April 29, 2008#

Tablet PC users, input language and special characters in your name – my way out!

For those who read my post on tablet pen input regarding your name that possibly has a non-English character in it, e.g. German or French, here’s my current solution to the problem!

Doesn’t matter if you’re surfin’ the web or just writing an email to an English colleague. There’s many times when it makes perfect sense for a non-English user to set the Tablet PC input panel to English language. Unfortunately this makes it a total pain in the a.. to write down your name on your Tablet PC since Vista doesn’t give you the slightest chance of writing non-standard characters such as ä, ö or ü or any characters with accents.

Of course, you can always just switch your input language to something else, like German, enter your name and switch back to English. But over time this gets a bit annoying, too.

So far, my best approach to this is using macros! That’s not an any-case solution but it’s quite ok for common, repetitive tasks like writing your name or address, etc. For those interested, there’s of course plenty of macro solutions out there but I found two programs specifically designed for Tablet PC use. These two are PenCommander and ActiveWords. Both do the job but (based on a first glance only), I slightly prefer ActiveWords, since the input panel can be hidden in a similar way to Microsoft’s Tablet PC input panel, i.e. almost hidden on the border of the screen and appearing as you hover it. With PenCommander you can only select between fully shown or hidden to the system tray which isn’t the best place to quickly reactivate it with your pen, to be honest.

imageAnyway, what the two programs do, is letting you define any words that, written down on the programs input panel trigger a certain action. Such actions can range from sending keystrokes, replacing text or running a program to complex script operations. Needless to say I’m interested in the text replacement imagefunction. With this, I just define a new trigger word like “name” and as an action I select “text input / replacement” and set its value to my real name “Jürgen”. So whenever I need to fill in my name somewhere, instead of opening Window’s input panel, I just open the ActiveWords input panel, write down “name” and ActiveWords does the rest, i.e. fills in my real name.


As I said, that’s not a general solution to the non-English character problem but it absolutely does the job for common problems like your name, mail address, email address or whatever. Even if there’s no special characters in your name, this method has the potential to save you some time entering long text you often need or opening programs you use on a regular basis.

Btw: This would be a nice new feature to be integrated into Microsoft’s next version of the Tablet PC input panel. Since they’ve already started integrating such features into Vista’s speech recognition system, why not do the same with handwriting recognition?!

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