Apr
29
2009

What can I use as a replacement for a lost touch-screen stylus?

Photo by Roger Browne - CC-BY

Nokia N810 Internet Tablet (photo by Roger Browne - CC-BY)

It’s easy to lose the stylus from a touchscreen device such as a mobile phone, internet tablet or PDA. What can you use as a replacement? It needs to be pointed enough to activate a precise location on the screen, yet soft enough that it won’t scratch the screen.

One possibility is to take some soft dowelling (wood in a pencil-like cylindrical shape). Put it into a pencil sharpener to make a nice tip. This works rather well, but won’t stow into the stylus slot on a typical device.

If you want to be able to stow your stylus, you might be able to trim down a gluestick (from a hot glue gun) to a suitable size and shape. This will be tricky to do, and if your device uses a thin stylus you might find the result is too flexible.

Nokia came up with the idea of using a guitar pick (plectrum), and they even supply one with their 5800XM cellphone. You can do the same—a cheap strumming pick should be under a dollar at a music supply store. Plectrums come in different degrees of stiffness. They all work, but it’s better to get one that’s not too solid or too flimsy.

What if you’re caught out, needing a stylus but without the time to make one or go to a shop? Just take the comb out of your pocket. If your comb is reasonably soft and has a smooth point at the end it makes a great stylus!

Don’t even have a comb? If you need more precision than you can get with a fingertip, just curve your finger right over so that you are touching the screen with just the middle part of your fingernail. This works well, although it can be a bit hard to see exactly where you’re touching.

Whatever solution you use, try it out very gently until you’re sure it won’t scratch your screen.

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