Handwriting Recognition

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Handwriting recognition is one of the most common questions about the Wacom tablet line - especially the Bamboo.

There really is no simple answer to this question. You may find the answer you are looking for in the following information.

Handwriting recognition is a function of your tablet, the software you are using and how well you write.

If your software will recognize characters then you have to provide it with input that it can understand – put another way – your writing needs to be legible!

Handwriting can be used with any of the word processor programs, such as Word, Wordperfect, Microsoft Works and pretty much anyone you choose to use.

The module will also allow you to enter a file name in a dialogue box.

The Journal is an easy and quick way to take notes and draw little pictures,  One person I was talking to said he used the Journal on Conference Calls.

Windows 7 Home Premium

Microsoft has built in a really great Handwriting module and a Journal in Windows 7 Home Premium and above (Windows 7 Home is not included). 

Both of these modules are activated when the Wacom tablet driver for a Bamboo Pen and Touch, Bamboo Craft, Bamboo Fun, Bamboo Pen or Intuos4 is installed.


If either one of them is not available or doesn't show up then here is the first thing to try.

Solution One
  1. Make sure you have Windows 7 Home Premium or higher installed on your computer.
  2. Go to Start > Search Programs and Files (directly above the little Start Glove) and type in Tablet Input Panel or Journal.  That should bring the one for which you are searching at the top of the screen.
  3. Click to selct it and you machine should install it.
Voila - you're done!

Solution Two

If, unhappily, that doesn't work then here is a second solution.  It comes from a fellow named Nathaniel who could not find either the Tablet Input Panel or the Journal despite the fact that he seemed to know what he was doing.

I tried to help and completely messed that up.  A few hours later Nathaniel wrote to me again saying he found the solution on a blog (told you he knew what he was doing) and here it is ...

Go to ...
  1. Start > Control Panel.
  2. Select Program and Features.
  3. On the next screen select Turn Windows Features on or off (in the left hand panel of this screen)
  4. After a few minutes of doing whatever Windows does the new screen will be fully populated with a bunch of Windows Features - some selected and some not selected.  Scroll down to find Tablet PC Components and put a check mark in the box then click on OK and follow the on-screen instructions (your machine will re-boot and the Tablet Input Panel and Journal will be availble after your machine restarts).

hande writing program and featues
handwriting recognition windows featuers
Control Panel > Programs and Fetures
Turning Windows Features
Off and On

handwriting recognition windows features
Tablet PC Components

OK - now that the correct components have been installed it's time to move on - thanks Nathaniel!

Tablet PC Input Panel

If you've installed the driver for your Wacom tablet and nothing has changed then go to Search and type in Tablet Input Panel - this is what will appear - the Tablet PC Input Panel ...

handwriting recognition tablet input panel

From left to right across the top of the panel ...
  • Pen Input panel selection.
  • On screen Keyboard (you can just tap the letters on the keyboard).
  • Tools (7 different options including a training module)
  • Language.
  • Correction, Deleting, Splitting and Joining.
The training module is named Handwriting Personalization - what this means is that recognition will improve if you work through the training sessions for both sentences (there's 50 of them) and symbols/numbers.

handwriting recognition personalization

How the panel works ... (I did this sentence with my Intuos Pen - it really is neat).

The Input Panel will float above the document you are working with and you simply write on the line.  As you move from one word to the next the one you just finished will be recognized.

To insert the text into the document tap the Insert Button with your pen and the start writing again.

The Journal

Go back to the Search field in the Start menu and type in Windows Journal.  The Journal is a piece of lined digital paper with some icons across the top.  Here is what it looks like ...

handsriting recognition journal

With the Journal open and your Bamboo or Intuos tablet you can make notes and draw pictures and then save it as a Journal Note file or Export the note as a Web Archive or a TIFF file.

Now it that's not enough - here's something else ...

handwriting recognition selection

At the right end of the options bar is a little red colored rope looking thing.  This is the Selection tool in the Journal.

What you can do with the selection tool is to make a circle around some written text (the text will change in appearance). 

handwriting recognition selection

Now go to Actions > Convert Handwriting to Text ...

And don't you know - the selected written text is converted! 

You can also go to Actions > Convert Selection to E-mail ...

Other Stuff

With handwriting activated you will see a little icon pop up all over the place.  It shows up when you are saving a file or renaming something on your computer.

Clicking on the little icon will bring up the Tablet PC Input Panel so you can write the new name of the file.

These two modules really are quite useful and will get better with time.


Windows 7 Home Premium
Handwriting Recognition
And Journal

Windows XP

XP has a handwriting recognition module included and it works well. It's turned on through the Language Bar which can be very annoying to find in your system.

To install handwriting recognition with Microsoft Office XP follow these steps:

  1. Open Add or Remove Programs in Control Panel.
  2. Click Change or Remove Programs, click Microsoft Office XP, and then click Change.
  3. Click Add or Remove Features, and then click Next.
  4. Under Features to install, double-click Office Shared Features.
  5. Double-click Alternative User Input, click the box next to Handwriting, and then click Run from My Computer.
  6. Click Update.
Now that you have it installed you have five ways you can use your Wacom Tablet with XP:

  • Writing Pad
  • Write anywhere
  • Drawing Pad
  • On-Screen Standard Keyboard
  • On-Screen symbol Keyboard

It is a neat feature of XP and can be very useful if you have a need for handwriting or just want to experiment.

Windows Vista

Vista Home Premium and above users have access to a variety of applications that seem to be made for use with a Wacom tablet. When you use your tablet on a system running Vista your experience includes powerful note taking, letter recognition, and fast navigation options that allow you to quickly and intuitively get the results you want.

The new Applications include:
  1. Microsoft Journal for Note Taking 
  2. Handwriting Recognition 
  3. Gestures for easy navigation 
  4. Digital Ink in Office

These Apps look really cool and exciting if they arrive as advertised.

To access the handwriting aspect of Vista open the Search Panel and enter TIP (tablet input panel). This brings up the panel where you enter handwriting and an on-screen keyboard.

If you close the panel it will dock on the left side of your screen (default) and any time you click the panel it will pop back onto the screen. You can change the docking position the panel.

Handwriting in Journal with a Bamboo

Handwriting Recognition with a Bamboo

Microsoft did a great job with the handwriting module in Vista and 7.  It can be very helpful and useful for taking notes in class or on a conference call.- it is also very useful for someone with RSI.


handwriting recognition ink

When a Bamboo or Intuos tablet is connected to your MAC, you will find an Icon labeled “INK” in your System Preferences.

When you click on the INK link a new screen comes up with all the settings to control handwriting on your MAC.

A nice feature of INK is that you can perform a lot of repetitive tasks using Gestures (which are similar to Graphiti in the Palm O/S).

On Page Links

Windows 7 Home Premium


  1. Solution One
  2. Solution Two
Windows XP

Windows Vista Home Premium


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