  4. It is better for taking notes when using a tablet instead of using a finger. It is faster and less tiresome for the user.
  5. They are simple to use for all levels of users. There is no need for training on how to use stylus pens.

Disadvantages stylus pen

  1. Stylus pens are expensive, of course, compared to using your finger, which you don’t need to pay for. If you need an active type you will need to pay even more.
  2. For active they may malfunction since they are an electronic device
  3. Active stylus pens are only compatible with specific devices that they were designed for.

Uses of the passive and active pen

  1. Drawing, sketching, and digital artwork: pens are used for making drawings and design of items. It can be used for general sketching or digital artwork at advanced levels.
  2. Notetaking: when primarily used with tablets, they can be used for note-taking, especially in meetings. 
  3. Annotations: stylus can be used to make simple annotations when the user is reading a document electronically or adding comments to a record or document.
  4. Digital signatures: stylus pens can be used to take electronic signatures from clients and users. Instead of signing on a piece of paper, they sign directly on the device and the signature is recorded.
  5. Highlighting content: when used in a classroom setup they can be used to highlight content on the touchscreen monitors by the trainer.

Application areas of a stylus pen

Stylus pens are used by all classes and levels of users from basic smartphone users to professional designers. Below are the main areas where they are most commonly used.

  1. Personal use: any person with a touchscreen device may get a capacitive stylus and use them on their device. This is the basic stylus and can be used by all levels of users for personal use.
  2. Training and learning: institutions that use touch panels as whiteboard uses the pen for pointing or demonstrating on the screen.
  3. Professional designer: active stylus offers more functionality that can be used by designers at a professional level. 
  4. Secretaries for note taking: they can use tablets and pens they can use to take notes during an official meeting.

Factors to consider when choosing a digital pen

  1. Compatibility with device: when buying an active pen ensure that it is compatible with the device you are currently using. For a capacitive pen, you may not need to consider that.
  2. Cost: different styli have different costs depending on factors like manufacture, the type of pen, and extra functionality that they can offer.
  3. Purpose or functionality: the type of pen to buy will depend on the purpose that you intend to use it for. For a professional designer, you may need to consider pressure and tilting sensitivity for more control of the stylus.
  4. Size and colour: this is the user’s preference for colour, shape, and size. Although most are almost the same size.
  5. Response speed: you could also consider how fast is it responding to the touch and other commands given. The faster it is the better you can draw with it.
  6. Connectivity to the device: how does the pen connect to the device? Most can connect using Bluetooth while others are wired. This is mostly for active pens.