Do palmtops' text input systems see characters or handwriting?

Do palmtops' text input systems see characters or handwriting?

By Michael Cheek

GCN Staff

The GCN Lab's reviewers got into a squabble over whether a palmtop computer performs character recognition or handwriting recognition.

Jason Byrne held out for handwriting recognition. To me, handwriting means forming more than one letter at a time, so I wanted to call it character recognition. John Breeden II abstained from our debate, arguing that it is faster to tap letters on screen with the miniature pop-up keyboard and a stylus.

In the accompanying review, the devices running 3Com Corp.'s Palm OS use the Graffiti text input system, which creates letters, numbers, symbols or punctuation by a kind of stylus shorthand. The strokes closely resemble those made in writing individual letters.

For example, the Graffiti stroke to form the letter A is an upside-down V without the crossbar.


See more about Graffiti on 3Com's Web site at www.palm.com/products/input/. A Java applet available there lets you practice the correct pen strokes.

Devices running Microsoft Windows CE use an application called Jot, which is referred to on a section of the Microsoft Corp. Web site, at www.microsoft.com/WindowsCE/Products/ppc/jot.asp, as Jot Character Recognition.

But in another area, the site says Windows CE supports handwriting recognition, so the lab's naming debate remains unresolved.

Jot might be slightly easier to learn, but it lacks Graffiti's conservation of effort. The letter A in Jot requires drawing something like a five-pointed star without the final fifth line.

Jot also involves more stroke combinations than Graffiti. To make a capital letter, you go to an area within the Jot writing space at the bottom of the screen. A Graffiti user simply adds an upward stroke before starting the letter.

In a competition to see whether typing on the tiny pop-up keyboard was faster than making stylized strokes in either Jot or Graffiti, Breeden outstripped me at entering 'The quick red fox jumped over the lazy brown dog.'

The problem was, I couldn't remember which character strokes were for Jot and which were for Graffiti, so my sentence got muddled.

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