Author: Yogi Schulz
Summary : Tablet PCs are definitely worth a look from businesses looking for new ways to help boost the productivity of their employees.
I’m often asked about the quality of handwriting recognition technology in today’s mobile devices. This is because the feature is crucial to a positive end-user experience: if the handwriting recognition capabilities aren’t fast and reliable, devices that take advantage of the technology are too frustrating to use for very long.
- Using devices equipped with a stylus and virtual notepad – known as a Tablet PC – is a worthwhile alternative to the ubiquitous mini-keyboard units currently available
- The Tablet PC may be easier to use for people who travel, and who often find themselves in crowded or awkward places like airplanes, airport lounges, cars and buses
- Tablet PCs can also help employees handle the increasing volumes of information they must wade through on a daily basis
But I’m happy to report that handwriting technology has progressively improved with each new generation. It’s reached to the point that, from a productivity and mobility perspective, using devices equipped with a stylus and virtual notepad – known as a Tablet PC – is a worthwhile alternative to the ubiquitous mini-keyboard units currently available. Tablet PCs are definitely worth a look from businesses looking for new ways to help boost the productivity of their employees.
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One major advantage of the Tablet PC is convenience. The form factor delivers a more productive and mobile way to interact with a computer. On some occasions, and for some applications, handwritten input is easier to use than a mouse and a keyboard. That capability alone makes the Tablet PC easier to use for people who travel, and who often find themselves in crowded or awkward places like airplanes, airport lounges, cars and buses.
This convenience also extends to the workplace. A plant supervisor can hold a Tablet PC in one arm, for example, and still access mission-critical applications related to inventory, production scheduling and product specifications while on the floor. Tablet PC users can also access pricing, inventory and order status in real-time at a customer’s desk. In a sales situation, the customer can sign the order directly on the device. In a design discussion, a Tablet PC can save rough sketches as graphics files, eliminating the need to take a digital picture of a whiteboard.
Tablet PCs can also help employees handle the increasing volumes of information they must wade through on a daily basis. Consider a typical business meeting – participants can easily take notes without a laptop display creating a “wall” between them and the other participants. The clickity-clack of the keyboard is also no longer a distraction.
Unlike many PDAs, Tablet PCs can run a wide variety of Windows-based software beyond Microsoft Office applications (visit theTablet PC Software Showcase to see what’s available). For example, Tablet PCs powered by Windows XP feature Windows Journal for note taking, in which the display becomes a lined pad. The resulting hand-written notes created can be saved in a graphic format or converted to text, ensuring quick access to information when it’s needed.
For those who want to move beyond personal note taking, Microsoft OneNote can be used to gather, store and manage a wide range of information including text, presentations, PDFs, pictures, digital handwriting, audio and video recordings, in a single location. This enables project teams to organize data assets to minimize information overload and help increase productivity.
Still concerned about the quality of handwriting recognition? Don’t be. The stylus and the Tablet PC Input Panel (TIP) located across the bottom of the display work smoothly with virtually every application that I have. I start by using the stylus to launch an application and “click on” menu items just as I would with a mouse. To provide input, I point the stylus where I need to create an insertion point. Then I write in the TIP area and click Insert when I’ve completed my text. This process works in a document in Microsoft Word, a cell in Microsoft Excel, a slide in Microsoft PowerPoint, an e-mail message in Microsoft Outlook or the address line in Microsoft Internet Explorer.
I’m also amazed by the poor quality scrawling today’s TIP can interpret correctly. Usually I can skip crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s. Infrequently, when the TIP interprets writing somewhat incorrectly, there’s an easy correction dialogue. In extreme cases, when I’m entering abbreviations or acronyms with imbedded numbers, I use the stylus to select symbols from the soft keyboard.
Tablet PCs are versatile devices that offer superior ease-of-use, especially in mobile or constrained situations. In our time of a nearly ubiquitous Internet, Tablet PCs have the ability to deliver value to businesses by enabling limitless access to applications and business data.
Yogi Schulz is a Calgary, Alberta-based contributing writer to the Microsoft Midsize Business Center. His work has appeared in Computing Canada, EDGE, The Calgary Herald and Microsoft Ideas. He typically consults with CIO’s in the energy, government and real estate industries.