Additional Apple Pencil gestures such as rolling and sliding surface in a patent

Apple may be working on additional Apple Pencil gestures on top of the double-tap, such as rolling and sliding motions, triple-taps and more.

Patent drawings illustrating Apple Pencil touch gestures like sliding and rolling
Image: USPTO
  • What’s happening? Apple has updated its existing patent application to cover some new Apple Pencil gestures like a sliding motion, a rolling gesture and a triple-tap (you can already triple-tap a word on the screen with your Pencil to select an entire passage, but the triple-tap and other gestures are unsupported).
  • Why care? The Apple Pencil gestures are currently limited to double-tapping. Being able to detect additional touch gestures will make the accessory more versatile and capable, especially in drawing apps that support the iPad stylus.
  • What to do? Tell us what you think in the comments down below.

New Apple Pencil gestures could be in the works

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) on August 11, 2022, granted Apple an extension of its existing patent application covering future Apple Pencil features with as many as 20 new patent claims.

According to Patently Apple, this move should allow Apple to better protect this patent, titled “Touch-based input for a stylus,” which anyone can check out for themselves on the USPTO website. These new claims are also important because they reveal potential new gestures coming to the Apple Pencil, such as sliding and rolling motions and triple-tapping. Read: Apple Pencil text selection tips

Apple says additional gestures could be tied to configurable actions to give users greater flexibility. The company writes that the user could assign longitudinal or other sliding gestures to systemwide actions such as copy/paste or undo/redo.

Detecting these gestures would require a capacitive sensor which the current stylus doesn’t have (it only contains tap-sensitive zones on its sides).

The patent describes a capacitive touch sensor comprising multiple sensing elements distributed circumferentially and longitudinally along an inner surface of the housing at the grip region. The touch sensor, Apple continues, could detect a sliding motion, a rolling gesture and more.

What does the Apple Pencil double-tap gesture do?

Currently, you can double-tap near the tip of the stylus to quickly switch between the last-used tool. You can choose whether double-tapping the device switches between the current tool and the eraser or the current tool and the last-used one.

You can also set the double-tap gesture to show the color palette interface or do nothing in Settings → Apple Pencil. Only the second-generation Apple Pencil supports the double-tap gesture in apps.

For now, the double-tap works only in supported apps, such as Notes, but Apple wisely provides third-party developers with official ways to detect the double-tap action so their own apps could respond to it.

For instance, apps like Procreate let you use their settings to configure which action the gesture invokes. So if additional touch gesture controls are indeed set to arrive with the next Apple Pencil, you can bet that third-party developers are going to make use of them. Read: 5 ways to use your Apple Pencil in the Books app