Handwriting recognition is a wonderful thing. It feels gratifying to have a computer recognize your pen marks on its surface. It may even improve your penmanship as you adapt to its tolerances, which are finer than your own. The Tablet PC’s recognizer is remarkably fast and accurate, and getting better.
However, by now it should be clear that handwriting is not a high-productivity writing technique. It is slow, and worse, it is tiring. It is terribly tedious by comparison to two-handed touch-typing. The emphasis on handwriting in several generations of pen-based computers has relegated them to museums. But now, happily, the Tablet PC has the capacity, and the applications, to relegate handwriting to history.
You see, you can “type” with a pen, faster than you can handwrite, and with less fatigue. This is not possible using an on-screen qwerty keyboard, on which “typing” is slower than handwriting. Qwerty is designed to make you alternate hands when touch-typing, and thus forces your pen to fly back and forth between letters. However, you can sustain speeds comparable to the average touch-typist (~40 wpm) with a screen key layout that is designed for pen use. AlphaTap (by Network Improv) offers such a layout, which lets you rest your hand on the screen, and stroke through common letter combinations (t-h-e, i-n-g, etc).
When the Tablet PC’s freehand drawing capability is augmented by AlphaTap’s typing capability, the result is a device that is more productive and mobile than a laptop. After you have used a tablet so equipped for a week or so, you may wonder how you ever got along without it, and why anyone ever imagined handwriting worthy of recognition.
See also MessagEase and Fitaly, screen key layouts designed for handheld touchscreens.
by Liam Breck