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Handwriting recognition

asked 2014-11-21 22:25:13 +0300

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updated 2015-01-19 16:12:50 +0300

r0kk3rz gravatar image

I wasn't going to buy a tablet of any type until one came out with decent handwriting recognition, but I couldn't turn Jolla down. All the same... What I want from a tablet is a tool I can use at work, not just a toy to to play lightweight games on and watch films on a screen that is too small, which doubles as an expensive alarm clock which lets me read email.

IMHO all tablets are missing the one thing that would really make them a useful tool. The ability to write on them and to turn those notes to text. Samsung are getting there, but still have a way to go.

Handwriting recognition - The one thing that laptops are really poor at is taking notes and there is currently no substitute for a decent paper note book for jotting down notes. Despite the fact that today's youth think they are efficient and learn better using a keyboard, there is evidence to suggest that their perceptions are woefully wrong. Writing was, and still is the best way to take notes and learn (Here is link, there are tons more... Until tablets can take the place of a notebook they will be just another tool for Microsoft and Google et al, to grab your stabbed out notes in their respective data prisons. Plus typing on glass makes your fingers hurt after a while. It would also be much more useful as an educational tool in primary education developing fine motor control, legible handwriting (perhaps!) and good for revision if the notes could be added as annotations to ebooks.

A big ask, and I'm not holding my breath, but it doesn't hurt to float the idea.

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I think this is a brilliant request and I feel exactly the same way (especially since formulas and graphs are soooo tedious and slow to do on a notebook). Have you already looked around if there are (maybe open-source) options out there? E.g., android apps or a bare-bones, fittingly-licensed, handwriting recognition engine?

sidv ( 2014-11-27 01:13:43 +0300 )edit

There is LipiTk (, and CellWriter (, which isn't natural handwriting recognition, but character recognition. It would appear from a look around that Libre handwriting recognition for Linux is just not there. Proprietary systems for Android are coming on, however. The Samsung one seems quite highly regarded, although I've never tried it.

It is a glaring omission on mobile devices.

Taran ( 2014-11-27 11:19:04 +0300 )edit

Thanks for this most helpful comment! Myself, I'd be happy to pay for such things if they actually work. I recall fiddling around with some paid-apps back on the Nexus7 (2012) and it was useless. However, as discussed below, NVIDIA seems to have gotten the package right with the Shield. So maybe with newer screens and CPUs these things are now doable...

sidv ( 2014-11-27 12:43:21 +0300 )edit

For as long as I can remember, in the pre-iPhone era, palmtops and big screen phones (even small screen ones, look at the SE M600) have been sold with a stylus. These were usually toothpick like sticks with the ergonomics of a match. The screen quality was so crappy, that you could smear a drawing of a male reproductive organ, but for any fine art or writing, the technology or haptics were missing. On top of that, the handwriting recognition was bad. So, all in all, nobody wanted to actually use that.

Even on the iPads, apps like Bamboo Paper or Evernote's Penultimate do not do handwriting recognition. You can use them with an active stylus and you get a rather good resolution so your writing might be readable, but your text will not be translated to machine letters. My experience is: I do not want to use that, it feels wrong, looks wrong and it does not help me at all.

My solution was to buy a livescribe pen and write on the compatible paper. Yes, it still has paper, yes it is rather expensive. But it yields the best results, I get my writings transferred to the desktop and the livescribe software actually is able to make my notes searchable. If I bought the MyScript software, I could transfer them to machine letters. With the Sky series of pens, your handwirting will gets transferred via Wifi to Evernote, you could then use your tablet to read them.

tl;dr: Even if it worked smoothly, it feels so shitty you probably do not want to use it.

the_mgt ( 2014-12-07 18:31:32 +0300 )edit

All these issues you list are down to the problems with the input devices, be it crappy digitizer resolution, crappy handwriting recognition software or a crappy stylus. The common factor here is not the suitability of the input method, but the crappiness of the implementation. Livescribe is not an option as it is Mac/Windows only and requires another device.

