Handwriting Recognition

Handwriting recognition is a function of your tablet, the software you are using and how well you write.  It's a function that appeals to students, in particular, as well as business people making notes during a conference call for instance.

It tends to generate a lot of questions, with the most common being ...

  1. Does it really work with the tablets?
  2. Where is it located on my computer?  
  3. Do I need to buy special software?
  4. Who uses it?

You'll 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, Wordperfect and Open Office.

It's possible to enter a file name in a dialogue box by writing with your tablet.

The Microsoft Journal (Vista and Windows 7) is an easy and quick way to take notes and draw little pictures.  One person I was talking to said he uses the Journal to make notes during 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. 

Handwriting Recognition
Microsoft OneNote

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. 

Despite the inability of the tablet PC to capture the imagination of the general population, the program developed for the tablet PC is very powerful.  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 now 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 OneNote 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 ... 

The Convert Screen

The Convert mode of the handwriting module in the Windows version of OneNote lives in the Draw Tab on the far right end.  There are two options ...

  • Ink to Text (in the purple box)
  • Ink to Math (in the orange box)

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!

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

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. 

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 other than handwriting recognition.  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.

Send To OneNote

When you load the program the Send To OneNote Option loads.  It provides screen clipping for capturing images etc. The second option, Send To OneNote, only works in Microsoft Products (Internet Explorer. Word, PowerPoint and Excel).  The last option provides quick access to Quik Notes.

Not too shabby for a free download ...!

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 (the Tablet Input Panel) 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 (Tablet Input Panel or Journal) 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 Globe) 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's 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).

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 ...

Hey - that's the same one from OneNote - at least Microsoft is consistent!

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 sentences) and symbols/numbers.

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.

Handwriting Recognition in 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 ...

With the Journal open and your Intuos or Intuos Pro tablet installed and ready to rock 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 ... 

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).  


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 whenever you can type something because your computer knows you can also write it as well. You'll even see it when you're saving a file!

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.

Handwriting Recognition Video


When an Intuos or Intuos Pro tablet is connected to your MAC, you'll 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. 

I've never spoken to anyone who uses this feature in their MAC but it's nice to know it's there.

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