Pen Attention - highlights your pen cursor for giving presentations

04/18/2008 - 00:26

Update 1/03/2010:Download the latest version from here

Update 5/10/08:An updated version of this program is available that fixes the bugs described in this post.

I've been using my Tablet PC to deliver lectures for years, and I love having the ability to record lectures, mark-up PowerPoint, and write by hand using OneNote. However, it's always bothered me that the pen cursor is a tiny little dot. An example is shown below from OneNote:

In that image, the cursor is right below the number "2" but it's REALLY hard for my class to see on a projector since it's a teensie weensy dot. The problem is that I like to use the pen to "point" at things as I give the lecture, but it doesn't help if the class can't see it. To remedy this, I've been using the eraser mode of the pen while in hover mode to "point" at things I want to talk about. It works, but is a little klunky.

After lots of searching around for ways to change the pen cursor to no avail, I finally (after 5 years!) got the idea to make my own program to highlight the cursor. A few afternoons of hacking later, and the result is PenAttention v1.0. This program draws a circle highlight, pencil, or pointer at the location of the pen, when the pen is detected on the screen:

The class can easily see the location of the pen. One drawback of this mode is that it's a little more distracting to write, but doesn't seem too bad so far and I think I'll get used to it. Using the pencil or pointer mode is a bit less distracting:

The program itself installs into the system tray. Tapping on the icon or clicking on it with the pen brings up a context menu that lets you pick which type of pointer you want for the pen:

The program is free and requires .NET 2.0 or higher and Windows XP Tablet or Windows Vista with a tablet pen. So far I've only tested it on machines with Wacom pens. I've tested this on about four personal machines and it seems to work, but please send me feedback if you have problems or if there are improvements that you would like to see.

To download the installer for this program click the link below:

IMPORTANT: If the program installs but the highlight doesn't follow your pen, try installing this Microsoft redistributable update for C++:

If you are interested in the C++ and C# source code, see below:

UPDATE 4/21/08: I updated the program to version 1.01. It fixes a bug in Vista when in Internet Explorer where the cursor isn't visible unless UAC or Protected Mode is disabled, and fixes a bug that prevented the cursor from being displayed in XP Tablet.

Known Bugs:

  • Flickering in Presentation Mode of PowerPoint
  • Sticky Notes doesn't display ink until pen is lifted from the screen

Thanks - I thought I was the

Thanks - I thought I was the only one who could not see the pen!

I just downloaded

I just downloaded cursorattention and love it.

I notice that when I am using the cursorattention that the highlighted area does not stay on top of other windows. Is there a setting to keep it on top of all windows or is this a bug?

If you installed the 64 bit

If you installed the 64 bit version but are using a 32 bit app, or vice versa, then the highlight won't show up... otherwise it should stay on top of the window.

Thank you so much for making

Thank you so much for making Pen Attention! I was having the same problem with the pen dot being too small and your application solved the difficulty perfectly! :)

Thank you so much, You have

Thank you so much,

You have liberated my OneNote capabilities!!!

You program is great. I

You program is great. I really appreciate the time you took to do this. It makes my writing much easier. However, I've a question, I'm a lefty. Is there any way to change the cursor to have the pencil point in the opposite direction, as if a lefty was holding it? I've look to see if you've used OS cursors, but I can't tell. ~Paige

Oh, it's only set up for

Oh, it's only set up for right-handed cursors :( The program is hard-coded so the cursor goes off to the right. It would be possible to make it go to the left by changing some of the program logic around though.

Hey, thanks for this

Hey, thanks for this amazingly useful and intuitive program! I use it with OneNote for handwriting and drawing.

I have a suggestion, I don't think I saw it in the previous comments: I'd love a quicker way to turn the highlight on and off. Could you set up a hotkey to toggle the highlight? It's very helpful when I'm drawing or writing, but once I start doing something else, I'd like to turn the highlight off again.

