SMART Ink: The Basics

The last word shared on this blog concerning SMART Ink was how to turn it off and back on again. Let’s take a step back now and take a good look at SMART Ink: what it is, how it differs from Transparent Background and Floating Tools, and the basics of how it works.

So, what is SMART Ink?

If you watched the video tutorial on the Transparent Background or if you have used the Floating Tools (pictured at right), you will be familiar with the digital ink layer. Remember the days of the overhead projector? Think of the transparencies that were used by laying them on top of what was being projected. Annotations were made on the transparency allowing you to annotate without writing on the original beneath.

Here the idea is the same but instead of the plastic transparency there is a digital ink layer. Now, with SMART Ink and the Floating Tools, this digital ink layer is available everywhere outside of Notebook software. Annotations can be made over a web page, PDF document, PowerPoint, or any other program.

How is SMART Ink different from the Floating Tools and Transparent Background?

Based on user feedback, SMART Ink was developed to give quick convenient access to the Floating Tools that are most frequently used. The Floating Tools and SMART Ink can be used concurrently. If you want access to all of the tools available in Notebook software while working  outside of Notebook, you should use the Transparent Background. Did you miss the video tutorial on the Transparent Background? You can watch the tutorial on

The SMART Ink Toolbar is your friend.

Many teachers have expressed frustration with SMART Ink. My experience is that much of that frustration comes from not understanding the behavior of the software. One of the first things to be aware of is that SMART Ink only works when you are connected to a SMART Interactive Product, which means a board or podium. When connected to a SMART Interactive Product, the floating icon appears green (see image at left). Clicking the arrow in the center drops the option menu down (see image at right), allowing you to change the behavior of the software. You can choose from four different colored pens and control the thickness of the line drawn. You can also select a yellow or green highlighter. Erasers of three thicknesses are also available.

SMART Ink Tools: Capture
You can also use the capture tool to save annotations to a page in a Notebook file. Just click on the Capture tool and it saves a screenshot  to Notebook even if Notebook is not running at the time. Note that the capture tool captures the entire screen; there is no choice between full screen, area, and freehand capture. Remember, the tool is designed to get the job done quickly while you are teaching a lesson, a time when you don’t need the complication of various software options to distract you or your students.


SMART Ink Tools: Eraser & Clear Ink

Similarly, the eraser is great when you want to make minor changes, but if you need to clear all digital ink from the screen you could circle and tap, just as you would in Notebook. You could also select the Clear Ink option which does exactly that with a touch of your finger or pen.

SMART Ink Toolbar: Active Tool

It can be hard to remember the last option you chose in SMART Ink. I’ve been at the board using a SMART Ink pen, switched to a thin eraser to make a few changes and then, forgetting that I was still using the eraser, went to write on the board and instead of writing ended up erasing. There is an easy way to know which tool is currently selected: The SMART Ink floating icon has a pop-out on the left side telling you the mode you are in at any given time (see above for an example). When the SMART Ink icon does not have a pop-out, the cursor or pointer is the active tool and you are ready to use your pen as a cursor or to select. If you choose a red pen, the icon will have a pop-out showing you that this pen tool is selected so you know how the tool will behave.

SMART Ink: Disconnecting from the board

If you were working on your laptop while connected to your board and then disconnect to work in another location, you can still use SMART Ink. When you drop the menu down to select a tool, you will see the message at right instead of your tools. If you select Keep On, the icon will remain yellow and you will have access to all of the SMART Ink Tools. Erase and
Hide erases any ink and hides the icon. Remember, there is a SMART Ink icon for every window you have open. If you have digital ink on a word processing document and your web browser, Erase and Hide will remove the ink from both windows, so don’t forget to capture those images to Notebook if you plan on using them later. You can check the box and turn off SMART Ink. The icon turns gray so you can turn SMART Ink on if you connect to a board or podium. 

Play and practice!

Now you know the capabilities of SMART Ink compared to the Floating Tools and Transparent Background. You also know how to select the various tools offered by SMART Ink. More importantly, you know how to anticipate the behavior of the software based on the visual cues given by the icon. Play and practice with these features! Next time I’ll go into more detail about the capabilities and applications of SMART Ink. Until then, please leave a comment sharing the successes and/or challenges you are having with SMART Ink. I’ll pass those on in the next post, and with the crowd-sourcing of our knowledge who knows how many teachers we might help!


Ray Sahagun

Ray Sahagun is a graduate student at Southern Utah University seeking a Masters in Education. He earned a B.A. in Communication from California State University, Fresno in 2002. He has taught Third, Fourth, and Fifth grade students over four years in the classroom. Ray's background is in telecommunications and he has worked in customer service, provisioning, and was a supervisor of technicians in a network operations center. Driven by the belief that technology can open many doors for students that have previously remained closed, Ray looks for meaningful ways to integrate technology into classrooms. Ray is an Education Solution Specialist at The Chariot Group, Inc.

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