Until recently, using a digital stylus has been as limited as using a ballpoint pen on paper. The power of digital computing that we enjoy with word processors to organise and modify our captured thoughts just did not exist for digital ink until now.
Most stylus-on-tablet writing, like ink-on-paper writing, is static. You can’t edit ink-on-paper text. Nor can you automatically search it, easily store copies of it, or incorporate it into your daily workflow with other kinds of digital document creation.
The problem has been that until recently digital ink represented little more than the appearance of stylus ink strokes on an electronic screen – a mimic of the markings created when using a ballpoint pen, nothing more. Meanwhile, documents created with a keyboard and mouse have been easy to edit and format. Interactive ink, on the other hand, enables digital writing – it is dynamic, not static. You can edit it and format it. It conforms to a variety of device displays and orientations reflowing and arranging as expected from all browsers today. Interactive Ink enables handwritten digital information to be used in today’s applications in the same way that data created by a keyboard and mouse is employed.
But it turns out the information you generate with interactive ink is in some ways far more powerful than the sort of information you can create with keyboard and mouse. Here’s why: People use the pen for more than simple text entry. Users can draw diagrams, math equations and other complex objects that are difficult or impossible to enter if confined to only a keyboard and mouse.
With interactive ink you can edit the ink, format the document, create diagrams, input complex math equations, search it, store it, and easily incorporate the completed result into your digital document workflow. Share with email or export to a digital document or presentation. The benefit for users is massively increased productivity.
Interactive ink is:
- Editable: Editing on paper is ineffective and inefficient. With interactive ink technology, content editing becomes a digital activity using only the stylus. Collaboration is therefore easy. Document creation can include a variety of handwritten input - drawing diagrams, math equations - and all can be easily written, revised, typeset to digital form and fine-tuned by the same intuitive methods involving simple stylus gestures. Editing with the stylus even when written ink is “typeset” into digital form is also enabled so the stylus becomes truly valuable, productive and enables the cognitive benefits of a natural user input method.
- Storable: Since interactive ink is storable, document revision control is easier to maintain. On paper, discarded ink is lost for good. But since interactive ink is storable, you can trace ideas from conception to completion, determine why edits were made and more easily grasp a creator’s intent.
- Recognisable Information: Non-interactive ink, like ink on paper, is understood by a computer system as simple ink stroke input, not content - i.e., there’s no meaning attached to it, and it’s not understood by other common writing tools nor is it easy to integrate. Ink stroke information is used to represent the ink appearance on the display. The context and format of document as intended is lost even if handwriting recognition is utilised it is not enough to easily enable document manipulation, editing or formatting. Interactive ink, on the other hand, is designed to provide real-time recognised digital information where the contextual user intent is understood preserving the structured data format of the written document. You can easily transfer and integrate it with other digital documents, and you can easily collaborate or share with teammates on other OS platforms.
- Platform agnostic: Interactive ink doesn’t care about your OS, device, or hardware orientation. It’s managed in a similar way on multiple OS platforms, and it integrates with the rest of your digital world regardless of device type, size or operating system.
- Collaborative. Since interactive ink based applications are platform agnostic and recognised by computer systems as meaningful content, instead of as just raw input stroke data, it’s much easier to collaborate with your team, whatever sort of device or operating system they are using. Diagrams, complex math equations can be shared, collaborated and viewed in the optimal manner for a specific device. For example, text character information created on a tablet is reflowed to more easily be viewed or edited on a smartphone and vice versa.
Interactive Ink is what finally has empowered handwriting technology to be as powerful as the word processor. Input from digital ink is now as fully capable as input from the keyboard and mouse. But there’s even more. The technology supports common handwritten inputs that take it beyond text, and in some applications – such as mathematical equations, graphics and musical annotation - make it even more powerful than what you can do with only a keyboard and mouse.
Seventy per cent of us spend more than an hour a day using a pen. Whatever you created with that pen had to be retyped and recomposed in order to move it into a shareable electronic document format. If it wasn’t retyped, as was often the case, it was lost forever.
What interactive ink ultimately offers is greatly magnified productivity. How much is that worth to you and your business?
Gary Baum oversees global marketing activities at MyScript
Image source: Shutterstock/LDprod