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).
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).
Hand-written data entry.
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.
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.
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.
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.