Into the Future (Cont.)
New Tablet PC SDK Features for Windows XP
The Tablet PC SDK and its ability to make very complex tasks, such as handwriting recognition, ridiculously easy, has always been nothing short of amazing. Microsoft keeps pushing the limits with a recent Community Technology Preview (CTP), made available in September 2005. This version of the SDK targets the Windows XP-based Tablet PC operating system and it provides some amazing new features, particularly in the area of Ink recognition.
Tablet PCs will be available in new form factors, both larger and smaller than current devices.
The most exciting new feature is Ink Analysis, which is Ink recognition on steroids. Although simple Ink recognition is based on a collection of strokes, Ink Analysis takes a more sophisticated approach, applying both Ink recognition and Ink parsing at the same time. These two aspects are worthy of further explanation.
Ink recognition (or handwriting recognition) refers to the task of recognizing handwriting stored in individual strokes of Ink, and returning it as strings of text. Handwriting recognition is usually tied to a specific spoken language and culture.
Ink parsing refers to two further distinct tasks: Ink classification and layout analysis. Ink classification refers to the division of Ink and strokes into meaningful entities, such as words, lines, and paragraphs. It is also possible to designate certain areas of a larger recognition area, such as a title area in a notepad-style Inking area.
Layout analysis determines the position of Ink and how it relates spatially and semantically. For instance, layout analysis can determine that certain parts of a document are circled and connected to a paragraph, making it an annotation. This allows for advanced features, such as keeping annotations with a certain part of the document, even if the document is re-formatted.
Ink analysis also allows for shape recognition, a feature that was previously very difficult to implement. This feature can be used to recognize simple primitives, such as rectangles, circles, different types of triangles, trapezoids, and more (about a dozen, all in all). This ability is very useful as the basis for many non-text recognition models, such as the recognition of flow diagrams and the like. The provided default set of recognized shapes should handle many needs. Figures 1 and 2 show an example of Ink interpreted through Ink analysis and exported to MS Word. And there is an opportunity for third parties wanting to extend that default set.
Figure 1: A sample application uses Ink Analysis to identify paragraphs, bulleted lists, and even graphical elements such as rectangles.
Figure 2: The ink content from Figure 1 has been interpreted and exported to MS Word with layout options and even drawings intact and semantically correct.
For some examples of what’s possible with Ink analysis, see the “Ink Recognition and Ink Analysis” article in this issue.
Another important new feature is the COM-based Real Time Stylus support. In previous releases of the SDK, the Real Time Stylus API was only available for managed developers. C++ developers, and other COM-based developers such as Visual Basic 6 developers, could only use interop to use the Real Time Stylus. This, of course, defeated one of the fundamental goals of the Real Time Stylus-performance-and has now changed with a native (COM-based) implementation of the Real Time Stylus API. (For more information on the Real Time Stylus, see the “Get Control and Performance with the Real Time Stylus API” article in this issue.)
Program Manager, Tablet PC, Microsoft Corporation
The Vista feature I am most excited about is Tablet Input Panel Auto Complete integration. By leveraging applications’ existing Auto Complete lists, this feature makes previously tedious tasks, such as entering a URL or e-mail address, a pleasure.
Corporate Vice Presiden, Mobile Platforms Division, Microsoft Corporation
The Tablet PC feature is being incorporated into more and more new mobile PCs every day. This trend exposes one of the greatest developer opportunities ever in the mobile PC space!
Development Lead, Mobile Platforms Division, Microsoft Corporation
The Tablet PC platform is now directly integrated with the Windows Presentation Foundation. Stylus is a peer-input device to mouse and keyboard, Ink rendering and persistence is built in, and InkCanvas exposes much of the Windows Journal functionality.