I wanted to be able to blog happily from Japan during our orientation week and to keep in touch without the fuss of mobile phone “roaming” issues so I pulled out my old tablet PC and have spent the last couple of days giving it a good tune-up. I bought my tablet back in 2003, giving in to my gadget-girl proclivities and going for the first generation of these marvelous machines. I loved the idea of being able to handwrite my fiction and have no need for typing it out later. When I was first shown the tablet, the salesman showed my the input panel which could be either an on-screen keyboard which could be pecked at or a space into which one could hand write. I was disappointed – the panel could be docked either at the top of the screen, which meant that one’s hand, wrist & forearm covered any document into which you were trying to write, or it could be docked at the bottom -where there is nowhere to rest your hand and which quickly causes cramping. So the savvy salesman showed me the “write anywhere” feature. I fell in love. One could open up any application and write anywhere on the screen and it had no trouble converting even my odd, psuedo-copperplate handwriting and inserting it as type at the cursor. You could rest your hand wherever it was comfy on the screen so writing without being at a desk was easy. I loved my tablet.
Then came Service Pack 2 and it’s little parasite Windows XP for Tablet PC 2005. In their “wisdom” Microsoft decided to removed the “write anywhere” feature. They replaced it with a small button which would appear under your tablet pen when you hovered it over a cursor for an annoyingly long moment (and only in certain compatible applications). Once the damn thing appeared, you had to tap it to open up a smaller input panel under your hand- seemingly a good replacement accept that the thing disappeared if you lifted your pen too far from the screen or paused for a moment to think. No number of complaints on the forums could prompt from Microsoft even an acknowledgement that the new feature was not for at least some a satisfactory replacement (to put it politely.)So, my tablet became a $4000 laptop with a 12nd screen and none of the features that that hind of money would get, like an onboard disc-drive let alone a DVD player. I hooked it up to a full-sized keyboard & mouse and made good use of it, but it wasn’t my dear tablet anymore.
So now I have a need for a portable computer again, I figured I’d see what the state of play is now. After literally hours of updates it seems that very little has changed. The annoying floaty thing is not quite so delicate and stays around long enough to get a good run up an a thought but it still only applies to some applications (this one excluded, I’m afraid) and there is still no return of the original beloved feature. Microsoft, it seems, is happy for a company called Evernote to make a fortune providing a plug-in which provides the “write anywhere” feature for which we really should not need to pay. However, as I hand write this post on my tablet, on my knee in front of the tv, switching the input panel from the lower dock to the upper as my hand begins to cramp, then back again as it becomes too annoying glancing down and having to move my hand to check the conversion every few words – I will no doubt succumb at some point. Frankly, beyond the satisfaction and creative flow that handwriting provides, the idea of “populating” my blog’s database, and in turn the “series of tubes”, in longhand is just too delicious.