The Nokia N800, the Apple Newton, and a note about Tablet PCs…
While perusing a discussion thread on Internet Tablet Talk about must-have apps for the N800 (trying to find apps that still work for the 770…), I initiated a Google search that led me to this interesting page comparing the interfaces and quirks of the Nokia N800 to the Apple Newton. It’s quite an extensive article, so I just skimmed it, and bookmarked it for later reading. However, I was reminded of something that I feel is a big deficiency in Tablet PCs — you can’t directly ink in text fields. There may be applications to help get around that in some cases, but the OS itself is not architected such that you just directly ink your text into text fields. The Newton supported this way back in the mid-to-late 90s! A quote from the N800 v. Newton page:
The Newton has real, systematic handwriting recognition. Not just a better HWR engine (and it’s far superior to the very slow, inaccurate one in the N800), but one which is part and parcel of the GUI itself. On the Newton, you write directly in text fields and entry areas. Various on-screen and hardware keyboards and other input systems are still available if you wish them. The Newton’s HWR even cleans up shapes and doodles, has sophisticated built-in handwriting gestures (“scrubbing” a word to delete it, writing a caret to make space to insert a word, etc.), and allows you to turn off the recognition or delay it indefinitely (it’d then store and display the handwriting exactly as you had written, or if you preferred, in miniaturized form).
It is amazing that even now, in Vista, you still have to use a floating Tablet Input Panel (TIP) to initiate inking text, or tapping it out on the virtual keyboard, if you prefer. At least on Tablet PCs you can ink out words freeform — in print, cursive, or a mix of both — rather than being limited to individually inking letters to spell out words (there is this option in the TIP, though) on the N800.
I remember back when UMPCs were first announced, and there was a fledgling discussion forum for Origami devices (can’t recall the site at the moment). Someone had asked a general question about whether or not you could write directly in a text field, like the address bar in a browser, and one of the moderators, being a total newcomer to the Tablet PC platform himself, answered that he wasn’t sure, but would find out. I cringed to myself thinking that if I answered that question, I would have to tell them that they’d have to tap on the TIP before being able to write out their text. And it’s still that way today! It’s inefficient, and when you think about it, rather unintuitive, given the paradigm of text fields on paper forms.
I love the Tablet PC platform, even though I find myself not using it as much in my daily routine as I used to (due to several different circumstances which I won’t discuss now). I am glad for the updates to Tablet functionality in Vista, though I don’t use Vista on my current TPC. But I really hope that the inking interface will be updated to be even more intuitive so that you can ink anywhere, especially directly in text fields, instead of depending on the TIP all the time. It would be awesome if that were implemented in Vista SP1 or SP2, or beyond… Or even in other non-Tablet-PC devices that are now starting to use handwriting input, like the N800. I’m still waiting for Apple’s update to the Newton, or competitor to Tablet PCs…
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This entry was posted on July 25, 2007 by jezlyn. It was filed under Apple, gadgets, handheld, handwriting, ink, Internet tablet, MessagePad, Microsoft, Mobile Tech, N800, Newton, Nokia, Tablet PC, Tech, UMPC, Windows Vista .