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Summary:

Telling someone who has recently gotten a Tablet PC to "think ink" may sound obvious but as someone who has only been using a Tablet for a few months I can tell you it isn’t.  When I first got the Tablet I was a fanatic about […]

Telling someone who has recently gotten a Tablet PC to "think ink" may sound obvious but as someone who has only been using a Tablet for a few months I can tell you it isn’t.  When I first got the Tablet I was a fanatic about using ink in every program I could because it’s so cool.  Handwriting on a computer is somewhat intoxicating and liberating as there is no better way to get creative juices flowing than to watch the ink strokes flow on the screen.  But probably due to my long time PDA background I made what I now know is a big mistake in that I was immediately converting everything to text.  We have grown to believe that having neat text in our documents and even notes is the best way to go.  We know we like getting printed documents that are neatly arranged with crisp printed text and a common newbie mistake on the Tablet is to do what I did and convert all ink to text.

Now that I have been using the Tablet for a while I can tell you this is not good for your daily work routine.  First of all converting ink to text adds another layer of work as you must go through the conversion process and then edit it for recognition errors.  After all, if you’re going to convert the ink to text you want to get it perfect, right?  So your productivity tool (Tablet PC) has just become more work than just typing the text in with a keyboard in the first place.  This defeats the whole purpose behind using a Tablet for doing everyday type stuff.

So if that’s the case then why use the Tablet?   If you’ve ever taken notes in a meeting using pen and paper then you are familiar with image association.  Have you ever referred back to notes you took in a meeting in the past and something about the way you wrote the note, or perhaps a scribbled graphic reminder of some kind, jogs your memory and you remember exactly what was said in the meeting about that particular topic?  We do this subconsciously all the time and this is a big reason to just leave those notes in the original ink.  It is very memory jogging to refer back to notes you’ve written in your own hand.  Once you convert those notes to crisp text you lose that memory roadmap.  This is a very compelling reason to leave those notes as ink.  Once you decide not to convert the ink to text then your note-taking session is over when it’s over.  No typing it in, correcting it, nothing.

I find that I only convert notes or other material when I need to distribute it to other people.  That is not a common occurrence so I probably leave over 75% of my inking alone.  This has been a big productivity boost for me and saved me countless hours of typing and editing.  So I lose the ability to search my notes because I don’t convert them to text right?  Wrong, both Windows Journal and OneNote (and probably others) convert the text in the background anyway so you can search for keywords without converting to text.  So there is no benefit for converting informal documents and it makes a lot of sense to just leave them as ink.

Learning this was harder than I would like to admit as it was almost a reflex to want to convert everything but once I relaxed with the Tablet it became second nature.  When I first got the Tablet I would lose the joy of inking because of the conversion process after writing the notes but now it’s just plain fun.  And that’s the way our tools should be.

  1. I like your blog but its really inconvenient to click on a link to read the content. Why can’t you give full content in RSS?? Most posts on your blog that I do want to read but I don’t because I just don’t feel like clicking on a link to read full content.

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  2. I break longer articles up like that to reduce the load time of the front page. It’s a close call doing it either way- breaking them up or leaving them complete on the front page. Really long front pages impact readers with slower connections and this really helps them out. Do you really skip articles because you don’t want to click a link? If more readers give feedback that they don’t like the articles broken up then I will rethink that.

    I don’t put the entire article in RSS for two reasons:

    1) I want you to visit the site and you won’t if the entire article is in RSS.

    2) I subscribe to a ton of RSS feeds and I get swamped with material because some people do put their entire articles in the feed. For that reason I wish they wouldn’t do that.

    It’s all a matter of personal choice.

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  3. JK;

    I could not agree with your analysis more, I give Tablet demos in Universities all the time and the biggest crime IMHO that Msft has done is not seperate the idea of leaving your handwriting alone. (The second crime is that Msft is not hyping the Tablet with a media spread on TV to popularize it. “This is not your fathers laptop”) Everyone first wants to know about text conversion and I spend a lot of time talking about handwriting mangement. This I think is what the Tablet especially with OneNote is all about. You said it well and I am enjoying your blog.

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  4. Thanks Scott. I ranted a while back about the lack of hype for both the Tablet PC and Pocket PC. It’s here if you missed it:

    http://jkontherun.blogs.com/jkontherun/2004/10/pdas_tablets_an.html

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  5. I agree with you again JK.

    I think we are all accustomed to thinking that we NEED to convert every ink into text or graphics so searching for that information later is simplified.

    I’m finding that if I don’t convert the ink, I won’t go back and do it which makes my notes and Sony U50 not much better than my Franklin Planner was in the mid-90’s.

    When I switched to the Palm Pilot in 1996, I threw away my Franklin because finding notes from meetings was as quick as a search.

    I’m finding this balance for Tablet use hard, but agree with you that not EVERYTHING needs to be converted.

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  6. PA, what helps me find stuff is the use of OneNote flags. Different colors for different types of notes that I think I will end up coming back to in the future. It lets you narrow the search down significantly.

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  7. It’s funny. No-one sees what’s in my Pocket PC except me, and yet I cannot leave the text input as-is. I find that I’m correcting the spelling and case issues all the time — for myself. It’s like that “Shave and a Haircut” thing. You HAVE to finish the tune. Maybe it’s because what’s on my screen is the only stuff that I have that is actually tidy — part of that “Always Pristine Presentation” thing that makes electronic devices so compelling.

    I’ll give your suggestion a try though… Maybe.

    Regards,

    Andrew

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  8. [I just sent this email to one of your posters and wanted to send a copy to you. Thanks for your help with your coverage of this issue.]

    Getting people 2 use tablets and getting one for me.

    The specific people referred here are doctors and as long as they are the hoped-for market what’s the chance of the price coming down? I want to start a service transcribing all those doctor’s offices medical files to digital, with appropriate back up and not just server based, and you would think that with tablet sales being slower than a 14,7 baud modem the PC companies would be lining up at my door. Hey Eddie! this guy has an in for selling tablets to doctors buy keeping all their work off paper! Load up the van and lets go see him before the cows come home to roost!

    But Noooooooo. I can’t even get their sales departments to e-mail back except with ad copy, nothing specific to my questions. Oh, wait. Now I understand why tablet sales are flatter than a floppy disk. I’ve tried several of the PC companies and that one software company that seems to be pushing them; That’s ok sir. we will tell you which questions to ask our phone tree menu. And thank you for calling (name withheld but the two words separately both describe the condition of their heads).

    So Scott I am reduced to calling in favors from people who have never me and owe me nothing. Can you refer me to one or two sales reps who might be of some help? You have already given me some help as I have read your post on jkontherun.

    thanks,

    Glenn

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