Digital ink is a form of technology that allows handwriting and drawings to be added electronically to documents and be displayed on a computer monitor. Typically, a digital ink system utilizes a special digital pen or stylus to electronically record what is written onto digital paper — a pad designed specifically for that purpose. Handwriting can be converted through handwriting recognition technology to standard text or it can be saved in its original form. Similarly, drawings can be saved in their original form or manipulated with software.
The terms digital ink and electronic ink, or E ink, often are used interchangeably, but there are specific nuances in meaning. Electronic ink refers to the ink portion of the inking technology used with electronic paper in general. In other words, a digital pen is used to create an electronic ink image on digital paper. E ink is a specific type of electronic paper manufactured by E Ink Corporation. Digital ink is a more general term that encompasses various technologies and processes of converting and displaying handwriting, text, and images.
Digital ink was widely introduced into public use in the 1990s with use of portable e-terminals for signing for receipt of packages or making credit card purchases. Later uses included note-taking and data entry on tablet computers, personal digital assistants (PDAs), mobile phones, and eReaders. Digital ink systems have evolved over time to include drawing, animation, cameras, and touch-sensitive whiteboards, as well.
Generally, digital ink systems have proven particularly useful in both real and virtual classrooms, allowing instructors to prepare detailed materials ahead of time and then make notes in the margins of on-screen slides or sketch in additional drawings as needed during the course of a lecture. Other practical applications include the use of digital forms and pens for polls, census-taking, and other information gathering. The use of the technology instead of paper forms saves paper and usually is considered more efficient for gathering, storing, retrieving, and transmitting many types of information. Digital forms have replaced some or all paper forms in many business, medical, and governmental offices.
Similarly, digital ink and paint technology has replaced traditional ink and paint techniques in animation. The artists' original series of drawings are scanned into a computer for processing by software that allows artists and animators to make adjustments to colors, shapes, and other details. This process is also used to combine the drawings in layers with other drawings, soundtracks, and special effects.