April 24, 2008#

Make sure there’s no special character in your name if you’re planning to become a Tablet PC user

As a Tablet PC user I’m relying on stylus input and handwriting recognition a lot. So let’s start with the good news: Microsoft did a hell of a job with Windows Vistas handwriting input panel. Recognition accuracy is really astonishing and though some third-party product like Firefox leave room for improvement talking about the input panel’s integration, it works well and fast in most other situations.


Now the bad news. I can’t get that freakin’ thing to learn my name. I must admit there’s no way my parents could have known that I’d be using handwriting recognition on a computer one day when they named me over 20 years ago. So I can’t blame them for deciding on Jürgen.

As long as I’m using German as the selected input language on the input panel, I’m fine. But since I’m dealing with English most of the time and since I’m also talking to some Spanish guys every now and then, most of the time my input panel isn’t set to German. Unfortunately Microsoft didn’t consider that case as relevant and there’s no way of teaching Vista my name with the input language set to English, not even using the handwriting personalization tool as it won’t allow me to enter any characters that aren’t part of the selected language’s keyboard layout. Automatic learning and correction tools aren’t an option either since whatever I write on the input panel gets changed into the closest fit of a standard character. As soon as the correction tool is running out of close matches to "ü" it just comes up with not-so-close matches. This turn’s out to become an extremely funny game that in no way I can win.

Finally as a another little side note on handwriting recognition in Windows Vista let me mention that I started training the system (in English) using the handwriting personalization tool to improve accuracy even more. This again works great just that I can’t run this tool for any language other than English. Especially not for German, Spanish or French input. It took me a while to find that information on the web but turns out that this is in fact true. Handwriting personalization is only available for English, Chinese, Japanese and Korean.

To be precise, automatic learning of handwriting style and targeting specific recognition errors is available for these languages and only these. Automatic learning of vocabulary and teaching the system your handwriting style by feeding the system with handwriting examples is even supported for English exclusively. Check for yourself here.

Microsoft could really care a bit more about DETAILS!!!


  1. Haha!

    You’re complaining about your little problem with your first name!… Just take my name for example: Ever tried to write an “é” and an “ü” in one sentence? Well, I think this combination is quite unusual, but for me, René Hüftlein, this is the most regular printout while starting or ending any document.

    As I’m a “German-only” user there wasn’t that big problem to get my surname written soon. But with this french character “é” I had no chance! (As installing any French support for keyboard-layout is no option for a guy who’s first action on a new OS is to uninstall the English support…) Finally I resigned after trying to teach my XP Tablet PC Edition for more than 3 months. With Vista it took me just a few minutes to see that nothing changed in this case :(

    Now, as Vista users in genereal have to be quite flexible in handling their devices I’m perfectly comfortable with switching my handwriting tool into keyboard mode to type my first name same as I did the last 10 years just as simple as I never had a Tablet PC :)

  2. I admit defeat! You’re clearly out of luck with your name and Windows TIP. For me, switching the input language from English to German would work, don’t even have to switch to the virtual keyboard. Still, for you, switching to German for your last name, then to French for your first name obviously isn’t an option.

    Sine I don’t like the process of switching too much at all, here’s another idea: http://www.juergentreml.de/archives/384

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