Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Inking for field workers: Windows 8 tablets with Atom inside or bust

Today Tablets can be used for many tasks and talking handwritten. It has a great importance in professional fields. Digital notepad can be useful in many professions.  Using a tablet for professional planning all day for for inking only have one real option. Powerful tablets such as the Surface Pro only get 5 hours or less out of a battery between charges, and that eliminates them from consideration for such endurance note-taking.
Tablets with an Atom processor such as the ThinkPad Tablet 2 (reviewed here) get over 8 hours of use on a single charge. This will get users through a whole day of meetings or other activities where inking is in progress.

Windows 8 is not the only choice for professional note-takers. Because There are tablets running other OSes that have pen support. The iPad can be used with a stylus as can some Android tablets. Those tablets fall short for serious inking compared to Windows. That's due to the lack of full OneNote from Microsoft which in this writer's opinion is the only serious choice for serious ink note creation.I used a tablet for years in my previous career as a geophysicist, and OneNote was vital to that usage. I took ink notes all day every day and OneNote made it all work.

There are four criteria that make inking practical:

The tablet must handle ink well

This points to Windows tablets. The touch styli used by iPads and most Android tablets pale in comparison to Windows in the ink handling department. You need an active digitizer to get good pen support and that means Windows. 

The ink notes must be searchable

This is one of the best features of OneNote. Ink notes don't have to be manually converted to digital text; OneNote does that in the background to make everything in all handwritten notes searchable. This is an incredible way to find exactly the note you are looking for no matter how far in the past it was written.

The battery must last all day under any circumstances

All day battery life can be found with Android tablets, iPads, and Atom-based Windows 8 tablets. In the Tablet PC days, I got around the short battery life of that era (around 3 hours) by using tablets with user replaceable batteries. I had a spare in the bag and at some point in the day I had to swap out a dying battery. The short battery life of Windows 8 tablets based on Intel Core processors eliminate them from consideration for many field workers. They don't have swappable batteries like the old-school Tablet PCs and using a tablet for inking while tethered to an outlet is simply not practical.

Notes must be well organized

This is probably the most important of these criteria as field workers take a lot of notes and the advantage of inking over paper notes is proper organization. The notebook metaphor used in OneNote makes it a great filing system that is flexible enough to meet the particular needs of each user. In my inking days I had a notebook for each client and a section for each individual project. This let me keep up with current projects with just a glance at the screen.

If you are a field worker taking ink notes all day I would like to hear what you use and how you like it. Leave a comment and share your experience.


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