Tuesday, January 04, 2005

My TabletPC Software Experience @ Work

TabletPCs run a superset of the Windows XP Professional Operating System that can be obtained solely by purchasing a TabletPC (or by having an MSDN subscription, but that is for developmental purposes, only); those TabletPCs with XP Service Pack 2 installed (as is the case with mine) are running TabletPC Edition 2005. Because the new TPCE doesn't have the floating Tablet Input Panel (TIP) available for all applications, and because the Microsoft programmers decided to do away with Write Anywhere, I delayed adopting SP2 for a while, after playing around with a pre-release. In the end, I was drawn back to it, because the Handwriting Recognition (HWR) is just so much better! To reiterate what I said before, I just don't bother typing on my keyboard anymore! I still miss Write Anywhere, though, because I have to use the evil docked TIP all too often, and that really isn't a comfortable way to work.

I run Microsoft Office 2003; I just don't see myself doing without the ink capabilities (although they could be improved, but thank goodness for Einstein Technologies' Tablet Enhancements for Outlook!); also, because of my employer's Exchange server, and because I have a Dell Axim X5 Advanced PocketPC and a Fujitsu PenCentra 130 HandheldPC with my PIM data synchronized with my desktops, I've got to be running Outlook. Like at least one other person who posted to the Microsoft TabletPC newsgroup, I can not get annotation to work in Outlook, no matter what the MVPs say, and that is aggravating, but it's not a huge priority for me. The last time I had to annotate in email (shown here), I pasted the whole mess into Word, did the annotations, then copied it back into the message. It took a couple of tries to get stuff aligned reasonably right, but it worked out (my user was able to use my annotated screenshots to learn how perform the desired task and gave me kudos).

The software we use to track our help desk calls is Remedy. It works great on my TabletPC (even the floating TIP). Sometimes, when I'm on-call and running around the hospital, I get a kick out of strolling down the halls, Tablet in hand, wirelessly updating my work logs. Only a TabletPC can bring back to my job the maniacal delight that the novelty of the position (now a thing of the past) used to bring me. I wish I had access to wireless in the areas I work during normal hours, but that's one of the few detractions to being my group's road warrior; the clinics and off-site offices do without. Still, in several of the locations I support, I can make use of a spare ethernet port, and I always carry one of those skinny CAT5 cables that Dell used to kindly ship with their laptops.

Taking Note of Note-taking:
Windows Journal played a part in my inability to put off my purchase any longer. A certain manufacturer, which shall remain nameless (it worked, you pushers!), had left a TabletPC with my manager for evaluation, and I fell in love with handwritten note-taking the moment I saw it. Wanting all my notes and documents all in one place, I bought Agilix GoBinder; it's such a joy to use for taking notes and storing documents that I found myself spending hours after work importing technical documentation for future use: relevant Microsoft Knowledge Base articles, lengthy clinical application installation instructions, even forms, such as the inventory changes we must submit when setting up a new PC or reloading an old one. It doesn't hurt that Agilix techs provide a tireless and helpful presence in their support forum at my favorite TabletPC-oriented site, TabletPCBuzz.