My Tablet is not Mario-Friendly

10Feb10

I bought an HP tablet PC in Dec 2009, replacing my aging Lenovo (non-tablet) laptop, with the main goal being to be able to make hand-written diagrams, and a secondary goal to read and annotate papers more easily.

Sample Notes

Sample Notes

Taking notes at a recent workshop was one of the first major tasks for which I needed to get my software straight. There is some software which attempts to automatically recognize hand-written formulas and text, but I find it needs a lot of correcting anyway… what I really wanted was something in which I could fluidly switch between typing, hand-drawing diagrams, and entering LaTeX formulas. After trying a number of options, I am very surprised to say that Microsoft software (plus 3rd-party plugins) worked the best! (And also not the best.) Click on the picture at right for a sample.

Specifically, Microsoft Word turned out the best; other options were Microsoft Journal (crappy for everything but handwriting) and Microsoft OneNote (which is a neat software concept for saving your notes, but I found led to chaotic layouts, and didn’t support LaTeX). I am going to mention more about Word below but first let me also say that I have tried using my laptop also as a Nintendo DS emulator (double-screen gameboy with stylus)… but the laptop is too slow for games with many 3D graphics, and I need to double-click the stylus to register a single-click in the DS software, which makes it unsuitable even for something simple like Elite Beat Agents. The double-click/single-click problem really stumps me, no other software behaves like that.

Here’s what tweaks helped Microsoft Word 2007 gain my favour:

  • Unicode math symbols like Δ can be input using autocorrect, e.g. I have it “correct” the string \Delta to Δ
  • For more complex math formulas one needs the full power of LaTeX… there are a bunch of plug-ins that suck but also at least one (Aurora) that is great
  • To quickly switch between hand-writing, normal typing, and LaTeX, you can add commands to Word’s “Quick Access Toolbar”
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3 Responses to “My Tablet is not Mario-Friendly”

  1. 1 k3v

    Cool, Pauline got a HP tablet around the same time too. I guess it’s an educator thing…

  2. I have two HP Tablet PCS (one for home and one for the lab). I use them mostly with journal for taking notes (only with the pen), and PDF Annotator (commercial but cheap) for annotating articles and thesis.

    I give entire lectures writing notes projected on the screen with journal.
    It works better than the board because 1) I can prepare material in advance and 2) I can publish my notes afterward (and go back to a definition online).

    Having my entire bibliography of papers on the tablet allows me to review 100+ thesis while traveling, and still be able to check references and facts in papers without an internet connection (and without carrying around the 30+ papers related to the thesis, nor the paper thesis).

    I also bought a Lenovo Tablet under Linux from *Emperor Linux*. Bad service, many bugs/features in their closed source hacking of the kernel, in the end I rarely use it as a Tablet, and I do not recommend their company… But I do recommend the use of Tablets, and not only for teaching: it really changed the way I do research!

  3. Jiminy jillikers! Microsoft Office 2007 already has a “Math AutoCorrect” with everything from \aleph to \zeta, you just need to enable it.


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