We found Alias Wavefront's Alias Sketchbook, a drawing program, to be stylus-friendly, right down to using stylus gestures to select tools and menu options. The ability to draw boxes or circles that are recognized and instantly turned into true boxes and circles is a lot more useful than we'd thought.
TabletPlanner, a handy datebook and organizer from Franklin Covey, works with digital ink and handwriting much like a paper-based organizer, while adding the computer's searching, storage, and group calendaring capabilities.
Groove Networks, in Beverly, Mass., is adapting its peer-to-peer collaboration system to Tablet PC. Ray Ozzie, Groove's CEO (and the creator of Lotus Notes) says, "Almost daily I have conversations on the phone with business associates and partners where I could use the ability to sketch a picture or visually share and annotate a document to enhance the communication."
Ozzie agrees that the Tablet PC can help users work more naturally across business boundaries, reducing the cost of coordination and accelerating decision making.
The most complex Tablet PC application we've seen is a beta version of a CRM program from SAP that integrates a series of tasks into a single, swift process. Using a Tablet PC, a salesperson sitting with a customer can write up an order that includes marked-up, annotated pictures of the items being ordered. When everything is complete, the buyer can sign the order, using digital ink, right on the Tablet PC. Then, as the transaction is completed, the application creates a printable Word document that includes the order form, pictures, and signature. This document can be printed out on the spot. It's a slick, efficient process.
Let's not forget the promise of Microsoft's recently unveiled OneNote(see " The Big Bang "). A new addition to the Microsoft Office family, OneNote will debut in mid-2003. Designed for taking notes and conducting research, this application fits somewhere between the Tablet PC's Journal application and Microsoft Word. Besides text, OneNote can handle and integrate rich media, including digital ink, audio, HTML, and graphics. And while OneNote will work on any PC, the Tablet PC's digital ink capabilities for handwriting and diagramming make it shine.
With the application, users can make audio recordings of meetings and simultaneously take notes, using either keyboard or handwriting input. When the sound is played back, OneNote automatically synchronizes and recreates on-screen notes at the exact point in the audio recording where those notes were made. Also, users can click on a note and hear the audio that was recorded when they entered those notes.
None of the programs we've used or seen demonstrated was in its final form, but each showed how the Tablet PC can open documents and images of all kinds to intensive markup and group collaboration. In particular, they showed how much easier and faster it is to handwrite a line, circle, or arrow than to use a keyboard to try to convey the same idea in words. The power of the squiggle -- it's finally available on computers!