Tablet PC productivity tips
Make the most of the Windows XP Tablet OS
Even if you think manuals and help menus are for sissies, realize that Windows XP Tablet PC Edition
has a slight learning curve, and each tablet has additional manufacturer-specific software that works with (and sometimes fights against) the operating system. Spending a little time with the system's support center can get you up and running quickly. Go to Start > Help And Support, then select "Welcome to Tablet PC." Spend a few minutes going through the tutorials, especially the one for the Tablet PC Input Panel, the main handwriting interface--it's not entirely intuitive on the first try. Once you've gone through the tutorials, go back to the Help and Support Center and choose "Customizing your tablet computer" to set up your dream machine exactly the way you want it. (This is especially useful if you're a southpaw or have hand/eye coordination issues.) Finally, you'll want to check out the add-on software your tablet's manufacturer included, some of which may fill functionality gaps in the OS. For example, our Fujitsu LifeBook T4020
included audio sensitivity software to configure the microphone to pick up voices in a large auditorium or a crowded meeting room.
Explore Windows Journal
Windows Journal, which is included in the Windows XP Tablet OS, is one of the top killer apps for tablets. It lets you take and organize handwritten notes, but even better, it lets you annotate a Web page, document, spreadsheet, presentation, or PDF by hand. For example, let's say your team sends you a PDF draft of your next company newsletter, and you want to suggest some edits. First, open the document in its native application, in this case Acrobat Reader. Then print the document to Journal Note Writer. (Every tablet PC has this as one of its installed printers.) The document will open automatically in Windows Journal. Whip out the stylus, select thick red from the pen menu, and edit that puppy until it looks like it came from Picasso's red period. Your team will be able to see your edits even if they aren't working on tablets (as long as they have the free Windows Journal Viewer
installed or you save the file as a Web page).
Improve your handwriting
The next version of the Windows XP Tablet OS
will let you "train" your tablet to recognize your handwriting. Until then, here are a few tips on how to optimize your penmanship:
- In the Control Panel, choose "Tablet and pen settings." Make adjustments to help the tablet recognize the way you write (for instance, if you are left-handed or right-handed).
- Instead of the standard Tablet Input Panel's Writing Pad, try using the Character Pad, which forces you to write each letter in a defined space. With this interface, you can see which letters the tablet is misinterpreting and fix the individual letter instead of the whole word.
- Download the free Dictionary Tool Power Toy, which customizes your Tablet PC's dictionary to your handwriting. This is especially useful if your industry uses a specialized vocabulary.
Tablet PC productivity tips
Use OneNote to record audio or video with your notes
Increase your microphone sensitivity
|One of the best things about a tablet PC is how easy it is to take quick notes with it. There are a lot of free note-taking programs out there, such as EverNote, the student-oriented GoBinder, and even Windows Journal. But only the $99 Microsoft Office OneNote lets you record and attach audio and video to your handwritten notes. This feature is especially worthwhile if you spend a lot of time in meetings or lectures.
To record audio in Microsoft OneNote, select View > Toolbars, then "Audio and video recording. Click the microphone icon, and the program will insert a line of text into your OneNote document indicating the time and date the audio recording started.
The default factory setting on your tablet's microphone sensitivity is likely very low, which will give your recordings tinny, hollow sound. OneNote can adjust the sensitivity of your tablet's microphones so that you catch every word. Click Tools > Options, then select Audio And Video to adjust recording settings. In the Codec drop-down menu, select "Windows Media Audio 9 Voice"; the "Windows Media Audio 9.1 Professional" option is overkill, unless you have a professional-grade external microphone. For Format, choose the maximum value possible; the resulting audio files will be five times larger than the lowest setting, but the audio will be light-years clearer.
Increase your microphone sensitivity in OneNote now, and you'll have a better time transcribing conversations later.
Once you've adjusted the settings, test the heck out of the system before you have a make-or-break recording session. You'll want to be able to pay full attention to the meeting or the speaker, not fiddle with software.
Record phone conversations
First things first: in most states, if you want to record a phone conversation, you have to tell all parties that they are being recorded. That's the law. Provided all the participants agree, you can use one of these three devices to capture audio from a conference call using Microsoft OneNote:
Sync video to your handwritten notes
At conference sessions or training meetings, you can hook up a video camera to your tablet and synchronize the video proceedings to your handwritten notes. The procedure is nearly the same as audio recording; just select the Record Video option on the audio and video recording toolbar.
Tablet PC productivity tips
Download free software for even greater productivity
|Microsoft is vigorously backing its tablet PC initiative with a slew of free software designed to entice users to switch to tablets. Here are a few of our favorite programs:
The Microsoft Experience Pack for Tablet PC includes six programs for productivity and media management. Though you might not use them all, this pack is worth downloading for the Snipping Tool alone. It lets you use the stylus to select and copy a portion of a Web site, PDF, document (whatever's on the screen), add your own comments (for example, "I love this image! Can we get permission to use it?"), and paste the whole thing into a document or e-mail. Also noteworthy in the Experience Pack is the Ink Desktop, which lets you write notes directly on your desktop without launching an application (good for jotting down a phone number or reminders).
The Microsoft Education Pack
has five programs designed for students, some of which are useful in business settings, too. If you work with numbers or complex formulas, use the Equation Writer to convert handwritten math equations into neatly typewritten images. GoBinder Lite, a day-planner and note-taking program, lets you integrate notes and deadlines for multiple simultaneous projects. And the Send to Microsoft Office OneNote 2003 program circumvents a ton of cutting and pasting, letting you send almost anything--including Web pages or files--into OneNote for annotation.
Microsoft offers a handful of applets, similar to Apple's dashboard widgets, called Power Toys
, for tablets including a dictionary tool, a Web search tool, a calculator, and a font creation tool. There are also a number of free OneNote templates
for calendars and planners, business tip itineraries, meeting minutes, and more.
Other free software
These programs will get you off to a great start, but if you work in a specialized industry or have other specific needs, you should browse through the many third-party applications that are available for the tablet PC. You can find many of them at CNET Download.com
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