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Creative Writing on a Tablet PC

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Thursday, August 17, 2006

Conquering the Keyboard

Yesterday, while working, it dawned on me that I'm now using the pen about 95% of the time. When I got my first tablet, about three years ago, I thought that at best, I'd use the pen about 50% of the time.

So what happened?

First, the conversion rate is pretty high. I'd guess about 85%. My typing rate is probably around there too. Over the years I've become a TIP maestro -- leaning little tips from the community and from experience. The TIP is well designed, but it takes time, actually quite a lot, for it to become second nature. I just realized, after three years of use, that when filling out forms you just have to tap the tab button to move to the next field and continue working. I'd been tapping in each field, causing the TIP to open and close between entries. When using the keyboard, I would naturally use the tab key to navigate, so why didn't I carry that behavior over to the TIP? Calling myself stupid is the easy way out -- I think it has more to do with the difference between using a keyboard and using pen and paper...

So why am I using it so much more when accuracy is comparable, but speed of execution isn't.

Comfort. Don't get me wrong, I liked the keyboard. Actually, I used to love it and favor it over traditional pen and paper (I used to do everything -- even the grocery list -- on my desktop computer).

Comfort. Being able to cradle the tablet in my arms as I sit in a comfortable chair, lounge in bed, etc. really has no comparison. I've relearned the joy of writing -- of using the scratch out gesture to correct a mistake -- of doodling in the margin during meetings and brainstorming sessions -- of not having that wall of glass separating me from the person I'm talking with.

Comfort. Writing using different muscles than typing. Exponentially fewer it seems. The fatigue of typing and the accompanying pains are gone. For good, I hope. I used to periodically get pains in my hands...and the fear of carpal tunnel syndrome was everpresent. Since I've switched to a tablet, the occasional pain hasn't returned. That, in itself, is more than enough reason to get a tablet. Switching between input methods just makes sense.

So I write. And I like it. And I don't think I will ever go back to a traditional laptop. Not if I can help it.

By the way, Vista promises a leap in pen integration and accuracy. I'm eager to try it, but will likely have to wait until it's released, cause I just can't risk any incompatibilities with my daily driver. Of course, my tablet model has been discontinued by Toshiba, so I'm probably out of luck when it comes to getting driver updates from them, unless they use the same drivers in current models. Vista will have to go on my desktop first, which I now use predominantly as a media station.


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About Me

My photo
This is me and one of my two cats. His name is Cougar, and he’s an F1 Chausie. A chausie is a new breed of cat under development. Chausies are the result of a cross between a domestic cat (in Cougar’s case, a Bengal) and a jungle cat (Felis Chaus). Cougar’s mom is 8 pounds and his father is a 30-pound jungle cat. He’s about 16 pounds, super intelligent, spirited, and toilet trained. A writer without a cat (or two) is not to be trusted.