What I hear

Creative Writing on a Tablet PC

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

A Novel Written on a TPC!

Wired Magazine has a short interview with science fiction writer, Richard Powers, on his new novel, The Echo Maker. The following is from the interview:

You wrote most of The Echo Maker on a tablet PC running voice recognition software. How did you arrive at that method of composition?

I've always wanted the freedom to be completely disembodied when I'm writing, to feel as if I'm in a pure compositional state. Typing is a highly unnatural activity, and your writing style ends up reflecting the cognitive shackles. When I started to use the tablet, things that are extremely difficult to do on a word processor opened up to me. I could also make drawings to see what a character looked like, and these sketches would be integrated into my research. Part of the mystery of The Echo Maker hinges upon what happened on a certain stretch of road on the night of the accident. I figured that out visually by drawing the scene over and over and seeing how all the elements moved in relationship to one another.

Hmm… I may have to check it out. I totally agree with him about how TPCs open up and allow you to do things that other computers tend to block. I've been planning to blog on doodling and the creative process…

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Diner Chatter #1

Location: Jim’s Restaurant, The Mission, SF

Elderly Man #1: I was in line at the bank and this woman behind me said, “My, you’re hairy.” I told her that that’s what happens when you get old. Then she said, “Does your wife make you cut it.” I said, “I’m not married.” Then she said, “Can I see it?” I told her no. Nobody sees it but me.

Elderly Man #2: That must have ruined your day.

Waitress comes with food.

Elderly Man #2: That’s very messy…that’s not how they do it in French restaurants.

A few minutes elapses…diner noise makes it impossible for me to make out what they’re talking about, but it has something to do with computers and Yahoo. Then the waitress returns with more food. There is no gravy on the mashed potatoes…she laughs (I sense they’re regulars) and heads back to the cook.

Elderly Man #1: You’d better watch out…the Republicans might arrest you for indecency with those naked potatoes.

Snippets heard as I packed up to leave:

Elderly Man #2: … warts on your vocal cords. You wonder how they got there.
Elderly Man #1: He says in his gravelly voice (laughter).
Elderly Man #1: (referring to children and mom outside the window) They’re such nicely proportioned little people – they’re going to grow up like her.

Diner rating (out of 5 stars) 1.5

Food was sub par. Environment was dineriffic though.

Bye Bye Chris Pratley

One of my most important tools as both a tableteer (tablet pc user for the uninformed) and a creator is OneNote. OneNote is note taking software that replicates and builds on the notion of taking paper-based notes. It differs from a word processor in so many wonderful ways – here are just a few:

  • Write/type anywhere on the page – no need for paragraphs/margins/columns/etc. Just click and type (or tap and write)
  • No files to save – once you write something on a OneNote page, it's there until you erase it.
  • Tabbed interface looks just like a multi-subject notebook
  • Pick up and move text around on the page or add space between paragraphs
  • Draw with the pen or the mouse – doodle even
  • Drag and drop content from the Internet to your OneNote page – OneNote automatically appends a link to the source
  • Search through a single section in your notebook or the entire notebook

  • Send Outlook meeting information, tasks and emails to OneNote where you can then take notes on them

  • Record meetings while taking notes – OneNote timestamps the audio and links it to your physical notes so that you can click on a note section and hear the meeting content recorded at the time the note was taken…allowing you to focus on the speaker rather than making sure every word gets transcribed
  • Search on audio content – no, really!
  • OneNote mobile allows you to collect data on your Windows Mobile device to later synch with OneNote on your tablet, notebook or pc – as an example, use OneNote mobile to take a picture of a white board. When you return home, synch it up with OneNote. In the background, OneNote OCRs the photo and it's now searchable just like the rest of your notes!

That's just a taste of a few of the features that I depend on. But one of the coolest "little" features is what was initially called "Side Notes". When using the Side Note feature OneNote installs an icon in the notification area of the task bar. A single click of the icon brings up a mini version of OneNote – that remains on top of the screen so that you can jot down notes while working within another program without having to worry about switching focus between the two screens. So, for instance, when I'm working in Word on a novel or short story, and I need to make a note, I just click on the icon and a little post it size version of OneNote appears that I can write or type notes into as I work. In addition to basic note-taking, the icon also provides a quick link to OneNote's recording and screen capture features. If at any point you need more room, the post-it sized version can be resized all the way up to full screen.

