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Tablet Device Input: Ink
Even though Apple hasn't provided a tablet Mac yet, it has done the preliminary work in creating a handwriting recognition system that you can use with popular graphics tablets: Ink. Built on Apple's Recognition Engine (originally the Newton Recognition Engine), Ink requires no special "graffiti" alphabet although people with messy handwriting might require practice to understand how Ink interprets characters.
Setting Up Ink
When a recognized graphics tablet is plugged into one of your computer's USB ports, an icon called Ink shows up under the Hardware section of System Preferences. The Ink preferences pane, shown in Figure 5.18, gives you the option to turn on or off handwriting recognition and to change several settings.
Figure 5.18. Ink allows you to set your keyboard and mouse aside.
The easiest way to access Ink on demand is to add the Ink extra to the menu bar; make sure that handwriting recognition is turned on and that Show Ink in Menu Bar is checked.
Providing Input via Ink
From the Ink menu, you can launch the Ink Window a toolbar that floats on top of all other application windows. In the Ink Window, use the first button to toggle between full-screen handwriting mode and pointer mode represented by a pen and a cursor, respectively.
In handwriting mode, you can write virtually anywhere on the screen. To add text directly to an application, first activate the text area that should receive input. Next, touch the stylus to the tablet to open a writing space with guiding lines and begin writing words. If a writing space doesn't appear, try touching the stylus to the graphics tablet in a different place. Your stylus can also act as a mouse, so some areas of the screen, such as window controls or menus, activate commands instead of opening a writing space. Figure 5.19 demonstrates the handwriting recognition mode of Ink.
Figure 5.19. Handwriting recognition mode provides input across the entire screen.
Using Ink Pad Mode
If you'd prefer to constrain your writing to a smaller area of the screen, you can use Ink Pad mode. To activate Ink Pad mode, toggle handwriting mode off with the first button in the Ink Window, and then open the Ink pad with the notepad icon in the Ink Window. The Ink Window expands to resemble Figure 5.20.
Figure 5.20. Use the Ink pad to constrain your writing drawing to a virtual pad of paper.
In Ink pad mode, you can switch between the writing and drawing modes using the A and star buttons at the lower left. All input must be provided within the Ink pad window.
The text or drawings you create in the Ink pad can be inserted into other documents. Simply create the content of your choice in the workspace and click the Send button to add it to the active document at the current insertion point. For example, when you've finished typing a message in Mail, you could sign your name in the drawing view of the Ink pad and insert your signature at the bottom of your message. Obviously, the application must support graphics input to accept graphic images.
Ink doesn't require you to learn special letter forms, but you must write linearly as if you were using paper rather than write overlapping letters as you would on a PDA. When you pause, your markings will be converted to text at the top of the writing space. To correct a mistake, draw a long horizontal line from right to left, and the last character will disappear. If you have larger sections to delete, switch to the pointer mode in the Ink Window, select the part you want to redo, and switch back to writing mode to try again.
Configuring Input Options
Ink's input preferences can be changed to suit individual users' writing styles and increase reliability. The following adjustments can be made under the main Settings of the preference pane:
Clicking the Options button in the lower right opens a sheet with additional handwriting recognition options, including the amount of delay before writing is converted to type, how much the stylus must move before a stroke is recorded, how long the pen must be held still to act as a mouse, when to recognize handwriting input, whether the pointer should be hidden while writing, and whether Ink should play sounds as you write.
Using Gestures for Common Commands
Ink implements simple handwritten gestures for actions such as Cut, Copy, and Paste. To view, enable, and disable gestures, open the Gestures settings of the Ink preference pane.
Click on an item to see both a demonstration of drawing the shape and a written description of it. Activate or deactivate gesture actions using the check box in front of each item.
Providing Input in Other Languages
To change the input language, open the Ink system preference pane and access the Language settings. The Language pop-up menu can be used to choose the input language of choice. Check the Recognize Western European Characters check box if appropriate.
Teaching Uncommon Words to Ink
The Word List settings of the Ink preference pane allows you to add uncommon words that you use frequently. Ink uses a list of common words to help decipher people's input. If you come across a word that Ink doesn't know or has trouble with, click the Add button and type the word in the text box. Use the Edit and Delete buttons to change and remove entries if necessary.
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