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How To Get The Most Out Of Your Tablet PC

Bring Out Your Creativity

Tablet PCs let you digitally write over anything on the screen without permanently messing it up

First of all, let’s admit it: everyone has an inherent desire to just draw nonsense pictures every now and then. Whether it’s just a scribbled line or a sudden urge to write your signature out a couple of times, most Tablet PCs can easily accommodate you, with an overlay tool that lets you draw over the screen no matter what applications are currently open. It’s the perfect way to vandalize a picture of Paris Hilton without going to the trouble of printing one out...

Another, perhaps more useful application is the snipping tool, which has been standard on most Tablet PCs for a while. A simple tap on an icon in the lower taskbar brings up the snipping interface, a tool that allows users to digitally cut out a picture from the current screen display, then copy it for later use. This can be helpful in augmenting a software demo presentation, or for saving an order number from an e-tail purchase. This function is simple on a tablet, but would require a whole sequence of button presses and image edits to accomplish on any other computer. For users of Tablet PCs that are older or don’t have these features built-in, there are free software downloads available online that add the full functionality of these useful tools.

No Tablet PC is complete without the ability to use it as a digital notepad, the very feature that inspired touch-screen electronics and gave the Tablet PC its name. For most users, writing on a digital device is understandably intimidating, especially on a big device like a Tablet PC, but to fully explore what the technology can offer, you need to completely convert the computer to a touch-screen device. This means swiveling the screen over the keyboard and controlling all writing and maneuvering through menus with the stylus. The most feasible application for this is digital transcribing.

Microsoft OneNote. Notice the error when it tried to convert "transcribed text" to a computer font.

No one is really expected to open up a Word document and type up a dissertation by digitally handwriting a few hundred pages, while praying that the primitive word recognition technology will convert everything into Times New Roman. Rather, the ability is there to let you take notes during a meeting without the clumsiness of typing everything out, or the archaic process of using a pen and paper. You can easily bring up an application like Microsoft OneNote, which comes with most versions of Office 2003 and 2007, when you have the PC in tablet mode and just need to jot down a quick thought. When you have the computer oriented as a regular laptop, the ability to write directly into documents enables features like quick margin notes and highlighting, opening up another level of useful digital inking.

For now, though, it is probably best to stay away from handwriting recognition, as it will just drive you crazy. It’s still in very primitive stages, and by the time you correct the problems it gives you from one paragraph, you may as well have driven to the library, typed it up on one of the public computers, e-mailed it to yourself, and opened the document when you got to the office. It has the most trouble with idiosyncratic anomalies from what could be called the "standard" writing style. For example, it is tougher for it to recognize the number 7 when I draw a line through the middle of the number, and the same goes for the letter Z. So for now, we’ll just leave useful handwriting recognition in the land of the future.