Tablet PC wishlist
Because I use my Tablet PC constantly more and love it, but keep running into little annoyances or limitations, I tried to compile a list of the missing pieces.
I am not sure what "persona" I fit into, but I use my Tablet mostly for personal use, for browsing, document reading, note taking, messenging and playing a little music.
As discussed in this previous blog entry, having the digitizer to extend beyond the limits of the screen would benefit to the use of scrollbars and window handles. It would also improve gaming experience in games like WarCraft or SimCity, where "pushing" the cursor against the edge of the screen scrolls around the view of the world.
One other potential improvement would be to allow right clicking with just a press of the stylus button (instead of the current "press button and tap stylus"). This is how most graphic tablets work and it is rather comfortable.
Because there is no mousewheel or keyboard (I use the TC1000 in slate mode only), only the scrollbar and the jog dial are available to handle the scrolling. As discussed previously, the scrollbar isn't a great solution. On the other hand, the jog dial is great, but it is still too limited: it can only scroll at a constant pace.
The jog dial could be to made pressure sensitive, to allow various speeds.
The default cursor in IE should be a hand (like in Acrobat Reader) rather than a caret, as text selection is not the primary task while browsing. The cursor could also be a "click to scroll down a page" cursor, when hovering in certain areas of the browser (maybe near the bottom of the rendering region).
The next problem is URL input. The browser needs to have some kind of contextual or in-place TIP, to allow address input. This TIP would be specific, by offering some shortcuts like "www.<>.com" and would combine smartly with the navigation history to offer completion suggestions. The handwriting recognizer also needs to be smarter about not adding spaces between words when writing a url.
I have seen some IE plugins that attempted to resolve this but none so far was completely satisfying.
PDFs and annotations
There should be a real annotation solution, especially for PDFs and web page. They should be persistent and support users with multiple machines (switching from their Tablet PC to their desktop).
Also, many PDFs are published in a two column layout. These definitely require too much scrolling down and back up to read. This is already the case on desktop PCs, but is worse on a portrait-mode Tablet PC. Solutions for this would be either a PDF column splitting tool (which I didn't manage to find or write) or a smarter layout format, somewhere between html (flexible) and PDF (rich and precise layout).
One problem that any annotation solution has to face is: how to display the content while still making room for annotations? I think a reasonable approach would be to allow the user to insert blank lines in the middle of a document, or enlarge the inter-page space.
A really interoperable ink exchange format would bring many opportunities, like ink messenging on PDAs and smartphones, ink capture on whiteboards, Linux Tablets, native storage of ink in Oracle (or other) DBs, ink-enabled Java applets,...
Areas of investigation
Here are a couple things that would be nice experimenting with:
- Smart tags for ink.
- ink coding: VS.net Tablet PC edition ;-)
- a whiteboard in MediaPlayer for ink replay in sync with audio/video.
The coming update of the Tablet PC software (codename Lonestar) adds contextual TIP and contextual recognition (urls, phone numbers,...). Still no sign of ink interop though.
Loren also longs for pen coding/debugging.