If it is possible (and convenient to for you to program =D ) I'd love to set the highlight to only be on when onenote was in draw mode.

I know next to nothing about programming but my intuition tells me that PenAttention may not know when it Onenote is in draw mode, or it may be difficult to program even if possible. So, if a hotkey was at least possible, I could set up a gesture to toggle the highlight without having to go to the PenAttention menu.

Thanks again for this application, any reply would be appreciated =)

Thanks! I've been thinking

Thanks! I've been thinking of a hotkey but normally the tablet is in slate mode and no keyboard is available? I could easily make the button press toggle the highlight... or maybe some pen gesture? Would that be useful?

Yeah, I'm not sure how to detect if OneNote is in draw mode (at least not in an easy way!)

Haha, this is great. I've

Haha, this is great. I've been frustrated with my pen tablet for awhile now because the cursor is so small, I could never see where I was. I'm currently taking a Java programming course and the book we're using is accompanied by online videonotes. I watched a few of them and the guy in the presentation was using a tablet and there was this highlight around the tiny dot and I thought "how the hell did he do that??" I spent a few hours in onenote trying to figure out where the setting was for that feature but then gave up and googled for it. Funny enough, it turns out that this feature was designed by the very guy in those videonotes! Too funny. I love this feature though, it's great to see where my pen mark is now. Thanks!

Haha, that's funny to be

Haha, that's funny to be known as the guy in the videonotes :-)
Nice to know at least one person has looked at them!


Thank you very much for this

Thank you very much for this small app.
Works very well on a Windows 7, with new Wacom Bamboo CTH-460

Thank you for this! Using

Thank you for this! Using onenote + wacom tablet to take notes on a eee pc 1101ha in class and spent more time looking for the bloody dot than actually taking notes

ops scratch that. in windows

ops scratch that. in windows 7 it uses 50% cpu when the pen is moving :s

50% Ouch! Are you using the

50% Ouch! Are you using the most recent version? I don't see that much load on my OQO and it probably has similar CPU power.

Yes, v1.01. Its not quite

Yes, v1.01. Its not quite 50%, ranges from 25-35% whenever i move the curson at all. Lags a lot as well. The netbook I'm using has a 1.33ghz atom z520 CPU. Use it at school to take notes with onenote (using a wacom tablet), which works well, but hard to see that dot.

Ahh, switch to version 1.2!

Ahh, switch to version 1.2! It is much more efficient than 1.01...

Not sure how well it will work on the Atom but it should be better than 1.01.

Thanks dude. Fantastic

Thanks dude. Fantastic little app
Wacom Graphite

Thanks for publishing this,

Thanks for publishing this, it is a great utility.

Pen Attention on Windows XP

Pen Attention on Windows XP Pro?

Pen Attention is just what I need! GREAT IDEA

Unfortunately I'm running XP professional (not Tablet PC) with a USB desktop tablet. I tried installing Pen Attention but it produces a fatal error at startup.


I can't see my cursor! very frustrating.


This looks like just what I

This looks like just what I need but I just can't get the app installed correctly. I installed/uninstalled/reinstalled both versions and the C++ patch but the app crashes as it tries to start up.

Hmm this is very cool stuff

Hmm this is very cool stuff indeed. I intend to buy a tablet PC when I come for an exchange program to the US. Also giving presentations 1 on 1 will have an even bigger impact with a tablet PC and the software!

Thanks for the share :)


Hypo (NL)

For those who are

For those who are interested, I will share my experiences (mainly) in Dutch at our site

Any other Dutch persons, don't hesitate contacting me for info & experiences. I know the tablet PC in Europe is still not common practive.

I also see my e-mailaddress is not in my comment, use hypo and then the (@) and then the blog address from above. Also for insiders with more information around the Mac Tablet, please let me know ;-)



Hypo, I send you an e-mail

Hypo, I send you an e-mail with some helpful links for the exchange and where to look at while buying a tablet pc. Good luck and enjoy your stay in the US.

