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.