Personalizing Handwriting Recognition

When you use a Tablet PC's digital pen as an input device, there will often be times when you don't want to convert the writing into typed text. A quick sticky note or journal item might be all you need for a given situation. However, in plenty of situations you need your handwriting converted into typed text.

Certainly, when you're using the Input Panel, you always want the handwriting converted to text. However, the convenience and usefulness of handwritten text is directly related to how well the handwriting recognizer does its job. If it misinterprets too many characters, you'll spend too much time either correcting the errors or scratching out chunks of text and starting again.

Rather than just throwing up their hands and saying "That's life with a Tablet PC," Microsoft's developers are doing something to ensure that you get the most out of the handwriting recognizer. Windows Vista comes with a new tool called Handwriting Personalization (select Start, All Programs, Tablet PC, Personalize Handwriting Recognition).

This feature gives you two methods that improve the Tablet PC's capability to recognize your handwriting:

  • Teach the handwriting recognizer to handle specific recognition errors. This is the method to use if you find that the Tablet PC does a pretty good job of recognizing your handwriting but often incorrectly recognizes certain characters or words. By providing handwritten samples of those characters or words and specifying the correct conversion for them, you teach the handwriting recognizer to avoid those errors in the future.
  • Teach the handwriting recognizer to handle your handwriting style. This is the method to use if you find that the Tablet PC does a poor job of recognizing your handwriting in general. In this case, you provide a more comprehensive set of handwritten samples to give the handwriting recognizer an overall picture of your writing style.

If you select Target Specific Recognition Errors, you next get a choice of two wizards:

  • Character or Word You Specify - Run this wizard if a character or word is consistently being recognized incorrectly. For a character, you type the character and then provide several samples of the character in handwritten form (for the lowercase letter u, in this case). The wizard then asks you to provide handwritten samples for a few characters that are similarly shaped. Finally, the wizard asks for handwritten samples of words that contain the character. For a word, the wizard asks you to type the word; then it asks you to hand-write two samples of the word.
  • Characters with Similar Shapes - Run this wizard if a particular group of similarly shaped characters is causing you trouble. The wizard gives you a list of the six sets of characters that most commonly cause recognition problems. After you choose a set, the wizard goes through each character and asks you to hand-write several samples of the character and to hand-write the character in context.

If you select Teach the Recognizer Your Handwriting Style, you next get a choice of two wizards:

  • Sentences - This wizard displays a series of sentences, and you provide a handwritten sample for each. Note that there are 50 (!) sentences in all, so wait until you have a lot of spare time before using this wizard. (The wizard does come with a Save for Later button that you can click at any time to stop the wizard and still preserve your work.)
  • Numbers, Symbols, and Letters - This wizard consists of eight screens that take you through the numbers 0 to 9; common symbols such as !, ?, @, $, &, +, #, <, and >; and all the uppercase and lowercase letters. You provide a handwritten sample for each number, symbol, and letter.

When you're done, click Update and Exit to apply your handwriting samples to the recognizer. Note that this takes a few minutes, depending on the number of samples you provided.