This stuff is ace. i was

This stuff is ace.
i was getting so annoyed with OneNote's tiny dot. and now problem solved!

thank you so much.

by the way, it does seem to be a tad "out of sync" with what actually goes on, and does a bit of flickering in general... is that an issue for everyone?

but great product!

Thanks! I've got an update

Thanks! I've got an update that I hope to post soon (maybe in the next week) that should fix the flickering problem. The out of sync part happens if the CPU is working hard (your apps get CPU priority over moving the highlight window around).

I installed Pen Attention

I installed Pen Attention and absolutely love it. I have been a big Tablet PC user for many years now and a huge fan of OneNote. Thank you for the time and effort you put into this project.

Could not get the program to

Could not get the program to work on my Lenovo X61 with Vista Ultimate. Tried installing the C++ "fix" but that did not help either. It appeared to install correctly; it appeared in the system tray. But... it does not affect the pen cursor "dot."

Hmm, it's tough to say what

Hmm, it's tough to say what it might be - I'm running it on a Lenovo X61T as well, but with Vista Business. A couple ideas:

1) Check if anti-spyware or anti-virus software is preventing the program from running.

2) Try this older version that is not quite as efficient (about 5% CPU overhead when you're moving the mouse or pen around) but has fewer moving parts, so perhaps it will work:

In Onenote, go to the tools

In Onenote, go to the tools menu, then pen mode, then use pen as pointer. This allows you to write on the screen and make circles, etc., then it erases what you have just written as soon as you click out of it.

It's kind of a different solution, but someone may find it useful.

This is terrific! One of my

This is terrific! One of my students who has poor eyesight complained, and I was delighted to find this.

I'm using it on a Lenovo X60 ThinkPad Tablet. It works very well.

I tried Pen Attention on my

I tried Pen Attention on my Gateway M285, which features a Finepoint digitizer and pen, and everything seems to be working just fine. A very helpful little program. Thanks!

Thanks for the feedback!

Thanks for the feedback!

Excellent. I don'g give

Excellent. I don'g give presentations that much but I like the hilighting just the same.

Does your program permit

Does your program permit hiding the cursor? If not, can you recommend a program?

Sorry, it won't let you hide

Sorry, it won't let you hide the cursor. I'm not sure how to do that offhand but if I can think of a good way I will make a post! You can change the default Windows mouse pointer in the control panel so it is something invisible if you want to hide the regular mouse icon, but I'm not sure how to do that with the dot that is drawn when the pen is detected.

I tried to change the

I tried to change the pointer style from the control panel mouse options, but it only affected the pointer used in other stuff, not in pen mode or with Pen Attention. I don't need this, but it would be fun to try different pointers to see what works best.

ps If this really catches on, and you start a company based on it, you can call your headquarters the Penitentiary.

Good idea for a company name

Good idea for a company name :)

If you right-click on the system tray icon you can change it to a pencil or a mouse pointer. But that's a great idea to make an option to change it to whatever is selected in the control panel!

This is the Steven who left

This is the Steven who left a comment at the GBM post. Do you think you could make a bright green "laser pointer" style dot? I'll try to stay in touch to see. I hope you can. Thanks for your efforts.

Sure, I plan to add a

Sure, I plan to add a settings menu where you could change the radius, opacity, and color of the highlight (so a green laser pointer could be small radius, low opacity, and green).


Id like to thank and commend

Id like to thank and commend you for your work on Pen Attention and Cursor Attention.
I have been search far and wide for a program that would highlight words (or lines) on a screen, to help readers follow along easier. Your program is the closest ive found to an ideal solution.

Ever consider adding an option to have a rectangular highlighted field which would be helpful in highlighting words or groups of words.. An adjustable/scalable highlighted rectangle would work really well i think an oval/oblong shape would work as well..

Either way i appreciate the work you've done and find it very helpful