In addition to a Pocket PC I also use a Tablet PC. It’s a convertible model and I don’t always use it in tablet mode, but that is changing as I find more tools to fill the gaps in the user interface that seem missing to me.

As I mentioned when using a handwriting user interface I’m a fan of something called gestures. The Tablet PC has these too but it is up to each application to map them to commands. So far there are few applications that do so. There are a great many things that gestures could be used for like selection or Cut, Copy, and Paste that would make the Tablet PC feel much more natural. It’s a shame that Microsoft never implemented a system-wide gesture user interface into the Tablet PC. However like Calligrapher that added this feature to the Pocket PC there is something called StrokeIt for the Tablet PC (actually any PC) that adds both system and application specific gestures.

StrokeIt is not made specifically for the Tablet PC but despite this, it works really well. As such it doesn’t use most of the Microsoft defined gestures but you can teach it any new gesture you want including the missing ones defined by Microsoft. With StrokeIt you can use gestures anywhere to invoke any set of keys or commands using a macro system for defining gesture actions. They’re not always the easiest thing to set up but they are quite powerful and you can set up gestures and actions to be global or per-application. It comes with a bunch of pre-defined actions for popular applications to get you started. It’s also very light-weight taking just 360k on my TabletPC (by contrast the Tablet PC recognition UI take about 34,000k).

Using StrokeIt my Tablet PC feels much more natural. When I need to invoke the spell checker, I can just draw a big checkmark like on my Pocket PC. I can also set up gestures and actions for Cut, Copy, and Paste or anything else I want. And best of all StrokeIt is completely free for personal use. If you’re using a Tablet PC I would highly recommend trying StrokeIt.

I’m a big fan of the Pocket PC; or rather I’m a big fan of handwriting technology. I take notes and keep lists to stay organized but I also tend to lose all the scraps of paper I write on. The solution for me has been to put everything in one place like a notebook. However if I’m going to carry a notebook I’d rather that it be electronic since most of the things that I write down are transient in nature.

I’ve used a Pocket PC for several years now and one of the things that I found that really helped with its handwriting recognition is a program called Calligrapher. Not only did Calligrapher dramatically improve the handwriting recognition it also expanded the recognition to support a “write-anywhere” user interface and gestures, special little squiggles that invoke a command like showing the correction window or the Cut, Copy, or Paste commands. With Calligrapher you can also define your own gestures and commands too using a powerful scripting language. Using gestures the handwriting experience feels more natural to me. Between the better recognition model and gesture I find that my Pocket PC is much more usable. I would highly recommend it to anyone with a Pocket PC or a Windows Mobile device.

If you also use a Tablet PC the company that makes Calligrapher also makes Pen Office which adds the same gesture support to Tablet PC's as well as a bunch of other stuff. For me Pen Office is too heavyweight; the Tablet PC's recognition is just as good if not better and while I miss the write-anywhere user interface of my Pocket PC, I really don't need all the other stuff in Pen Office. However I do miss gestures but there's a much more light-weight (and free) alternative for that. I'll cover that in my next post.

Flux and Mutability

The mutable notebook of David Jade