Many people find typing to be a slow, frustrating process. However, if you have a tablet PC or a graphics tablet with a stylus, there is another means of inputting available to you.
You might not know it, but Windows Vista supports handwriting recognition. Handwriting recognition is not a new technology, but it has come a long way in recent times. Although handwriting recognition is particularly useful for tablet PC users (which come with touch-sensitive screens), the simple and cheap addition of a graphics tablet to any computer — be it a laptop or desktop machine — can provide the same feature without the need for a special display.
If you are using a tablet PC, or have installed a graphics tablet, the Tablet PC input panel should be displayed automatically. If this is not the case, click Start, type tablet and click the Tablet PC Input Panel link in the results that are displayed. The first thing to do is choose how the panel should be displayed. Click the Toolsmenu and choose between floating anywhere on-screen, or docked at the top or bottom of the screen. When writing in the panel, clicking the Insert button adds the writing that has been converted into text into the current document or text field. By default it appears on the right of the screen, but this can be changed by clicking Tools > Option and choosing the Left option if desired.
When the input panel is closed, it will shrink down to a small tab at the side of the screen. Choose which side by moving to the Opening tab and making a selection from the list of options. To help improve the onscreen legibility, and the accuracy of text conversion, reduce the width of the ink that is displayed. Move to the Writing Pad and Character Pad tabs in turn and use the dropdown menu to select a new width. In the case of the Writing Pad, use the slider at the bottom of the dialogue box to indicate how little space should remain in the input panel before additional lines are displayed.
Vista’s handwriting recognition performs well from the offset, but there will be occasions when text is not successfully converted. If this is the case, click the offending word on the input panel and edit the word on an individual basis. Click any letter that has not been recognised and try rewriting it. Any extra letters or punctuation that have crept in can be removed by clicking the small arrow button beneath a character and selecting the Delete option. If characters are missing from the middle of a word, click the black arrow button beneath the letter after the position it should appear in and select ‘Insert Space to the Left’. The buttons to the right of the input panel can be used to add and delete spaces as required.
Handwriting-to-text conversion is generally successful, and most errors can be fixed easily. However, it is possible to increase the accuracy of text conversion by training the software to recognise your particular style of writing. In the input panel, click the Tools menu and select ‘Personalize Handwriting Recognition’. If you have been experiencing problems with the recognition of particular words, select ‘Target specific recognition errors’. Work through the two wizards, providing samples of handwriting for troublesome words and characters. Completing these steps should improve the accuracy and eliminate some of the more common mistakes.
For greater accuracy, you can train Vista’s handwriting recognition component to recognise your style of writing. Click Tools, followed by Personalise Handwriting Recognition, then click ‘Teach the recognizer your handwriting style’. Start by selecting the Sentences option and copy each of the passages of text that are displayed using your normal handwriting. If you make any mistakes while writing, use the second button at the bottom of the dialogue box to rub out individual words. Use the third button to wipe the slate clean and start typing a sentence fromscratch. There are a number of screens to work through, but by clicking the ‘Save for later’ button you can return to the session later.
The stylus provided with your tablet PC or graphics tablet can also be used to navigate Windows. Just use it as you would a mouse cursor. There is another way to make use of the stylus in the form of flicks — movements made with the stylus
that can be used as shortcuts to common actions. To configure this option, open the Pen And Input Device Control Panel and move to the Flicks tab. Select ‘Navigational clicks and editing flicks’ before clicking the Customize button. Use the dropdown menus to select which action should be performed when the stylus is moved in a particular direction using the Add option to assign a ‘flick’ to a custom key combination.