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Summary:

I told you yesterday about a new program for UMPCs that Ilium was starting a beta program for and that they were looking for beta testers.  If you didn’t sign up then you’re probably too late and that’s too bad as it is a really nice […]

I told you yesterday about a new program for UMPCs that Ilium was starting a beta program for and that they were looking for beta testers.  If you didn’t sign up then you’re probably too late and that’s too bad as it is a really nice program.  I have been playing with InScribe for the UMPC since yesterday and I am very impressed with the utility this program brings to the small screen.  I have been using it on my Sony U71 and it has already proven to be more useful for me than DialKeys.  Yes, I really said that and I’m a fan of DialKeys.  Read on for an overview of the program with some screen shots.

InScribe is an on-screen keyboard that is operated with the stylus and entering text is as simple as dragging the pen across the keys to spell the desired word.  As you drag the pen over the various letters (slightly hesitating over the desired letter) InScribe spells the word and enters it into the active window in Windows XP.  You can set the options to automatically enter a space after each word which means you can fluidly enter a block of text very quickly and simply.  It is the fastest on-screen keyboard I have ever worked with and very accurate, probably because it is a full QWERTY keyboard laid out just like you expect it to be.  The keyboard can be adjusted to any size you want and you can set the transparency of the keyboard so you can use it and still see the window underneath where the text is going.  Here’s a screen shot of the keyboard alone:

Inscribe_1

Here’s a screen shot of the keyboard in use with NotePad:

Inscribe_2

You can’t tell from these screen shots but as you drag the pen to spell the word a thin black line is visible on the keyboard to show the pen path.  It really is very easy to use InScribe and Ilium has done an excellent job porting this over from the Handheld PC platform.  One of the handiest features is the delete word key as it’s very fast to just rekey a word that you flub by hitting the key and entering it again.

The bottom row on the keyboard contains some special keys that do other things besides delete whole words.  The TINY key shrinks the keyboard down to the corner of the screen when you want to get it totally out of your way.  A tap on the shrunken keyboard brings it back up to full size instantly.  The GHOST key dims the keyboard and makes it "invisible" so you can manipulate the window beneath it as if it was not there.  The LAYOUT key is an exciting one because it lets you switch to custom keyboard layouts.  I am assuming that Ilium will either release other layouts (maybe DVORAK) or provide tools for the user to customize their own layout.

Ilium plans to release InScribe for the UMPC by the end of this month.  No word on pricing yet but I can tell you I am very happy with this keyboard.  This article was written totally on the Sony U71 using InScribe after very little practice.  I haven’t had time to play with InScribe on my Tablet PC but Ilium told me that the program will work fine on Tablet PCs with active digitizers too, which is way cool.

-jk

  1. Great looking piece of software, looks like it offers a really nice alternative to ink conversion and typing. How similar is this to the tool IBM released (SHARK)?

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  2. Looks excelent. A couple of questions.

    How accurate do you have to be when you change direction at the key you want? Is the software intelligent enough to work out the word you really wanted (using rulesets, word ‘shape’ recognition and dictionary perhaps) if you miss the key? Does it auto-predict words and make suggestions and does it add a space in after the word? Do you really have to hesitate at the letter you want for it to register? If not, I can foresee this evolving into word gestures. Why should one need to stop exactly at the key when a word has a unique shape signature? Common words will become gestures if the program is intelligent enough you could just write the shape anywhere.

    Regards
    Steve.

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  3. JonGH and Steve, it works like SHARK but instead of working off word shapes it registers actual keys “presser” which makes it good for entering URLs and passwords. There is no word completion, you just enter the whole word. It works well in practice and is hard to describe.

    Ilium pointed out tome that InScribe was originally released in 1997 for the Handheld PC, far predating SHARK, now ShapeWriter.

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