Posts tagged “stylus”.

iPad handwriting recognition apps found lacking

February 23rd, 2012

Brian Mikol at Atomic Firefly:

While there’s clearly a range of active third-party development going on to bring handwriting recognition to the iPad, unfortunately in my tests they’re far from the quality and accuracy offered by the last version of the Newton OS.

Mikol reviews several stylus options and a few iPad apps, looking for a potential replacement for his Newton in the iPad. His advice: try the free apps first, then spend money.

[via Newtontalk]

Quote of the week: magic, indeed

July 27th, 2010

“What? No ‘Magic Stylus’ for my Newton? Lame.”

- Grant Hutchinson, from Twitter, on the new Magic Trackpad. I’m excited about this, just because the trackpad on MacBook Pros are outstanding. The Magic Trackpad takes the Magic Mouse idea and flattens it, and that leaves all kinds of openings for new input methods on the Mac. We can’t touch our iMac screens yet, but this comes darn close.

Quote of the week: don’t miss it

July 14th, 2010

“While it still surely has its niche uses, I personally don’t miss handwriting recognition. Not even a little. And I can’t help wondering if voice recognition will go the same way.”

- Jeff Atwood at Coding Horror, on how tough voice recognition (and handwriting recognition) is, despite today’s super-powered PCs.

Patent pending

November 16th, 2009

Tablet, or Newton?

Is this the new, rumored Apple tablet? Or an old patent filing from the MessagePad days of yore?

The Next Web’s Boris says it’s an old Newton patent resurfacing, and that the rumored Apple tablet will not have stylus-based input. Little clues, like how the patent isn’t about a tablet but the stylus recognition system itself, and how weirdly familiar that bottom row of buttons looks, seem to say Boris is right.

These new patent pictures were released into an online hornets nest, with everyone waiting for news on this long-rumored iSlate thingy. Any clues, no matter how old or mundane, turn into a tea-leaves-reading session. Thing is, Apple applies for wacky patents all the time.

We’ve seen other patent pictures floating around the Web for years now. None of us know if this new, still-unseen Super Newton is anything like what we’ve seen before.

What do you think? Is this a new tablet, or an old MessagePad?

[Via Tai Shimizu and NewtonTalk.]

iPhone stylus in the wild

September 11th, 2009

iPhone stylus

Saw this little beauty in a local auto parts store (!), right next to iPhone skins and car chargers.

I like how it says “makes it EASY to use your iPhone.” Like using a finger is hard? Maybe if you have big fingers.

The most useful part of the package might be the included gel skin, but I can’t say that in all fairness. I haven’t tried an iPhone stylus.

Shucks, I even press some of the Newton’s on-screen buttons with my finger, just to get things moving along quickly.

WritePad offers Newton-like features for the iPhone

March 30th, 2009

writepad

There are a few iPhone apps available that attempt to mimick Newton features, such as an updated PocketMoney and a few sketching applications.

The one that recently got my attention was WritePad by Phatware. WritePad is a free download, and offers the one Newton feature that the iPhone has been lacking so far: handwriting recognition (HWR). WritePad also offers cut and paste, a feature iPhone and iPod Touch users won’t experience until the 3.0 release this summer.

But how does it work?

Before we get into that, it’s worth noting that WritePad is a trial application. Phatware wants to test HWR on the touchscreen and is looking for feedback from WritePad users. That feedback will help develop the PhatNotes app. Hence the free download. Phatware also uses WritePad’s HWR engine to power other iPhone apps, like WritePad Events and WritePad Notes.

It’s basically a word processing program that lets you make and edit text files on your iPhone. The app includes a lengthy tutorial on how to use WritePad’s myriad features, like Auto Correct and user-defined dictionaries. There’s a lot to read and digest.

To start with, the logistics of “handwriting” on Apple’s new touchscreens are difficult. With only a few square inches to work with, and a thicker-than-a-stylus finger, your results will definitely vary. Accuracy is limited by the size of your scribbling, the size of your fingertip, and your handwriting style. And unlike the Newton, the iPhone’s relatively small screen size limits the length of your scribbles. WritePad employs a unique solution to the small screen size: you can overlap your letters in individual words. But is that even practical?

iTouch Tips give a great demonstration of the many features, like gestures and HWR options, and I’d recommend reading their post before digging in with WritePad’s options.

Without messing with the options or the tutorials, I went ahead and gave WritePad a test drive. Here are a few examples.

writepad_newton

Given short, one-word scribbles, WritePad does a fair-enough job. I made a conscious effort to write neatly and cleanly on my iPhone, and WritePad’s HWR did the job just fine.

writepad_writesmall

Given groups of complicated words, however, WritePad starts to fall apart. It reminds me of Newton 1.x’s brand of HWR: effective at times, but not nearly as good as 2.x.

writepad_eggfreckles

I made several attempts at writing “Egg Freckles” in WritePad, and none of the translations came up accurate. In fact, the text got more garbled the more I tried.

writepad_egghoriz

WritePad does offer a “learn your handwriting” option, where possible words pop up to match your own scribbles. And supposedly, after a while, WritePad will learn your handwriting style. So part of it is patience, and part of it is giving the system time to adapt.

