Posted by on Mar 27, 2017 in Evergreen, On Writing: Craft and Commiseration | 0 comments

Because of the newborn baby in my life, I’ve been looking for unconventional ways to get work done when I’m one-handed because I’m nursing, holding the baby or whatever. One of these experiments is the return of voice-to-text dictation which long time readers will remember as the way I got through all the horrible joint problems of a few years ago when I couldn’t type. But while dictation is great, I don’t always have my microphone or normal computer handy and sometimes the baby is too noisy or active for me to dictate so I needed another option. 

I’ve fallen in love with Microsoft’s OneNote (which is free for just about every platform) and, while I owe you a full review of everything there is to love about this program soon, one of the nifty features they advertise is that you can handwrite using or finger or a stylus on any phone or tablet and it’ll be searchable / readable just like typed text. I had a stylus I got as a freebie somewhere so I borrowed my 4 year old’s Amazon Fire 8 tablet (because my ASUS one is old and still packed somewhere, don’t tell on me) the next time I was trapped one handed and decided to try it out. I’ve done some normal writing on it as well as some mind mapping and found some immediate plusses and minuses.

So, just for fun, I decided to write my review of writing by hand on a tablet… by hand on a tablet so that you can see exactly how it works. My actual writing is below but I’ll copy and paste the real text of it below that. (Note that I refer to the stylus as a pen below because that’s what it’s shaped like and my brain is tired) 

Experimenting with writing by hand via stylus while holding baby.

Observations so far

  • I have the worst handwriting of any human
  • Pen sometimes off parts of letters and words. (annoying & breaks train of  thought)
  • Writing must be BIG to be clear & stylus friendly
  • My kingdom for a undo button! Eraser is too many clicks away for how often the pen messes up
  • Still, not a bad way to at least get something done (like mind mapping) when one handed

Wrote this with Microsoft OneNote on an Amazon* Fire tablet (4 yo’s, don’t tell!) with a free stylus I got at a conference.

*=hilariously, Microsoft interpreted my handwriting on this one as “A moron” lol

As for the translation of my handwriting to text, it did really well. The ending (from the words Fire Tablet on) got completely messed up because it thought the drawing at the bottom was writing and tried to translate it which was the disaster you might have expected. Lesson learned there. But, overall, it messed up about 10 words overall which I think is impressive given that a) I seriously do have the worst handwriting on the earth and b) the stylus kept leaving off bits of words that I’d have to go back and fix which made them look weird.

Would I do it again? For sure! It’s absolutely better than nothing and a great way to get some words down when you’re one handed. I’m hoping a better stylus will help with my biggest complaints: that you need to write gigantic to get the words to show and the way the stylus kept dropping parts of letters. A super small tip stylus one like the one that came with the Wii U would really be idea if I could find one.

Advantage over just writing on paper with a pen? I’m going to say yes for a few reasons.

  1. You don’t always have paper and pen handy but chances are your phone is always nearby (or, in my case, my daughter’s tablet since she always leaves it in the living room)
  2. No need to remember to type it into your computer or document later, it’s already there and converting it to text is as simple as clicking export
  3. For me, I’m already using OneNote for everything so it’s simple to just write my handwritten notes directly into the writing notebook I already have on there and tag it for the right project. Then that text is right there and searchable along with everything else I’ve written in the past instead of being in a separate location

Have you trying writing the old fashioned way… using new technology? I’d love to hear your tips and experiences with writing by hand via stylus on phone or tablet below!