Microsoft Surface

Microsoft Surface Pro 2 101: Utilize handwriting recognition

Find out how to make the most out of handwriting recognition on the Surface Pro 2 tablet.

Surface

The Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 are geared toward business and productivity. They're both capable of running Microsoft Office -- and the Pro, which runs Windows 8.1 Pro, can be joined to a domain and handle the application of Group Policy, placing it even more into the business realm. The device has keyboard (and mouse) accessories to make it work more like a laptop, but it also includes touch features like handwriting recognition. In this post, we'll take a look at the Surface handwriting recognition and how it might be useful for business professionals.

Note: The Surface RT can also be joined to a Windows Server 2012 R2 domain using workgroup join.  When a device is joined to a domain this way, file access features available when in an AD domain will work, but Group Policy Objects are not enforced on these devices.

Sure, applications and PCs with touch screens or pen tablets have supported handwriting for some time, but with the Surface 2, the recognition is better than I've seen on earlier devices. When using a Surface without the keyboard, handwriting on the screen can be much faster than tapping the on-screen keyboard to type. I don't have very good handwriting -- it's large and messy -- but in most cases (barring a bit of auto-correct), the word suggestion to insert is the word I was shooting for.

Uses for handwriting

Taking notes in a meeting is one of the most common uses I've had for handwriting. While this primarily takes place in OneNote, where the writing and use is free form, the conversion to typed text is possible. In other applications, you select the on-screen keyboard and choose the pen input (Figure A).

Figure A

Figure A

Choose the pen input.
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You can write on the screen with your fingers (ala Steve Jobs) or with a stylus, and at a pause in your handwriting, the Surface will do its best to change what you entered into typed text. Sometimes it comes close and other times it works like auto-correct (not right at all), but I've found that it gets text correct most of the time (Figure B).

Figure B

Figure B

Hand-written data entry.

Signing documents

The convenience offered by a tablet for many mobile professionals can be even greater for those needing to capture signatures. Services like DocuSign allow digital document signature through their web service or third-party applications. In addition, by using the stylus, you can sign and insert text on PDF forms, which can speed up the efficiency of paperwork. 

Other features

Many applications now support inking on a tablet. Being able to draw or write on the display to annotate documents can also improve efficiencies. Not having to print a document for annotation can be a huge timesaver for all involved. Figure C shows a circled paragraph with an annotation to move the paragraph up.

Figure C

Figure C
 
Annotation and editing.

If you're just getting started with the Surface and Windows touch capabilities, I encourage you to give the handwriting recognition a shot. It might add to the productivity of the Surface by making it easy to work without a keyboard and mouse.

What other tips and tricks do you have for working with the Surface handwriting recognition feature? Share your experience in the discussion thread below.


About

Derek Schauland has been tinkering with Windows systems since 1997. He has supported Windows NT 4, worked phone support for an ISP, and is currently the IT Manager for a manufacturing company in Wisconsin.

9 comments
filco79
filco79

Are the Surface Pro 2 and other Surface tablets (including Windows RT ones?) on a par when it comes to handwriting recognition? I mean, is it sufficient to use OneNote with any Wacom digitizer system?

pmshah
pmshah

I wonder why MS took so long to include this feature. They have had this technology like for ever ! I am no user of any tablet but certainly have used this feature some 15 tears ago as implemented on Win CE 3.1, I believe. It was a Casio Cassiopeia E-110 PDA. It included MS office and Outlook. It worked very well indeed ! Unfortunately the phone version of a later device, E-125,  as implemented by Siemens and Casio themselves for Hong Kong telephony provider Hutchison Whampoa did not work so well.

surfaceprobro
surfaceprobro

Windows 8 includes the free Reader app, which natively supports annotating PDF docs. Also, it should be noted that 'digital ink' in Windows is [and has always been] both transferable [between other supporting applications] and transformable.

robert.patton
robert.patton

Try ActiveInk software. Very interesting uses.

wbobrowski
wbobrowski

You missed the most important feature of the Surface Pro series that no other tablet offers: Palm Block Technology (touch sensitivity is turned off when the pen is close to the screen). For any other tablet on the market you must hover your hand/arm above the surface in an unnatural manner.

wbobrowski
wbobrowski

Acrobat Professional (not the free Reader version) supports document annotations with a pen/stylus, which are treated as overlays. Of course this would require a PDF document however the latest version of Acrobat Pro supports direct editing as well. You can always download a 30 day trial copy for testing from Adobe.
http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat.html?promoid=JOLIR

ray
ray

Is there an app or hopefully, an ecosystem around annotating documents?

wp7mango
wp7mango

The handwriting feature is more advanced than you describe. You can cross words out, insert characters and words, remove individual characters, etc.