Pen Input Computing

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By Alex Vuchnich, CPA, CFE - By Alex Vuchnich, CPA, CFE - I largely try to work in a paperless environment to the extent possible. I use dual monitors, email, PDF documents and scanners whenever possible. One thing I still miss though is the ease of using a pen and paper for note taking or for making notes on an existing document. Although typing notes directly into a document or creating comments on an electronic workpaper is feasible and simple in most applications it is still not as flexible as a good pen (preferably multiple pens in black, red and green ink). Circling or highlighting a bit of text onscreen generally requires scrolling through menus or invoking various toolbars. Over the past several years I have looked at several of the Tablet PC options that are available in an attempt to find a good solution to this. However, I was never able to find one that provided the level of performance that I required at a price point I was willing to meet. Then I came across the Bamboo USB Pen Tablet. This USB device adds a tablet pen inking functionality to any desktop or laptop PC (street price $70).

I have been working with the tablet for two days now and so far it has proven to be quite useful and versatile. The active digitizer (the electronic inking area) is relatively small but when placed on your desk has a natural feel similar to writing on a small notepad. Installation was extremely simple. Windows Vista Business already has some basic tablet functionality built into it and by updating with the provided drivers further functionality such as hot keys are enabled. The tablet is also designed to work with MS OneNote which provides a good note taking application. Within Adobe Acrobat it was a simple matter to circle and highlight using the pen.

A feature of any tablet that needs to be considered is the handwriting recognition capabilities. The recognition is largely built into Windows Vista Business and it did a pretty good job of converting my scribble into readable text. You of course have the option of leaving your original notes in your own handwriting as well. Getting used to writing with the pen takes a little getting used to and there is definitely a learning curve. One drawback from the USB tablet versus a true tablet PC is that in taking notes you have to train your eyes to look on screen while you are note taking on the separate USB tablet. This can make the notes of someone with handwriting as poor as mine practically unreadable even for the me, the writer. With a traditional tablet PC this is not an issue since you are taking the notes on the screen you are viewing. However this is largely a matter of practice and hand=eye coordination, not a fault in the USB tablet. Altogether the Bamboo USB Pen Tablet makes for a terrific device for those looking to add tablet inking functionality to a desktop or laptop.

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