I could go on and on about OneNote…expect more.

So who's this Chris Pratley chap? Chris is head of the Office Authoring Group at Microsoft and has been leading the OneNote team since its inception. During his tenure in this post, he became very involved in the tablet pc community, listening to our suggestions and taking them to heart in development of OneNote 2007. On his blog, he regularly posted amazing articles on OneNote features, development decisions and implementation, and features on how to get the most out of the software and best use its many features. I've learned a LOT about the amazing power and flexibility of this tool from his blog postings, and even got in on an early beta of OneNote 2007 because of it.

So back to the point of this piece – yesterday, in a post celebrating the RTM (release to manufacturing) or OneNote 2007, Chris noted that he will be moving to a new team/area within Microsoft. While I'm happy for him and Microsoft, I can't stress enough how instrumental he's been in evangelizing what, in my humble opinion, is one of the most important new pieces of software of the last decade. OneNote has helped organize my life while elevating note taking to an art.

Good luck, man.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Tablet PC is 4!

The tablet pc turns four today. Pretty significant because on its release the doomsayers were out in force. Now it seems, more and more of the doubters are seeing the value and strength of the platform and adjusting their former predictions. Anyone who's talked to me about my tablet knows I think they're here to stay and that I will never buy a computer without a pen interface again.

The face of computing will never be the same… write on!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Back for Now

Okay, it's been a while, hasn't it? Personal life got out of control. Still trying to reign it in. Since that doesn't look like it's going to happen any time soon, I'm going to have to force myself to make time and post more regularly. Yeah, it's like that.

So what have I been up to creatively? Tablet PCey?

Creative stuff

Unfortunately, not much. Began a short story. It was going well, but I set it down before I figured out what I was really writing about. I will pick it back up this week and see if I can fall back into the story and complete the first draft. It's horror, and a bit more personal than I'm comfortable with, but I will return. Whether it's a "success" or not is still way up in the air.

I'm also reading/proofing a novel that a friend wrote. I hate to say that I'm really behind on the edit, and even more important, I'm embarrassed to say that I didn't offer to read it before this, the final stage. That said, it's a clean read, and he uses this way cool shifting POV thing that's really a lot of fun to read. But the writer in me wants to suggest ways to make it creepier. And that's not fair at this stage of the game. Not at all. My loss. Hopefully, I'll complete it before the weekend.

And then there's the writer's groups. Both of them. One is flowing pretty smoothly, the other one is stalled. I need to solicit more writers. Quick.

On deck: 3 stories to critique for writers group 2, and a horror screenplay by another friend. Oh yeah, and the novel trilogy!

Tablet stuff

Hmm… watching Vista progress very closely and very close to throwing up my hands, giving in and installing it on Eleanor 2. I have no right to do so. At least not until Vista is released, in late January, and I can benefit from all the last minute tweaks and finishing touches. Hopefully, Vista Ultimate will include an extra tablet feature or two to sweeten the pot.

As it stands, the tablet-specific features in Vista should make the OS even sweeter to use.

Why I'm such a dull boy

Still working the same contract. The team is VERY cool, but the online editing task is pretty evil. The people make up for it though. In fact, they sent me one of the new 2nd generation iPod Shuffles as a Thank You for the work done during phase one of the project. Hmm… Is that too nice or what? Of course. I'm sold on Microsoft's All You Can Eat Plan, and have a Yahoo account, so this is out. There's no way I'd convert all my music, boy the stuff I've rented, etc. to use the Shuffle. Too bad, as it's a sweet little device land, well, it was free. In truth, the limitations (no display, etc.) would drive me up the freakier wall in no time at all. Of course, iRiver has some sweet devices…

Okay, I'm back. And I promise one more posting before the week's out.

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.