Two Tablet PC add-ins bring Office closer to ideal

The two Office applications I use most often in my work are Outlook and Word. Out of the box, neither provides a truly satisfying Tablet PC experience. While Office 2007 makes working with pen and ink better, there are still gaps in the experience.

The two Office applications I use most often in my work are Outlook and Word. Out of the box, neither provides a truly satisfying Tablet PC experience. While Office 2007 makes working with pen and ink better, there are still gaps in the experience. This of course creates what Microsoft (and other platform developers) refer to as a "third-party opportunity".

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I have spent the weekend working with two add-ins for Office that so dramatically increase my "Tablet time" that they have earned a permanent spot on my list of must have software for the Tablet PC. The first is a new product called Ink Gestures from JumpingMinds Software. Ink Gestures is a Microsoft Word add-in that allows you to use standard editor's markup symbols to edit a Word document with the pen. You can insert or replace text, change formatting, or convert text to a numbered or bulleted list. In all, there are 28 gestures available.

What's especially nice about Ink Gestures is that I can take advantage of all of this goodness in Outlook as well. The only catch is that Word must be set as the editor in Outlook. As this setting is also required to send inked e-mail, it's essentially a no-brainer decision. A 30-day evaluation is available and an introductory price of $39 is offered until March 31, 2006. The regular price after that date is $49.

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The second add-in is a new version of Tablet Enhancements for Outlook (TEO) which I have been a raving fan of for quite a long time. TEO 3 is still in private beta but Josh Einstein, the developer, is hard at work getting this new version ready for release. TEO replaces Outlook's standard forms with ones designed specifically for pen input. The design of these forms is simply outstanding and I can create a new task, appointment, or Journal entry every bit as quickly with my pen as I can with keyboard with TEO installed. But these input forms are only the beginning of how TEO redefines the Outlook-on-a-Tablet PC experience.

TEO allows me to record an audio note on any Outlook data object, generates a map for any contact (requires Microsoft MapPoint) , provides a Research tab that allows me to highlight any words I ink and conduct online search against the terms, and so much more. There is so much going on in this version that it simply cannot be summarized in a single post. If you're curious about TEO 3, I recommend you visit GottaBeMobile and watch the "ink shows" they have posted that walk you through the capabilities of this add-n. There's an ink show for Ink Gestures as well. TEO 3 will also provide a free evaluation and a license will cost $50.  Registered users of the current version qualify for a discounted or free upgrade.

James and I discuss both of these add-ins in this week's OnTheRun with Tablet PCs podcast

UPDATE: James has just posted a video about "a day in the life of a copy editor" that shows Ink Gestures at work.

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