Sunday, June 05, 2005

Reconsidering ritePen

When I bought my TabletPC in May 2004, Service Pack 2 for Windows XP was still in beta, so my TabletPC shipped with Service Pack 1. It wasn’t long before I decided to give a late beta of SP2 a try, lured by the reports of improved Handwriting Recognition (HWR). While the improvements in recognition were, indeed, something to write home about, it didn’t take me very long to remove the beta; I missed Write Anywhere that badly. It isn’t so bad when the Tablet Input Panel (TIP) floats, but when you’re forced to use the TIP docked at the top or the bottom, well, to put it bluntly, it stinks, and I was having none of that. Some time after SP2 went live, I simply had to concede defeat, because SP2 isn’t only about input; it’s also about closing the great big gaping security holes in the OS. I didn’t go quietly into the night, though; I ranted on forum, newsgroup and the Microsoft Expert Zone, just to make sure they knew how I felt about my loss.

A few months ago, I got fed up with the oft-toed Microsoft line that they (be they MVPs or other experts) no longer miss Write Anywhere, and that we won’t, either. When people suggested that EverNote’s ritePen could give me back what the Microsoft programmers took away, I began looking into it. At the time, I didn’t like what I saw. Though others didn’t have this problem, I found I had to write quite slowly in order to enter text; otherwise, rP would get only part of my entries. Also, my strokes would often end up bleeding onto my OrangeGuava Desktop, making a mess of my notes there.

My TabletPC was away for service when I got the news that ritePen had been updated. Two days after my replacement V1250 arrived, I installed version 2.5, and I’m happy to say that I think ritePen is finally going to give me the functionality I lost with Service Pack 2! So far, I’m not seeing the issue where I was unable to write at a speed I found suitable--RitePen now keeps up with me. Also, I no longer have a problem with ritePen entry bleeding onto my OrangeGuava Desktop (not sure if that was fixed by Tom Clarkson, the OrangeGuava developer, or by EverNote).

It’s not perfect, though. As some tablet users have witnessed with the Tablet Input Panel, sometimes ritePen simply cuts me off and inserts the text before I was done writing, even in mid-word. If I slip up and use the TIP out of habit, it takes a little coaxing to get RP back in the game. At first, I was a bit annoyed when I realized that ritePen doesn’t “step off “when I’m writing on my OrangeGuava Desktop or using the Snipping Tool 2.0 (the annotation part) from the Microsoft Experience Pack for Windows XP Tablet Edition 2005. I didn’t want to be forced to turn the pen off at these times, and then have to turn it back on when ready to “type.” Eventually I realized that this probably took no more effort than it took to activate/deactivate the Write Anywhere feature of pre-Service Pack 2 XP Tablet Edition.

I do understand that the intermittent inability of ritePen to see when it’s not wanted may be a problem with the other applications, rather than with ritePen, itself, but as ritePen can keep its nose out of things when I’m interacting with OrangeGuava Inkable Keys and when using scrollbars and application buttons, I can’t help but wonder if EverNote can’t resolve this issue. As a side note, ritePen instantaneously knows its not needed when using a scrollbar in, say, Microsoft Word, but has to be given a moment when attempting to scroll a Mozilla Firefox (my favorite web browser) window.

ritePen wasn’t a worthy investment for this tableteer a few months ago, but that has changed. There’s room for this app to grow, but it is now on my list of must-haves.

TabletPC MVP James Kendrick has a superb blog article about rP
Cameron Reilly’s remarks about ritePen
TabletPC MVP Rob Bushway wasn’t impressed
palmsolo at prefers ritePen to the stock HWR from Microsoft


cameronreilly said...

good write up! I stopped using the previous version as well but have recently installed the new version and find it more reliable. Not perfect, as you say, but better. Not sure if I'll buy it this time though. We'll see. Love the blog!

The Miniature Mage said...

Glad to see others see the improvements (I like to know it's not all in my mind). I really appreciate the compliment, too!

Justin said...

Any good alternatives to ritepen? Just wondering, thought I might play the field before I bought it.

The Miniature Mage said...

Pen Office is pretty neat. My TPC didn't like it (it ran Sluggishly on my obaby), but I tried it out on the Fujitsu P1500 and I found much to like about it, including PenCommander. Still, ritePen is right for me, and that's not just because of the price.