If you use a Tablet PC you may be wondering what is in the pending operating system for you. In this post I’ll be looking at some of the features in Windows Vista that tablet users will appreciate. I’m going to focus on the pen friendly features in this post. That said Tablet PCs are mobile PCs and I’ll be looking at features for mobile users in another post in the near future.
The Snipping Tool
I’ll start with the snipping tool because I’m going to be using it for all the screenshots I take. Existing tablet users will know and love the snipping tool from the Tablet PC Experience Pack. For Vista the tool has been revamped somewhat. The first time you run the Snipping Tool you are asked if you want to add it to your quick launch bar. This is a good idea and I would recommend it – if you change your mind you can always toggle it on or off in the options menu later.
The way the snipping tool works has changed in Vista. In XP when you activated the Snipping tool a screen overlay appeared along with some controls docked down by the start bar. You selected what you wanted, added you ink in situ and then selected to save, copy or email the snip.
In the Vista version when you snip you get the overlay and this dialog:
You then select what you want using one of the 4 selection tools (freeform, rectangle, window or screen) and the snip is immediately copied to this editing window. You then add your markup and save, copy or email the snip.
One gripe I have is that the default save format is “single file HTML” or MHT. It does not seem that you can change this default and I almost always want it as an image (GIF or JPG).
There are a number of enhancements that provide a better experience when interacting with the OS with a pen. Foremost among these is the Pen Flicks feature.
Pen Flicks are quick little gestures that can be assigned actions. The act of flicking is like quickly drawing a line in one of eight directions. It is important that the line is straight and that the motion is brisk.
The default setting is to enable only navigational flicks as shown below.
You can also enable editing flicks.
If you want to get really tricky you can customise the flicks – just click on the drop down next to one of the actions and select Add. You can then give your action a name and specify the key combination.
If you need some guidance I recommend going through the Pen Flick training – just right click on the Pen Flick icon in the system tray.
Another great feature is the multi-select feature in Windows Explorer. Basically each icon has a small checkbox next to it. You can simply check multiple boxes to select multiple files. Anyone who uses a slate will appreciate this! You can also use the box in the top left corner (by the Name column) to select all.
The last pen-friendly feature I’ll point out is another thing that long time tablet users will like. In IE there is now a panning tool. Click the little hand and you can drag the page up and down with the tip of the pen. (a panning tool is also included in Office 2007 applications – but that is another story.)
Updated Tablet Input Panel
I love the way that the new Tablet Input Panel (TIP) hides. When not in use the TIP docks at the side of the screen with just a wee sliver visible. Best of all you can dock this at any height on either side of the screen.
When you move the pen over the sliver a tab pops out. Tapping on the tab causes the TIP to slide out.
The text entry experience is very familiar. There are the same three options as there are in Windows XP Tablet Edition – Writing pad, Character Pad and on screen keyboard. When you start using it you notice there are some pretty cool differences. One of these is AutoComplete. For example if you are writing a URL using the TIP it will pull up suggestions from the browser history and display this above the TIP like this – before you insert the text. Saves heaps of time.
In the options there is a tab that lets you configure how the TIP opens and docks. I turned off the animation that has the TIP slide out from the docked position. Now it just appears and the experience is much smoother.
There is also an advanced tab where you can specify password security settings such as defaulting to the keyboard for password input or even requiring it.
The main enhancement for pen users is the ability to personalise your handwriting. This is done via the TIP Tools menu. You can target specific handwriting errors or go through training sessions (ala speech recognition).
The good news? All these features make for a much smoother experience on a tablet than the one we had with Windows XP Tablet Edition. And the even better news? I’m not done yet – Tablets are mobile PCs and I have another whole post planned on What’s In Vista for Mobile Users.
The bad news? It’s not out yet!