Since Motion Computing provided me with one
of their cool
touch screen LE 1600 Tablet PCs running Windows Vista to take to TechEd NZ
I have given it a good going over. I even worked it into both
of my sessions – I used it for all of the Vista demos in my lunchtime
session. I also recorded a video of the Touch Mouse and showed that in my
Getting Started with Tablet Development and it really wowed them. I've
since added an audio track and you can check the new video out here.
The Touch Mouse
The Touch Mouse is the heart and soul of
the Vista touch experience. When you tap the screen with the tip of your
finger a transparent mouse appears on the screen with the pointer above and to
the left (if your tablet is configured for right-handedness).
You can touch the body of the mouse and
drag the cursor around the screen to position it. This gives you the
hover effect that has always been missing on touch screen devices. You
can also tap the left and right mouse buttons to perform those click actions
wherever the tip of the cursor is positioned. Of course you can also hold
your finger on the Touch Mouse buttons to perform the drag operations.
You can enable touch and assign the tap and
double tap actions on the Touch tab of the Pen and Input Devices control panel
Clicking on the Advanced Options buttons
lets you configure the size and opacity of the touch mouse and tweak where the
cursor appears by default.
If you are planning to use the stylus for
an extended period you can toggle the touch mouse off by clicking an icon next
to the system tray.
Other Touch Enhancements
There are a couple of other things in Vista
that will benefit users of touch screen devices. For one thing when you
bring up the Tablet Input Panel (TIP) onscreen keyboard the keys are larger
than on a digitizer tablet. I’m not sure if this is a Vista thing
or if Motion have tweaked the defaults to make the keys larger, but either way
it makes the keyboard really easy to use with your finger.
Another thing that is good for
“touchers” is the inclusion of the revamped control panel and the
addition of the centers such as the Mobility Center. These provide larger
targets for a finger than the control panel in XP did.
There is always a downside…
It is unfortunately true that there is no
such thing as a free lunch. As with the Origami devices I have tried out
the touch screen is nowhere near as good as a real digitizer when it comes to
handwriting recognition. This is still the case in Windows Vista. I
frequently encountered palm rejection – which is where the pressure of
the heel of your palm on the screen is registered as you write. This
interference causes the line of ink to jump from the tip of the pen to your
palm and back again in direct ink applications like journal. If you are
writing in the TIP it usually registers as a click outside of the writing area
and that will cause the tip to vanish and the focus to shift to whatever is
under your palm. Either way it is annoying.
You can force yourself to write without
resting your palm on the screen and I daresay you would probably get use to
doing that. I find it quite tiring though so I would not recommend it for
extended ink input. Even if you are comfortable writing like that you will
still find that the ink on a touch screen device is not as smooth as on a
digitizer because the touch screen lacks pressure sensitivity and samples at a
lower resolution. You also give up the eraser on the top of the pen and
the right click button on the barrel. (Actually these are still there on
the Motion as it is the same pen that is shipped with their other models.
They just don’t do anything. I find myself constantly trying to
right click with the button on the pen. My advice to Motion – ship
the touch only models with a bit of molded plastic rather than a real
stylus. It would be cheaper to make and would not confuse the user.)
When I was in Boston for TechEd US I had a
play with what I assume was a prototype device on stand of Microsoft’s
Mobile PC team. It was a Motion LE 1600 like the one I have now but it
had a couple of extra tricks up its sleeve. Firstly the touch screen was
much better. The model I have – and all the Origamis I have played
with – has a resistive touch screen. However the touch
screen on the Motion at TechEd was a Capacitive touch screen. This
means that it detects the electrical interference of a fingertip, so you
don’t need to use your nails or press really hard.
The other cool thing about that LE1600 was
that it was dual mode. In addition to the touch screen it had an active
digitizer as well. If the pen is in range the touch screen is
disabled. As a result you get the best of both worlds. I don’t know
when or even if Motion will ship these, but it was by far the best touch
experience I’ve had with any tablet because you gave nothing away at all.
If you want the best handwriting experience
go with an active digitizer. If Motion ship their dual mode device then
it will be worth paying a little extra for it. Another thing that strikes
me is that Vista and the touch mouse will rock on Origami devices.
Don’t forget to check out the video of the Touch Mouse in action. I
had to use a web cam to capture it. For some reason when you create a
screen cast of the Touch Mouse only the pointer shows up.