This week, I want to continue the discussion of the Tablet PC I started in "Windows XP Tablet PC Edition" (see the URL below). Let's look at several advanced Windows XP Tablet PC features: Microsoft Office XP Pack for Tablet PC (Tablet Pack), speech-recognition functionality, gestures, and hardware considerations.
Tablet Pack is a Microsoft download that lets you take advantage of Tablet PC features in Office XP. For example, you can use the Tablet PC's digital ink feature in Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook. Using digital ink in Outlook is particularly enticing. You can give your email a personal touch by using digital ink to sign your messages, and the recipient doesn't need to have a Tablet PC to see the result. Any email client that can read HTML email with images can see such notes. I've used this functionality in a Sales Force Automation application for the Tablet PC: Sales personnel can use digital ink over email to thank customers. Tablet Pack is a free download. For more information and to download the software, go to the following URL.
Tablet Pack also offers powerful speech-recognition functionality. Microsoft has introduced significant speech-recognition enhancements in the Tablet PC, compared with what Windows XP Professional Edition offers. Tablet PC's speech-recognition features include the ability to use voice commands to control actions such as opening menus and creating new documents. You can also use voice dictation to enter free-flowing text sentences into applications such as Word. When you consider that most Tablet PC users will be mobile, you can understand the inherent benefits of speech recognition. For example, sales personnel or delivery drivers can use speech commands to enter notes and navigate maps while driving.
Gestures, which are new to Windows XP Tablet PC Edition and unavailable on older Tablet PC platforms, give you advanced Tablet PC pen functionality. Common gestures include erasing text and opening the Tablet PC Input Panel. For example, if you want to use the Input Panel with any application, you simply move the pen back and forth quickly.
Finally, some Tablet PC hardware enhancements include longer battery life (most vendors offer as much as 5 hours), hot docking, and fast resume times from standby. Hot docking is important because many Tablet PC devices support keyboard docks and desktop cradles; hot docking lets you grab the Tablet PC and go. Fast resume times let you quickly take the device out of standby mode and begin working. A typical resume time is 5 seconds. Some vendors, such as Hewlett-Packard (HP), use special CPUs—for example, the Transmeta chip—that require less power and produce less heat.
In my next Mobile & Wireless Perspectives column, I'll continue looking at the Tablet PC, concentrating on development techniques and Tablet PC software development kit (SDK) features.