Here's what I don't understand:
Why should ANY application be "ink-enabled"?
The way Microsoft have approached the Tablet PC is all wrong in this regard: ink-enabling should be an OS-level abstraction. Applications should just take advantage of what the host operating system offers, using its input managers and what-have-you. It seems crazy to me that the OS vendor is relying on application developers to push *their* technology in this way.
I'm sure MS have their reasons for tackling the Table PC like this, but I must be missing something big time...
Yes, Ben, you've missed something.
So did IBM and the Lotus Notes team.
There's a big difference between an application that is "pen-enabled" by the OS and "ink-enabled" by the developer.
Pen-enabled, to me, simply means that I can use a pen (stylus) in place of my mouse. For that functionality all you need is a Tablet PC. No changes to any applications are required.
To be ink-enabled is to support digital ink in the key aspects of the program - not just the point and click navigation you could get with a mouse. I'm talking about gestures for commands and real ink in fields (e.g. in Rich text fields in Lotus Notes.)
Ben, in response to your question, the Tablet PC OS (and soon, Vista) ARE Ink-Enabled at the OS level. Any application, ink-enabled or not, running on these OS will automatically gain basic pen functionality.
Input fields, even in Lotus Notes, will automatically present a TIP (Tablet Input Panel) where you can ink text to be entered into the field. So, I CAN control any application, even Lotus Notes with the stylus. The problem is that it's not easy. Where "Ink Enabling" comes into play is when/IF the software vendor chooses to make the application more pen-friendly. This includes allowing for single-click functions (without CTRL or ALT) and gestures for routine activities. This must be done at the application level.
The OS provides the tools and ink abstraction so that any application can work with a pen, clunky as it may be. Lotus Notes, for example, is not pen friendly, although it would not take much to make it so.
Another example of how it is up to the application developer to include ink support (or not) would be in the way that ink is displayed. If Notes, for all its power and glory (I think) were Ink enabled, it would support ink in a rich-text field. This means that I could send an email and scribble out my message, allowing Notes to pass my pen scratching to the underling Tablet OS to convert into text. Imagine being able to take notes in Lotus Notes with a stylus and then having those notes stored as ink but with digital text representation behind them so that you could search for anything in a Notes database or across Notes databases, regardless of whether the object you are searching for exists in ink or text form.
Ben, true Ink-enabled tablet apps already do all of this.
Here are just three excellent examples of true ink-enabled applications:
- Microsoft OneNote (Works with a keybaord, but shines with a pen)
- MindJet MindManager - Works with a keyboard, but really shines with a pen. And, it now supports Notes doclinks!
- Windows Journal (Free with Windows XP and automatically ink-enabled in the Tablet OS)
Imagine, Windows Journal functionality in Lotus Notes.
That would be powerful!
I think IBM should watch out for the other "Notes"
I don't think it is a coincidence that Microsoft called their powerful note application OneNote. It's an amazing piece of work. There are only two reasons I do not use OneNote for my daily work. First, I cannot replicate (You can sort of do it now, with Groove and Microsoft will add their own version of replication in the OneNote 2007 version) and second, I cannot copy individual OneNote pages into a Lotus Notes database. Even if Ray adds Notes-Like functionality to OneNote 2007 I won't rush to switch. Lotus Notes does too many other things well. Still, I'm watching OneNote very carefully as I believe it shows great promise for the future of information management.
Until then, I use ActiveWords, one of my favorite desktop productivity applications. The ActiveWords InkPad allows simple gestures to be converted into commands that a standard Windows application can understand. This works well for many applications that have a good set of key-combinations. I could, for example, create a gesture that would do a CTRL+M for a new message. Unfortunately, there's no control code for a new task (This is a BIG pet peeve for GTD and Notes users) or other frequently needed functions. Again, this is a Notes problem, not a Windows problem.
When I want to use Lotus Notes, I frequently switch to convertible laptop mode, rather than Tablet Mode.
I hope that Lotus Notes Design team warms up to the idea that the pen can be mightier than the keyboard. Not in all cases, but in enough cases to offer a significant productivity boost for Notes users.
This is one area where I will agree with the Notes detractors; when it comes to support for the Tablet PC, Lotus Notes stinks. (That's for the people who think I only blog positive things about my favorite program. I love Notes and I've used it since v2.0 Still, there are things that are clunky. Sad, but true.)
Wow. this topic touched a nerve, I guess. That's the second time this week. I had better stop. :-)
Anyway, Ben, THANK YOU for allowing me to use your comment as the topic of this blog post. I hope that I've answered your question and given the Notes community something to think about.
I think Lotus Notes and an ink-enabled tablet would be a powerful productivity tool! I would love to be able to ink-enable my eProductivity Template to allow my clients to manage their weekly review with teh stroke of a pen!
Are YOU a user of Lotus Notes on the Tablet PC? How does it work for you? Do you think IBM should ink-enable Lotus Notes?