Why I love my tablet computer

07 Mar 2004|Darrel Rhea

I recently got a new tablet (see previous blog) and am discovering new delights all the time. Here are several details about it for those of you who are curious.

Writing on a tablet computer is a big deal. It changes everything. I’m writing this message with a pen directly on my tablet. It’s translating my cursive handwriting into typed text. I actually have very neat printing (that anal designer/architect hand), but surprisingly, it doesn’t work as well as a messy cursive for the tablet. I’m not making any effort to be neat or precise, and so far this paragraph has not required any correction — except my misspelling of the word “tablet,” and even that only required a click of the button on the pen to pull up the correct spelling to fix it. While I have not converted to cursive entry for the majority of my input yet, I may soon. I am not a fast typist, but I sure can write messy script faster than I can type.

The power of this format really starts showing up when I combine typing input with the handwriting. So far, I am much faster editing text on a keyboard and some kinds of input just works better typing, such as serious text documents or spreadsheets. I can’t imagine not having the option of both. (That could change as my skills improve.) The bottom line: the power of the tablet is not in replacing the keyboard input — it is in adding the handwriting function.

While most of us have developed the skills to make a mouse or touchpad work fine, navigating with a pen is far superior. It is literally point and click. Inserting, highlighting, and scrolling work even faster than with a mouse. This comes in very handy as I go from window to window.

Email is one place this puppy shines. I’ll type in normal mode if I have a couple of paragraphs of text to write for an email. For quick responses or personal notes, I am now dashing them off by hand. Not only is it faster, it is more personal.

I am blown away with the tablet as a drawing tool. With the software app Alias Sketchbook Pro, I have found it better, more expressive and easier than to control than real paper and pen/pencil/brush/airbrush. How often is a digitally simulated experience better than the real thing? I have been rediscovering drawing after years of neglecting these skills.

The really big new app that leverages the tablet format is Microsoft’s OneNote. This is new (Cheskin is a beta site for it) but v1.0 is being shipped with most of the tablets today. This is earth-shattering application in and of itself, but it is even cooler with a tablet. Much could be said about it, but I will leave that to others. (You will find it worth exploring, as I predict many of you will be using it as one of your standards daily software tools — think of life before Microsoft Outlook…it has that much utility.)

The best thing about OneNote is that it provides me a way to use my tablet as …a tablet. Yes, I have been carrying a paper notebook for taking meeting notes and capturing ideas for years, and now the computer tablet can not only provide that function, but it can do it better. Archivable, searchable, infinitely reorganizable, friendly to any type of input, socially acceptable to do in a meeting, and…this is so cool…you can email a page directly from within the app. Woohoo!

Example: I’m on the phone taking notes about a project with my pen in OneNote. I capture some details and graphically sketch out ideas for three different approaches. Hanging up, I erase a few mistakes with the pen, change some numbers, draw some boxes around each approach, underline with a different color here and there to add emphasis, write a quick introduction and closing, and email it with a single click. My client gets this from me in minutes and confirms that the approach is sound. I copy it, erase the intro and resend it to other associates who start working on aspects of it before I write the more formal proposal document. We like this.

This just saved me transcribing my handwritten notes into a typed word document or email, and shaved off about 30 minutes. More importantly, I got it done before getting sucked into a series of hour long meetings. It accelerated the conversation and provided better service. Yes, I’ll still end up writing a formal proposal, but it will be produced faster. And before I could type up a request, I got pricing estimates back and useful detailed information to alter my proposal before the first draft. What’s more, because the tablet has wireless, I monitored this progress during my meetings. While taking notes during those meetings, I could see the emails come in, and even dash off a quick handwritten response without missing a beat in the meeting.

I am only scratching the surface of the utility of this device, and I am discovering unanticipated rewards daily. Is it time for you to change over? I can say that the utility that I am enjoying might not be valuable to many people (those text-centric lightening fast touch typists who are desk bound probably won’t care a wit for it) but for this visually oriented mobile professional, I’m hooked.

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