Tablet PC Settings

Before you start inking with Vista, you'll probably want to configure a few settings, and Vista offers quite a few more than XP. Your starting point is the Control Panel's Mobile PC windowspecifically, the renamed Tablet PC Settings icon (formerly Tablet and Pen Settings). In the Tablet PC Settings dialog box that appears, the General tab is basically the same as the old Settings tab, and the Display tab is identical to its predecessor.

However, there is a new Handwriting Recognition tab that has two sections:

  • Personalization - You can provide Vista with samples of your handwriting. This increases the accuracy of the handwriting recognizer (the feature that converts handwritten text into typed text), but only when the Use the Personalized Recognizer check box is activated.
  • Automatic Learning - This feature collects information about your writing, including the words you write and the style in which you write them. Note that this applies not only to your handwritingthe ink you write in the Input Panel, the recognized text, and the corrected textbut also to your typing, including email messages and web addresses typed into Internet Explorer. To use this feature, activate the Use Automatic Learning option.

Tablet PC Input Panel

As with XP Tablet PC Edition, Windows Vista comes with a tool called the Tablet PC Input Panel that you use to enter text and other symbols with the digital pen instead of the keyboard. You have two ways to display the Input Panel:

  • In Vista, an icon for the Input Panel appears in a small tab docked on the left edge of the screen. Hover the mouse pointer over the tab to display it, and then click the icon or any part of the tab.
  • Move the pen over any area in which you can enter text (such as a text box). In most cases, the Input Panel icon appears near the text entry area. Click the icon when it appears.

The layout of the Input Panel is slightly different than in the XP version, with the icons for the writing pad, character pad, and onscreen Keyboard, and the Options button along the top. The minikeyboard that appears with the writing pad and character pad is slightly different as well, with the notable difference being the addition of the Web key full time. (In XP Tablet PC Edition, it appeared only when you were entering a web address.)

This makes sense because users often need to write URLs in email messages and other correspondence. The Vista Input Panel also comes with quite a few more options than its predecessor. Click Tools and then click Options in the menu that appears. Here's a list of some of the more significant new settings:

  • AutoComplete (Settings tab) - When this check box is activated, the Input Panel will automatically complete your handwriting if it recognizes the first few characters. For example, if you're writing an email address that you've entered (via handwriting or typing) in the past, Input Panel recognizes it after a character or two and displays a banner with the completed entry. You need only click the completed entry to insert it. This also works with web addresses and filenames.
  • Show the Input Panel Tab (Opening tab) - Use this check box to toggle the Input Panel tab on and off. (For example, if you display the Tablet PC Input Panel toolbar in the taskbar, you might prefer to turn off the Input Panel tab.)
  • You Can Choose Where the Input Panel Tab Appears (Opening tab) - Choose either On the Left Edge of the Screen (the default) or On the Right Edge of the Screen.
  • New Writing Line (Writing Pad tab) - Use this slider to specify how close to the end of the writing line you want to write to before starting a new line automatically.
  • Gestures (Gestures tab) - In XP Tablet PC Edition, you could delete handwritten text by "scratching it out" using a Z-shape gesture. Many people found this hard to master and a bit unnatural, so Vista offers several new scratch-out gestures, which you turn on by activating the All Scratch-Out and Strikethrough Gestures option.
  • Password Security (Advanced tab) - This slider controls the security features that Vista uses when you use the pen to enter a password into a password text box. At the High setting, Vista automatically switches to the onscreen keyboard (and doesn't allow you to switch to the writing pad or character pad) and doesn't show the pen pointer or highlight the keys that you tap while entering the password.

The Input Panel onscreen keyboard has keys that you can tap with your pen to navigate a document and enter program shortcut keys. However, if you just want to scroll through a document or navigate web pages, having the keyboard onscreen is a hassle because it takes up so much room.

Using Pen Flicks

An alternative is to tap-and-drag the vertical or horizontal scroll box, or tap the program's built-in navigation features (such as the Back and Forward buttons in Internet Explorer). Vista gives you a third choice for navigating a document: pen flicks. These are gestures that you can use in any application to scroll up and down in a document, or to navigate backward or forward in Internet Explorer or Windows Explorer:

  • Scroll up (about one screenful) Move the pen up in a straight line.
  • Scroll down (about one screenful) Move the pen down in a straight line.
  • Navigate back Move the pen to the left in a straight line.
  • Navigate forward Move the pen right in a straight line.

You can also set up pen flicks for other program features:

  • Copy - Move the pen up and to the left in a straight line.
  • Paste - Move the pen up and to the right in a straight line.
  • Delete - Move the pen down and to the right in a straight line.
  • Undo - Move the pen down and to the left in a straight line.

To activate flicks, open the Control Panel Pen and Input Devices icon, and then display the Flicks tab. Activate the Use Flicks to Perform Common Actions Quickly and Easily check box, and then select the flicks you want to use:

  • Navigational Flicks Activate this option to use the Scroll Up, Scroll Down, Back, and Forward flicks.
  • Navigational Flicks and Editing Flicks Activate this option to also use the Copy, Paste, Delete, and Undo flicks in any program.

If you activate the Navigational Flicks and Editing Flicks option, the Customize button becomes enabled. Click this button to display the Customize Flicks dialog box. You use this dialog box to apply one of Vista's built-in actions (such as Cut, Open, Print, or Redo) to a flick. Alternatively, click (add) to create a custom action by specifying a key or key combination to apply to the flick.