Switching Between Pen and Touch Input in OneNote (ThinkPad Helix)

The Problem

Microsoft OneNote can to automatically switch between pen and touch input. This means that you can use the pen to write on the screen and use your fingers to scroll/zoom without having to select a different tool in the toolbar. Unfortunately this feature was not working on my new ThinkPad Helix. I would write on the screen, but when I would scroll, my fingers would end up drawing a line. Here's how to fix it.

Check OneNote Settings

Before you do anything else, make sure this feature is enabled in OneNote. In OneNote 2013 (and I believe 2010 as well), go to the File menu and select Options. Look in the Advanced section under the Pen heading and make sure Automatically switch between inking, selecting, typing, and panning is checked. See the screenshot below.

Make sure this option is selected in order to have OneNote automatically switch between pen and touch inputs.

Make sure this option is selected in order to have OneNote automatically switch between pen and touch inputs.

UPDATE (7-11-2013): I found that the Wacom driver has no effect. The key is whether or not the Wacom digitizer is enabled/connected before starting OneNote. The ThinkPad Helix has a switch in the pen silo that disconnects the USB connection to the digitizer when the pen is in the silo.1 If the digtizer is activated after starting OneNote, the pen will still work, but the problem described above will occur. Closing OneNote and restarting it with the pen out of the silo appears to fix the problem.

Wacom Driver

If you still have a problem, then try installing the Wacom Enhanced Tablet Driver. Go here, choose Tablet PC as your tablet mode, and select your operating system. The version 7.1.1-12 drivers (May 9, 2013) fixed the problem on my ThinkPad Helix under Windows 8.

However, the driver update did introduce one new problem. When the Helix is docked, touch input does not scroll the page in OneNote. Zooming still works, but it centers at a strange location. I can still use my finger to scroll the list of pages as well as navigate the interface. Once I undock the tablet, touch scrolling works again. This problem is less annoying for me than the lack of automatic tool switching, so I've decided to keep this configuration for now. Your experience may vary.

6 thoughts on “Switching Between Pen and Touch Input in OneNote (ThinkPad Helix)

  1. niv dolgin

    Wow, what a terrible feature. I can confirm the same. Anyone know if WACOM gives us a means to change the behavior? Thanks for figuring this out, it was driving me nuts.

    1. John Bruer Post author

      There's no way to change the behavior as far as I can tell. When you put the pen in the silo, the Wacom digitizer is disconnected from the USB bus. If this is really a hardware switch, then it would take a hardware modification to disable it.

      1. Mark

        Thanks so much. This exact problem happened to me on my Heix in the office today when I tried to scroll after pen input. Drew a line with my finger. I will try your solution on Monday and appreciate your post.

  2. Dani

    Thank you so much for this article. I encountered the same problem but had no clue what this bug depends on. Hopefully, the stylus disconnection is implemented in software. I'll contact Lenovo to ask if there is a way to disable it.

  3. Mike

    Just wanted to thank you for the solution. Not a big mtter to me to remove the stylus before starting OneNote, yet you have to know the trick 😀


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