Use and abuse your Tablet PC for notetaking

Summary:There are two kinds of people out there who get Tablet PC's:1. The kind of person who likes walking through a busy St.

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There are two kinds of people out there who get Tablet PC's:

1. The kind of person who likes walking through a busy St. James Park with a Tablet PC on a sunny day, probably with a Bluetooth headset attached, talking to someone about "being very busy with lots of business", "meetings", "cancelling my 2 o'clock" and "getting back to people", whilst showing off about how important and superior they are, whilst in the process showing the world how tiny and insignificant their penis is.

2. Students.

Tablet PC's have recently come into the news as the next generation of computers, because Windows 7 will be supporting multi-touch features, so everyone's getting into a bit of a tizzy about it. But over the last few years, with the help of technology, written notes are slowly becoming a thing of the past. Sure, there are some subjects which using pen and paper more useful, and using a tablet device isn't always to everyone's taste.

Microsoft Office OneNote is one of the most used notetaking products, simply because it's part of most versions of the Office suite. As far as I can tell, it's just like the rest of the Office applications - bulky, confusing, there's far too much stuff on screen, there's an option/setting for everything, but also it seems to have the most power behind it. You can record audio notes, record video notes, add details to Outlook meetings, it also has great interoperability with the other Office applications, share your screen with others in a Live Meeting type style, write with ink or with text.

However, there is light at the end of the tunnel for those who have to use OneNote (or feel pressured into using it because everyone else is): there's a lovely slimmed down version which makes life so much easier. Hit the magic button and your notetaking space is transformed to a slimmed down, cleaner view with all of the options you need rather than those you might use, allowing you to work simplistically.

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Microsoft Research InkSeine, as you can imagine is nothing more than a prototype at the moment, but it doesn't half work well. As described on the website, it's "Windows Journal on steroids", and I couldn't agree more. It's not designed for any other type of computer, other than a tablet device running Windows - you can tell straight away because the interface is very touch-enabled. Not only that, you can easily flick between pages; at the bottom of the screen there's a simple table with numbers in, click a number and go to that page, exactly like you would in a real notepad.

With the choice of radial menus with pen commands, you can change your ink colour with a flick of your pen. With that, you have menu's that appear like Office 2007 prompts when you select something - they appear with options you can perform. The "tool ring" floats on top of anything that's running, allowing you take snapshots of other applications and pasting it into InkSeine straight away without any Alt+Tabbing or switching windows.

Yes, there are a tonne of bugs - one of the major ones is that it doesn't support text... at all. You really have to handwrite everything. This is something they are working on, as they know adding text support is a key, central part of what the application should be able to do. The one other problem (perhaps) is that it works excellently with Microsoft products and the Office suite, but third party products, including search and mail programs, can limit it. It doesn't like Firefox or the PDF format yet, but if popularity kicks off, it may well evolve from a prototype to a fully working release.

There is a vast website with screenshots, tutorials, bugs and fixes, videos and a "goodies" page, and even a blog which you can keep up to date with.

In my opinion, after using both of these products for quite some time, sometimes "beta" is better... nothing like ending a post on a little catchphrase.

Topics: Microsoft, Collaboration, Hardware, Laptops, Mobility, Software, Tablets

About

Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET, and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

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