The only problem is, your words-per-minute speed will be miserable using WritePad’s HWR. With the keyboard, it logically gets better. Maybe an iPhone stylus would improve things, but I imagine few iPhone users will bother with a stylus.

It’s too bad that WritePad’s HWR is limited to in-app use. I imagine developers could find some use for system-wide HWR using WritePad’s method, but HWR is probably one of those “background” features that Apple doesn’t allow.

The other feature WritePad offers is copy/cut/paste, and this is done fairly well.

writepad_paste

Here I write “Paste” using WritePad’s HWR (again, it does well at translating simple words).

writepad_pastehighlight

WritePad translates the word (above). To copy the text, tap twice and drag across the word to highlight it.

writepad_pastex

WritePad offers cut, copy, and paste buttons at the bottom of the screen. To cut my “Paste” word, I just tap on the little scissors icon. To paste, simple tap on the clipboard icon, and WritePad pastes the word as many times as you tap. Clean and easy.

With the buttons, WritePad’s style of copy and paste differs both from the Newton and the upcoming iPhone 3.0 way of doing things. I can’t say if it’s better or worse because you can only copy and paste within the app. When you’re in WritePad, the copy and paste buttons are an automatic part of the UI. They work as advertised.

I had hoped that WritePad could act as a Newton-like Notepad application for the iPhone. Since you can open and save text files within WritePad, you can accumulate a hefty amount of notes. The Newton Notepad offered easy ways to organize your notes, however, which is something WritePad lacks. With WritePad, you have a list of text files with no apparent folder or file system to organize your notes.

If you want an easy way to edit and write text files on your iPhone, WritePad is a fine enough word processor – assuming you use the keyboard. But any hope for using HWR in an iPhone app effectively, especially one that replicates the Newton, is dashed when you start to write longer-form words or sentences on the smaller iPhone screen. WritePad’s HWR doesn’t seem practical enough for extended use.

A WritePad app on a larger-form iPod Touch or tablet, however? The possibilities of Newton-like performance start to grow. And to be fair, WritePad is a simple testing application that provides Phatware with enough user testing to implement WritePad’s HWR engine into a new, improved suite of apps.

So we’ll see how it works out. In the meantime, WritePad offers a bit of Newton-like functionality with the HWR, and a preview of cut/copy/paste that we’ll see later this summer. And hey – it’s free, which helps.

Touch-screen Mac, circa 1993

December 9th, 2008

Found a cool blog, System Folder, that highlights a technology called Mac ‘n’ Touch – a precursor to the finger-controlled iPhone. Author Rick Mori dug through an 1993 copy of MacUser and found this Mac ‘n’ Touch technology, developed by MicroTouch, was an add-on to monitors that allowed users to interact with software without a keyboard or mouse.

Unlike the Newton, Mac ‘n’ Touch used a “capacitive sensor” that worked only with touch, not a stylus, much like today’s iPhone.

As you can imagine, this kind of innovation was aimed at the education market. Kids love to touch, right?

Read the rest of Rick’s post for more details. Touch-screen Mac rumors have been around for a while now, especially since the iPhone came out. It’s nice to see that a touch-controlled Mac isn’t such a new idea after all.

iPhone stylus reviews by Macenstein

September 4th, 2008

Macenstein does a great, in-depth review of two iPhone styluses after figuring that drawing with a finger is too hard to do.

One is the Pogo stylus, which we’ve covered here before. The other is a Japanese Touch Pen Stylus. Dr. Macenstein puts the two to the test by drawing – of all things – Sponge Bob Square Pants.

Check it out. In the meantime, any thoughts on an iPhone stylus? Does it ruin the whole thing, or is it a good way to get your modern-day Newton fix?

pNewton: the Hipster PDA MessagePad

July 7th, 2008

pNewton - lighter than the original

When Merlin Mann, GTD guru and author of the 43 Folders blog, invented the Hipster PDA, he probably knew the adaptability of a plain index card idea holder would be infinite.

Us Newton MessagePad users, however, might scoff at the idea. Index cards? Color coding? Binder clips? It all seems so…Office Max.

But maybe Mann is on to something. Why can’t we Newton fans adapt the idea of the Hipster PDA into something more, I don’t know, Apple?

pNewton - customizable

That’s why I’m introducing the pNewton, a Hipster-style MessagePad that takes the best ideas of the Hipster PDA and makes them even better.

More… »

NewtVid: Wireless Newton demo

June 3rd, 2008

I like how the creator uses the Newton to speak with the audience. Also a cool demo of the wifi capabilities of the MessagePad 2000 – complete with Apple sticker.

I’ll tackle the wifi project when I nab a 2100 sometime this summer, but in the meantime you can learn how to send a fax with your Newton.