Stylus (computing)

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This article is about stylus pens used in computing. For the writing utensil, see Stylus.
A smartphone being operated with a stylus.

In computing, a stylus (or stylus pen) is a small pen-shaped instrument that is used to input commands to a computer screen, mobile device or graphics tablet. With touchscreen devices, a user places a stylus on the surface of the screen to draw or make selections by tapping the stylus on the screen.[1] In this manner, the stylus can be used instead of a mouse or trackpad as a pointing device, a technique commonly called pen computing.

Pen-like input devices which are larger than a stylus, and offer increased functionality such as programmable buttons, pressure sensitivity and electronic erasers, are often known as digital pens.[1]

The stylus is the primary input device for personal digital assistants.[1] It is used on the Nintendo DS and 3DS handheld game consoles, and the Wii U's Wii U GamePad.[2] Some smartphones, such as Windows Mobile phones, require a stylus for accurate input.[3] However, devices featuring multi-touch finger-input are becoming more popular than stylus-driven devices in the smartphone market;[4] capacitive stylus, different from standard stylus, can be used for these finger-touch devices (iPhone, etc.). Also the stylus (S-Pen) is used in the famous Galaxy Note series manufactured by Samsung Electronics.

Graphics tablets use a stylus containing circuitry (powered by battery or operating passively by change of inductance), to allow multi-function buttons on the barrel of the pen or stylus to transmit user actions to the tablet. Some (probably most) tablets detect varying degrees of pressure sensitivity, e.g. for use in a drawing program to vary line thickness or color density.

The first use of a stylus in a computing device was the Styalator, demonstrated by Tom Dimond in 1957.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Shelly, Gary B.; Misty E. Vermaat (2009). Discovering Computers: Fundamentals. Cengage Learning. ISBN 978-0-495-80638-7. Retrieved 3 November 2009. 
  2. ^ "Giz Explains: The Magic Behind Touchscreens". Gizmodo. 13 August 2008. Retrieved 3 November 2009. 
  3. ^ Charles Arthur (20 October 2009). "Windows Mobile: where's the love? And where's the sales figure?". The Guardian (London). 
  4. ^ Brandon, John (15 December 2008). "The Age of Touch Computing: A Complete Guide". PC World. 
  5. ^ Dimond, Tom (1957-12-01). "Devices for reading handwritten characters". Proceedings of Eastern Joint Computer Conference. pp. 232–237. Retrieved 2008-08-23.