Yes, Virginia. There is handwriting recognition for Linux. I think.


On-line-hwrWhile I haven’t tackled the touchscreen issue when running Ubuntu on the Samsung Q1, I did stumble across something interesting in terms of handwriting recognition for Linux. I’m sure there are other potential solutions out there (I’ve heard of some for the Nokia 770, for example), but this one provided an on-line demo via Java, so it’s just fun to play with!

Paragon Software Group has a handwriting recognition system for Linux that they demo as PenReader. If you hop over to their site, you can try the on-line demo, which isn’t perfect, but works well for a web demo. The inking doesn’t appear as “tight” as the native Tablet abilities in Windows XP Tablet Edition, but it could be due to the web-based nature of the demo. Could be interesting…




Also check out Lipi Toolkit, an open source project at Right now it features recognition of isolated upper and lowercase English characters and boxed input. You can also build your own recognizers for arbitrary shapes/other scripts using the tools provided.


I hate to break it to you, but in a practical sense there is *NO* real HWR for Linux, at least nothing that is accessible. There still isn’t any open source project that has implemented it, nor are there any commercial softwarehouses which have a product that provides it. There is character recognition, but no handwriting recognition, ala ParaGraph’s CalliGrapher, Transcriber (lic. by MS) or what there is on the Newton. One problem common to some of the projects I will discuss below is that they require a fair bit of power- more than you have on your average PDA or a device like the Nokia.

It’s a shame, because the technology is there. It isn’t very good- at least the products I’ve seen by Paragon and Motorolla aren’t. But they could be improved, especially if they were open source projects.

In addition to the Paragon system you posted about, a division of Motorolla called Lexicus had a system as well. Their roman character recognizing system called Lexicus QuickPrint, and was shipped on at least one Linux tablet- the ProGear by FrontPath/SONICblue. My wife had a ProGear. The Lexicus HWR was slow and very error-prone. You also had to write in a little box (like in XP Tablet), rather than the Newton/Apple and ParaGraph offerings, which let you write anywhere on the screen.

There also was the possibility of a product called riteForm. It is still in existence, but like some of the other options, they worked on a Linux port but never did anything with the software to make it a product. Another example of code that you can probably get your hands on if you are a big company, but even if you did, you’d still have to make an actual application- it’s just the engine. See:

That Paragon demo has been there for years, at least since 2001 or so. The site and the demo is just like I saw it in 2001. There is no product, and there aren’t any libraries around which developers like myself could build a product.

The Paragon thing is a shame. They claim to have an open API, and obviously they have something working- but it’s not like you can download or buy the libraries and build an application for whatever GUI toolkit you’re using on Linux. I’m sure a big company like Nokia could license it, but they don’t talk or provide software to single developers, let alone consumers. If you wanted to have the slowest HWR ever, you could write an app that sends requests off to the Paragon server- you may notice that the strokes are actually represented in the HTTP request.

Also, while the Paragon app would be better than nothing, it is pretty crappy compared to what ParaGraph or Apple offers. I’ve used it on CE and it was way behind CalliGrapher and even Transcriber.

I’ve been keeping my eye out for Linux HWR for a long time. I’ve had a few Linux PDAs, all the way back to the VTech Helio.

Belathor: There is no issue of Linux working on a touchscreen in general. There have been a handful of Linux PDAs and tablets. It can work, as long as there is a driver for the touchscreen. That can be a huge issue by itself, but if there is enough support behind a device, touchscreen drivers are usually straight forward enough to write. But when are a small group of people, they usually go unwritten.

We can hope… one day! I’ve been waiting to a Linux device with real HWR since the first Linux PDAs started showing up, back in 1999-2000. I’m still waiting, unfortunately, and there are no indications that I won’t be satisfied anytime soon. When I was using a Zaurus SL-5500 and then SL-C860 as my main PDA for a spell in college, I still had to bring my Newton MP-2100 with me to class for taking notes- it was just way too cumbersome on the Zaurus.

If anyone wants to discuss this further, feel free to email me. Or, if you want to post it here so that your readers can get more information and background, feel free.


Kevin C. Tofel

No, I don’t carry my DVD drive with the Q1 when away from home, so no Ubuntu for now. I used the online Java interface at Paragon to ink and then snipped the cap from XP. Try it!


Cool. Did you create that under Ubuntu? And did you make that snazzy screen capture under Ubuntu? Just checking. :)

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