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Mac OS X 10.2 includes a handwriting recognition feature called Ink, which enables you to write input to any application including word processing programs, e-mail clients, and even Web browsers. Built on Apple’s Recognition Engine, Ink requires no special alphabet, although people with messy handwriting might require practice to understand how Ink interprets characters. Figure 3.9 shows Ink being used with Mail, Mac OS X’s built-in e-mail program.

Figure 3.9. Ink enables you to set your keyboard and mouse aside.

To run Ink, you must have a Wacom graphics tablet with a USB connector. You must also install the Wacom tablet driver for Mac OS X, available for download from http://www.wacom.com/. A wizard guides you through the installation steps. A Tablet Preferences window, in which you can set such things as pressure sensitivity and click rate, appears when installation is complete. (If you need more information about downloads or software installation, read Hour 4, “Installing New Applications.”) By the time you read this, additional tablet drivers might be available.

When a graphics tablet is plugged into one of your computer’s USB ports, an Ink icon shows up under the Hardware section of System Preferences. The Ink Preferences panel gives you options to turn handwriting recognition on or off and to change several settings.

Turning on handwriting recognition will launch the InkBar, a toolbar that floats on top of all other application windows. From the InkBar, you can toggle between handwriting recognition mode and pointer mode, select common menu command and keyboard shortcut characters, and open InkPad, as shown in Figure 3.10. With InkPad open, you can switch between the writing and drawing modes using the buttons at the lower left.

Figure 3.10. InkPad appears below the InkBar to provide a space for you to write or draw.

The text or drawings you create in InkPad can be inserted into other documents. Simply create the content of your choice in the workspace, and click the Send button to add it to the active document at the current insertion point. For instance, when you finish composing the text of an e-mail message, you could sign your name in the drawing view of InkPad and insert your signature at the bottom of your message. Note, however, that you cannot insert pictures into applications that don’t support image display.

Although InkPad enables you to compose your additions before you add them to a document, you can also write directly into a program, as shown in Figure 3.9. To do add text directly to an application, touch the stylus to the tablet to open a writing space with guiding lines in which to form characters and begin writing words. If a writing space doesn’t appear, try touching the stylus to the graphics tablet in a different place. Because your stylus can also act as a mouse, some areas of the screen, such as window controls or menus, activate commands other than opening a writing space.

Although Ink doesn’t require you to learn special letter forms, you must write linearly—as if you were using paper—rather than writing letters on top of one another as you would on a personal digital assistant (PDA). When you pause, your markings are converted to text at the top of the writing space. To correct a mistake, draw a long horizontal line from right to left and pause to see the last character disappear. If you have larger sections to delete, switch to pointer mode in the InkBar, select the part you want to redo, and switch back to writing mode to try again.

Some applications that don’t use standard Mac OS X text controls behave unpredictably with Ink’s text recognition. If you’re using an application in which spaces don’t appear between words as needed, try writing your content in InkPad and using Send to insert it in the other application.

Ink Preferences

Now that you know a little about what Ink is and how it works, let’s take a look at the Ink Preferences tabs. The following adjustments can be made under the Settings tab:

  • Allow me to write— Choose whether you can write to all programs or only InkPad.

  • My handwriting style is— Move the slider to describe your handwriting as closely spaced, widely spaced, or somewhere in between.

  • InkPad font— Set a font for InkPad. For greatest accuracy, Apple recommends keeping the font set to Apple Casual, which contains letter shapes that are the most similar to those recognized by Ink, so that you can model your writing after it.

  • Play sound while writing— Check this box to activate the sound of pen scratching against paper while you write.

Clicking the Options button opens a sheet with additional handwriting recognition options, including the amount of delay before writing is converted to type, how much the stylus must move before a stroke is recorded, how long the pen must be held still to act as a mouse, and several other options. If you change your mind about configuration you’ve made in either the Settings tab or the Options sheet, choose Restore Defaults to revert to the originals.

The Gestures tab displays shapes that have special meaning in Ink, such as vertical or horizontal spaces, tab, and delete. Click on an item to see both a demonstration of drawing the shape and a written description of it. You can also activate or deactivate Gesture actions using the check box in front of each item. Apple recommends that you provide extra space in front of a Gesture shape and exaggerate the ending stroke so that the system does not confuse it with a letter.

The Word List tab enables you to add uncommon words that you use frequently. Ink uses a list of common words to help decipher people’s input. If you come across a word that Ink doesn’t know, click the Add button and type the new word in the text box.

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