Android users can now annotate in Google Docs with handwritten notes

 Marking up documents in Google Docs.
Marking up documents in Google Docs.

What you need to know

  • Google's markup feature in Google Docs now supports handwritten notes and drawings.

  • Users can create handwritten notes in Docs on a touchscreen Android device, but can only view and delete them on the iOS app.

  • The feature is available to Google Workspace customers and personal Google accounts, and is starting to roll out now.

Google is adding a key feature to Google Docs, and it's the ability to markup documents and files with handwritten notes. It's long overdue for people who prefer to write and draw digitally rather than type, and it is especially useful when editing, annotating, and giving feedback. However, the new markup tool only supports a limited number of devices that can use Google Docs, so it won't be ubiquitous.

The good news is that, according to Google's press release, handwritten notes won't be exclusive to paying Google Workspace customers. It will be available to personal Google accounts as well as individual Google Workspace subscribers. However, when you start seeing the feature will depend on your release schedule for Google Workspace.

Once you open up the markup tool, you'll be met with basic pen and highlighter options, as well as an eraser. The default colors are black, blue, red, green, and yellow, but users can also pick their own from a color wheel. After that, users can draw or write in Google Docs with their fingers or a stylus.

An example of handwritten notes in Google Docs.
An example of handwritten notes in Google Docs.

The only problem is that the platforms where you can use and access the handwritten annotation features are extremely limited. A touchscreen Android device is needed to create new handwritten notes, and an iOS device can be used to view or delete prior annotations. It's unclear whether handwritten notes will come to more Google Docs clients in the future.

There are a lot of Android devices out there, but Android represents only a portion of the operating systems that access Google Docs. There's iOS and iPadOS, of course, which are especially relevant due to Apple's dominance in the tablet market. Then there are the computing operating systems of macOS, Windows, and ChromeOS.

However, the features will likely be appreciated by those who are able to take advantage of them. Handwritten notes and annotations in Google Docs are starting to roll out for rapid-release domains now, but it could take up to two weeks for them to show up. For scheduled release domains, they will be available starting March 11, and it could take up to two weeks after that for them to appear.