Handwriting Recognition

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Handwriting recognition with a Wacom tablet does generate a lot of questions, with the most common being ...
  1. does it work with the tablets?
  2. where is it located on my computer?
  3. who uses it?

You will probably 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 recognition can be used with any of the word processor programs, such as Microsoft Word and Wordperfect.

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.

Handwriting recognition came into its own with Windows Vista and carried on exactly the same way with Windows 7 and then along came Windows 8.  Other than having an appearance that was completely confusing when it was first introduced, this version of Windows didn't seem to include the necessary elements for handwriting recognition.

I even asked a Windows expert on their help chat about it - they had no idea how to turn written characters into text.

It turned out that the answer for Windows 8 users was a Microsoft program that was developed for tablet PC's years ago - OneNote.

Let's take a look at OneNote with Windows 8.


OneNote was developed to take advantage of the Tablet PC's - you remember those PC's that included a stylus and you could draw and write on the screen.  The idea was that one could take notes in class or meetings and use the Handwriting Recognition module to insert the writing into Word.

They seemed like a great idea but never seemed to capture the imagination of the PC users.

handwriting recognition logoDespite the inability of the tablet PC to capture the imagination of the general population the program developed for the tablet PC was quite popular.  When it was first introduced OneNote was quite expensive and not a lot of users were willing to fork over their hard earned cash for a copy.

And then along came first the iPad and then the Windows and Android tablets which completely changed everything in the computer world and they've pretty much killed the tablet PC.

The best part of the story is that OneNote is still available and it's a free download from Microsoft and it still includes the handwriting recognition module!  How cool is that? 

All you need to do is download the program, install it and you're ready to go.  And even better - it's available for Windows, Macs, iPad, iPod Touch, iPhones and Android - the tag line on the download page is "All your notes on all your devices".  When you make a change to your OneNote files on one platform the changes are applied to all of your platforms with OneNote.

I've installed it on my Windows 7 machines, my iPad and my iPod Touch.  The Windows version has all of the features including handwriting.  The other versions I installed (iPad and iPod) don't include handwriting, nor does the Mac version because it has Ink in OS X..

Not only is it a free download which includes a fabulous Handwriting module but it has a bunch of fabulous features that make the program incredibly useful.  Here's the top of the screen on my Windows 7 machine ...

handwriting recognition onenote


handsriting recognition onenote
The Convert mode of the handwriting module in the Windows version of OneNote lives in the Draw Tab on the far right end.

When you write something with your Intuos Pen, the Ink to Text  in the Convert box will turn dark and the writing will be converted when you click on it.

As a bonus, if you click the Ink to Math link then you can write math equations and OneNote will convert the equation as you write it - very impressive!

If Ink to Text is clicked           
the writing is converted to text  

Here's how Ink to Math looks on-screen ...

handwriting recognition ink to math

Tablet Input Panel

This panel lives at the far left of the Draw Panel and is exactly the same as the Windows 7 and Windows Vista operating systems and it appears to work exactly the same as well.

handwriting recognition tablet input panel

When you write something on the line in the panel an Insert tab will appear after the writing is recognized.  If you're entering a long line the panel will expand until Insert is clicked.

(This text was entered with the tablet input panel.)

Is the panel accurate?  You bet it is as long as your writing is somewhat legible.

Other uses for OneNote

My goodness - there are tons of things this fabulous program can do.  You can add Notebooks for every aspect of your life.  I've got 5 notebook so far, including ...
  • a notebook with website ideas
  • an exercise notebook,
  • I work in the fitness industry and I've got a notebook with lots or warranty, contacts, leads, etc.
  • a personal notebook with my daily To Do lists (which are synced to my iPod Touch that goes with me every day).

Like a real, live notebook, you can add sections and then add pages to the sections.  It is just a very intuitive way to keep track of things going on in your life, business, hobby, family - whatever you want.

The other handwriting recognition information on this page is useful but if you want all of the benefits that they offer within one fabulous application then do yourself a favor and download OneNote!

Windows 7 Home Premium

Microsoft has built in a really great Handwriting recognition 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 an Intuos or Intuos Pro is installed and this gives access to the handwriting recognition module..


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).

Handwriting Recognition
Page Links

Windows 7 Home Premium


  1. Solution One
  2. Solution Two
Windows XP

Windows Vista Home Premium


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