One of the most interesting things about tablet PCs is the fact that there are now so many different input methods. Where before the input methods on a PC were fairly static – mouse and keyboard for most of us – we now have handwriting recognition, Bluetooth keyboards, multi-touch, and a handful of other software solutions that are growing in popularity.
So, which is best? Whichever method you like best to maximize productivity is probably the best solution. I have my preferences and you likely have your own, but here are some of the more interesting ways to get more out of your tablet, depending on how you use it.
For iPad and Android users, handwriting recognition is fairly limited, but for those that use a Windows tablet like I do, handwriting recognition is fantastic. Microsoft’s TIP – which they’ve been working on for more than a decade now – offers intuitive interaction with most applications and allows you to easily input your thoughts. Software like OneNote even makes your handwritten notes searchable.
While I have almost universally switched from typing to handwriting on my tablet, sometimes you need to write a little bit more and having a good keyboard on hand is very helpful. Bluetooth keyboards are generally mobile and lightweight and they can be synced to your device on the fly only when you need them.
The multi-touch interface on the iPad and Android devices is very good. It allows simple, intuitive interaction with your data that feels fantastic. This type of input is wonderful for web surfing, checking email, or other tasks that don’t require a lot of data entry. It is only when working on spreadsheets or documents, or typing long emails that the interface can be most frustrating.
SWYPE is a software solution for data input and it is fantastic. It takes the technology behind autocomplete, which has been standard on mobile phones for many years now, and ups the ante considerably. Instead of just guessing what you’re trying to say based on the form of the word, SWYPE predicts text based on the motions of your finger across a keyboard.
To start, you place your finger on the first letter of a word, and then you move your finger around the keyboard in a swiping gesture, touching each letter in the word. The algorithm in SWYPE then determines which word you were targeting and displays it on the screen. All this would be useless without accuracy. Luckily, SWYPE is incredibly accurate and one of the fastest non-keyboard input methods for a tablet.
And of course, there are other tools like Dragon Naturally Speaking or the Windows Speech Recognition tools built-into all Windows Vista and Windows 7 tablets.
However you enjoy inputting commands into your computer, a tablet PC has solutions designed to meet your needs. And because of the robust developer community growing around tablets, we’re likely to see even more incredible methods in the years to come.