If you use an Apple Pencil, you can take advantage of iPadOS’s Scribble functionality to “write” instead of type inside any text area on your iPad. Not only does it do an amazing job at transcribing your handwriting in real-time, but it also allows you to skip using the on-screen keyboard altogether.

However, you may run into instances where Scribble fails to kick into gear whenever you start writing with your Apple Pencil. Below, you can find several troubleshooting tips and fixes that can help fix Scribble on the iPad, the iPad Air, and the iPad Pro.

Table of Contents

    Upgrade to iPadOS 14 or Newer

    Both the 1st generation Apple Pencil and the 2nd generation Apple Pencil supports Scribble, so hardware compatibility is not something that you need to worry about. But, Scribble is only available in iPadOS 14 and newer versions of the iPad’s system software.

    If you’re yet to upgrade your iPad to iPadOS 14, open the Settings app, go to General > Software Update, and select Download & Install. All iPad models that support the 1st and 2nd generation Apple Pencils are fully compatible with iPadOS 14.

    Even if you’re already on the latest version of iPadOS, you may want to continue applying any incremental updates as soon as they become available. If you still have an early iteration of iPadOS 14 installed on your iPad, for instance, that should help get rid of any known software-related issues that lead to the Scribble app not working properly. 

    Turn on Scribble

    Check if Scribble is enabled on your iPad. It is active by default, but you might have disabled it and forgotten to enable it again. Head over to Settings > Apple Pencil and make sure that the switch next to Scribble is enabled.

    If this is the first time that you’re using Scribble, don’t forget to tap Try Scribble (located within the same screen) to check out all the ways that you can use the functionality on your iPad.

    Add English to Keyboard Settings 

    At the time of writing, Scribble only supports English and Chinese. If you can’t use 

    Scribble or enable it via the Apple Pencil’s settings screen despite having the latest version of iPadOS installed, you might not have those languages added to the iPad’s keyboard.

    Head over to Settings > General > Keyboards. Then, select Add New Keyboard and select any of the available English keyboards. If you want to use Scribble in Chinese, you must select a simplified or a traditional Chinese keyboard.

    You can then start using Scribble immediately—you don’t need to have the English or Chinese keyboard actively selected on the onscreen keyboard. 

    If Scribble continues to fail to function, make sure that it’s enabled under Settings > Apple Pencil.

    Switch to Scribble in Notes

    In addition to text fields, Scribble also works on the Notes app. But, it won’t convert your handwriting unless you actively expand the Apple Pencil toolbar (which is usually located in the lower-left corner of the screen) and select the Handwriting tool (the pencil marked with the letter A). 

    You can then start writing on the Notes app and your handwriting should automatically translate into text. To stop using Scribble, simply switch to another tool from within the Apple Pencil toolbar.

    Force-Restart iPad

    Sometimes, Scribble may not be working due to a random technical glitch in iPadOS. Force-restarting the iPad can usually help fix that.

    If your iPad features a physical Home button, simply press and hold down both the Top and Home buttons for a few seconds to force restart your iPad.

    If your iPad doesn’t feature a Home button, press and release the Volume Up button, press the Volume Down button, and then press and hold the Side button until the Apple logo shows up on the screen.

    Update Apps

    If you only have trouble with a particular app, it’s best to keep it updated. Scribble is a relatively new functionality, and it may run into issues while deciphering your handwriting on apps unoptimized for iPadOS 14 and later. Running the most recent version of the app can help fix that.

    Start by long-pressing the App Store icon and select Updates. Then, swipe down the Account screen to scan for the latest updates. If there’s an update listed for the app in question, tap Update

    You may also want to update all of your apps to ensure that you have the best Scribble experience possible—to do that, tap Update All.

    Reset All Settings

    If you still can’t use Scribble, try resetting the settings on your iPad. That should help fix any corrupt/broken settings that prevent it from working properly.

    Note: A settings reset will end up reverting every system-related setting on your iPad, including all network settings, to their defaults. Be prepared to spend some time reconfiguring the device afterward. 

    To reset your iPad settings, go to Settings > General > Reset and select Reset All Settings.

    Replace Apple Pencil Tip

    If you have a spotty experience with Scribble (where it converts your text well before you finish writing, for example), you may have an Apple Pencil with a worn-out tip. Try replacing it. 

    The 1st generation Apple Pencil box should contain a spare tip. If you use the 2nd generation Apple Pencil, however, you must purchase extra tips from Apple.

    Unscrew the worn-out tip by turning it counter-clockwise. Then, position the new tip on the Apple Pencil and start turning it clockwise. Don’t tighten the tip too much—that may damage your Apple Pencil.

    Start Scribbling

    Scribble is an amazing functionality that seriously enhances the Apple Pencil’s prowess as a navigation device for the iPad. If you continue to have issues, however, do confirm that there aren’t any problems with the Apple Pencil itself. Or else, consider booking an appointment at the nearest Apple Store or Genius Bar.