Training Tablet Input Panel to Work Even Better

In a previous tutorial, we talked about Tablet Input Panel's handwriting recognition capabilities. If you've experimented, you've found that it works remarkably well on nearly all handwriting. But if it doesn't quite understand how you write, or if you just want to make sure Tablet Input Panel works correctly every time—and you're willing to invest some time—you can get even better results if you do what Microsoft calls "personalize your handwriting."

Making it All Yours - Personalizing Handwriting Recognition

Why would you want to do this? If you've been experimenting with the Tablet Input Panel and have found that it often converts the same characters incorrectly, you can teach it to do better with those characters. Or, if you don't have specific problems but want better recognition all around, you can teach the tool to recognize your personal handwriting style.

From the Tools menu, click on "Personalize handwriting recognition."

You can also go to "Personalize Handwriting Recognition" directly from the Start Menu, by using the search box.

My handwriting is legible but quirky, and after Tablet Input Panel failed to convert "Windows 7 Tutorials" properly several times, I realized I'd better spend the time to personalize. Therefore I selected "Teach the recognizer your handwriting style".

Next, you are asked about what you want to train the tool on: sentences or number, symbols and letters? You can go through each section of the personalization tool as many times as you wish, to get the best results.

If you choose Sentences you'll be asked to write 50 different sentences, one by one. Here's what you'll see when you begin. Click Next to continue.

Here's a sample sentence, as I wrote it. Complete the required sentences and click Next until you finish training the tool.

See what I mean about my quirky handwriting? Definitely worth teaching Tablet Input Panel a thing or two, I'd say. At the bottom of the text entry box you'll see icons for three tools. The first is the Pen, the second is the Eraser, which lets you erase a little bit at a time, and the third is the "Clear all" tool that lets you wipe everything out and start over.

Now, writing 50 sentences is a lot of work no matter how you look at it. Fortunately, there is a "Save for later" option so you don't have to sit there and write them all out at once.

If you choose "Save for later", you'll get a chance to Update the personalization database before you leave the application (by clicking on Update and exit).

When you target a particular word or phrase, you're limited to 20 characters at a time. If the phrase you want to personalize is longer than that, you can break it into smaller segments and have Handwriting Personalization learn each one.

While it may not be possible to get the handwriting recognition 100% accurate (many handwritten characters look very much alike, such as the number 1 and the lowercase letter L, for example) the more you work with the personalization tool, the better the recognition will be.

Automatic Learning: Beyond Recognition

The Tablet Input Panel also includes a feature called Automatic Learning. This keeps track of the words you use, and how you write them, to help improve the recognition of your handwriting as time goes on. Those of us with concerns about privacy will be reassured to know that the data that Automatic Learning collects is stored locally (on your own computer) and not transmitted anywhere else. To turn Automatic Learning on or off (it's on by default), tap the Start button, then type "pen and touch" in the search box, and then tap Pen and Touch.

NOTE: This option won't appear in your Control Panel unless you've got a tablet or touchscreen.

When you choose the Handwriting tab, "Use automatic learning". should be selected by default. If it isn't, select it and click OK.

Automatic Learning - Doesn't Seem to be Working?

One quirk of the system is that Automatic Learning uses the Windows Search Index to remember your data. If you've chosen not to use the search index on your computer (indexing is on by default), your data may not be properly saved. To check which folders you're indexing (if any), tap the Start button, then type Indexing Options.

In the Indexing Options window, tap Modify, and check the boxes by the folders you wish to index. You can find more information about the Search Index here.

If you've gone through the personalization and the Tablet Input Panel still doesn't recognize your handwriting properly, you can send a report to Microsoft if you choose. Tap Tools -> Report Handwriting Recognition Errors.

You'll be offered a choice of errors to report. Once you've checked those errors, tap Next, and on the next page you'll see each error that the Tablet Input Panel has made in recognizing your handwriting. Under Corrected As, change the text to what it should have said, then tap Accept. Repeat this with all the errors, and then tap Next. The next page will send your report.

And there's still more!

In this tutorial, we've covered the basics of text entry and handwriting recognition, and what you can do to make the process more efficient. In the next tutorial, we'll cover the use of editing gestures (which you may be familiar with if you've used a PDA with a stylus) and "flicks," which are additional gestures for common commands. In the meantime, don't hesitate to check the articles recommended below.