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Gadget Guide #1 - February 2006

By: James Bannan | Guides | Posted: Feb 21, 2006 5:00 am

How We Tested


We tried each of the applications in their native environment to see how the results panned out, with the PC Notes Taker plugged into a laptop with Microsoft Office 2003 SP2 installed, and a standard sheet of notepaper attached to the base unit.


The Note Manager is quite a basic application, but performs its function very well. Any movement on the notepad is instantly detected, onscreen quality is fairly smooth and any notes you create are very easy to manage. The ability to convert handwritten notes into onscreen sticky notes is great, as well being able to dump the handwriting as an image into any other application which supports it (almost everything).


The Annotater function in Office is really quite cool. You can enter text in at any point on the screen, which is just perfect for marking forms and papers, writing into electronic documents or inserting handwritten comments - Very nice.


The Pen2Text function worked slightly differently. It's very sensitive to handwriting styles, so you have to be ultra-careful how you write. My handwriting has been described to a "drunken spider dipped in ink staggering across the page", so I made a concerted effort to write in clear block letters. The phrase "The handwriting tool is very cool" came out as "Tine handwriting tool is very cod" and "The nano writing fool is very cool". Actually the second sounds better than the original - sort of The Matrix meets Monty Python. So, it didn't work that well.


MyScript Notes was a bit more impressive. Perhaps it's that it doesn't rely on the Microsoft Engine to function properly, but it did a much better job of recognising and converting my handwriting, even when I slipped back into cursive.


Final Thoughts


Although the PC Notes Taker is a nifty piece of hardware with an impressive suite of products, we're not entirely sure whether using it as a computer input would result in any sort of efficiency. The Note Manager was a good tool, and you could certainly streamline it to quickly send memos to people, but I can't see how that's any quicker or better than simply emailing them in the first place. Most enterprise messaging systems have facility for shooting off quick messages, so this isn't really facilitating anything new.


The Annotation tool was great though. Being able to handwrite comments on electronic documents and forms is a very worthwhile ability. In these cases it's nothing to do with efficiency and everything to do with human communication.


Pen2Text really wasn't very impressive. Ultimately, any computer system which attempts to interpret human inputs has to make some inspired guesses, and in this case the technology just isn't advanced enough. You couldn't make Pen2Text your default method of input - there are just too many mistakes.


MyScript was a better alternative for recognition however. It did a better job and had many more options to work with.


It's difficult to make a recommendation here. The PC Notes Taker is clearly a good product, but it doesn't really promote efficiency or business workflow in any way. If you're prepared to spend the time entering text into Word for the personal touch then sure, go for it. Otherwise we feel that most people would find it too distracting. Keyboards may be impersonal, but they're still the best input method we have.


- Pros


Lightweight hardware


Comprehensive software suite


Unit is responsive and accurate


- Cons


Handwriting conversion too prone to mistakes


Inefficient input method


Rating - 6.5 out of 10


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