Pen-enabled Microsoft Surface 2 – A Shattered Dream

Long long ago I first imagined a device that would turn my handwriting into print.  My scrawling script, my abbreviations, my word choices would instantly be converted to text.  Now, thirty years later, I have come so, so close.

In 2010 I purchased a Fujitsu Lifebook, a tablet with convertible keyboard.  In no time I was using it with Microsoft OneNote to present lectures.  I never touched the keyboard.  My dream seemed tantalizingly close.  I had a system where with pen in hand and only a pen, I could write in cursive and magically see  words converted to text.  It was a little slow and my handwriting was still undecipherable at times, but I was getting around pretty well.  The Lifebook had a keyboard/handwriting app that appeared anytime entering text was required.  It appeared near the entry point and could be moved anywhere on the screen.  If a password was required, it changed to a keyboard and ceased highlighting the keys as they were pressed.  It began to anticipate my word choices.  If I entered a “q”, it would suggest “Quiz” or “Quizzes.”  By present standards the tablet was heavy, the screen rough, the resolution low and the software slow, yet achingly close to my dream tablet.

A few months ago I had a chance to try a Microsoft Surface 2 Pro tablet.  It was relatively light, had a great feeling pen and screen and it was fast.  Now I would have a device where with pen in hand and only a pen and my fingers to swipe, I could lecture and create text when I wrote.  And what did I get?  An absolute clunky on-screen keyboard/handwriting app.  So big it hides where you are typing and has to scroll the screen, no suggested words, no expansion of handwriting space (Check that. The space grows but only after you are crowded into a corner), a ridiculous white on black handwriting space, and no password privacy.  It was like a kick in the gut.

And to boot the Metro version, which I like, had an impossible to use OneNote application.  The substitution of rings for toolbars is fine but the rings are not configurable and do not change gracefully.  I was forced to use the classic version of windows.

I am like a small being over whom looms a dark cloud flashing with thunder and lightning.  I am not shaking my fist or holding up a lantern, but looking up with arms outstretched yelling, “Why? Why?”  Microsoft where is your vision?  Did you not glimpse the city on the hill – a tablet that need only a pen? How could you release such a nonintuitive, unusable model?


About jrh794

I am a sixty-five year old math instructor at Southern Oregon University. I taught at the College of the Siskiyous in Weed California for twenty-six years. Prior to that I worked as a computer programmer, carpenter and in various other jobs. I graduated from Rice University in 1967 and have a MS in Operations Research from Stanford. In the past I have hand-built a stone house and taken long solo bicycle tours. Now I ride my mountain bike and play golf for recreation.
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