I would hope that a tablet could become a primary computing device, without a decent data entry system this is not possible. Handwriting offers the most flexible and most compact data entry system for tablets. The problem is that the software just isn't there to do it. A suitable fairly fine, soft capacitative tip on a stylus would be best for overcoming the feel of writing on the hard glass screen and prevent scratching. If the tips were to wear down then replaceable tips or a pencil like core that could be sharpened would also be good for the useability of the stylus. Admittedly a 7" tablet is a bit small, an iPad sized device or bigger would be a better minimum size, but there is nothing that prevents this from being a killer app for tablets. Without it, data entry will always be an absolute chore, or one that requires additional external devices like a keyboard to make input efficient. It would change a tablet from being a content display device to being a truly useful tool. We could then ditch the horrible, bulky laptop (and Widows with it).

Taran ( 2014-12-08 16:58:09 +0300 )edit

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answered 2014-11-27 12:19:09 +0300

Implementing handwriting would require a stylus as well, I believe.

Already many requests for multi-user.

Please vote on use existing topics - it would increase chance of getting attention of Jolla team.

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Not necessarily. Yes, the active designs are much easier to get a good accuracy with but are bloody expensive, however for example NVIDIAs shield tablet works with a passive stylus see slashgear and a lot of software voodoo. According to every review I read on this, this is sufficient. Given that the tab comes at a discount price point, an active stylus is unrealistic. A passive one however MAY work, if there is technology our there that one can reuse (e.g., through licensing technology directly, asking a company to port stuff by making a business case for them, doing it ourselves, ...).

This is also exactly the reason why voting here makes MUCH MORE sense than voting there: at barely $200 you will not get a flagship tab, even more so since Jolla already said the hardware is basically fixed. So it would be much more productive if people would concentrate on what we CAN actually get.

sidv ( 2014-11-27 12:39:46 +0300 )edit

Okies, I didn't know what is active or passive stylus earlier. :-) Plus, i also learnt today that 30 votes limit is for a day. (I previously mistakenly thought it is the max. for user forever).

anandrkris ( 2014-11-27 13:03:29 +0300 )edit

glad to be of help :-)

sidv ( 2014-11-27 13:21:32 +0300 )edit

Actually, I realised the multi-user aspect was elsewhere, I just forgot to take it out of the title. Handwriting would be better with a stylus, but the issue is not about hardware like styli and digitizers, but software. We need decent handwriting recognition libraries to be used with the software that runs on tablets. Data input to tablet apps is a horrible experience even on the best tablets. On screen keyboards are one step up from useless, being uncomfortable to use and taking up half your screen real estate, and blue tooth keyboards are just something else to carry around. Handwriting, the original and still the best!

Taran ( 2014-11-27 18:41:09 +0300 )edit

Maybe we should then first see what is out there in Android apps that we could, e.g., get to run via amazon's app store, and assessing their usability. If one finds something useful, one could try to talk with the developers to port it to Sailfish (although I see the usual issues with that, especially since the store still does not support paid apps). I know, not the cleanest solution, but maybe the most realistic?

If all of those do not work out, maybe we really should start a collaborative project trying to create such free support?

sidv ( 2014-11-27 23:16:54 +0300 )edit

answered 2015-02-23 15:20:48 +0300

vaa gravatar image

Pens for others here and here from this enthuisastic review. I'd find good pen-support, be it only in-app, for drawing and pressure-sensitivity, handwriting recognition, painting & retouch very tempting. Imo, a hardware keyboard + pen would make Jolla a great machine for real work beyond novelty and cahracter :-)

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Just for record, the Nokia 7710 , running on Symbian serie 90s, had an efficient handwriting tool. Probably proprietary ?

Nokia7710 ( 2015-02-23 21:47:05 +0300 )edit

answered 2015-04-18 22:32:09 +0300

Taran gravatar image

Andf now Google are at it:

I have been using iPads for a little while now and the more I do so the more convinced I am that handwriting is still the best input method we have. The lack of skill of the average youth is down to the grossly inefficient and inconvenient input methods we currently have. I put it to you all again, the best, most compact and most convenient input tool is the pen. Maximum screen real estate, minimum input device size. Compare a pen with a keyboard for portability, and compare a pen with an on-screen keyboard for usability, the ability to almost instantly create any character from any human alphabet, or any symbol, on the screen.

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answered 2015-01-19 14:16:20 +0300

Taran gravatar image

It would appear that Apple may be looking into handwriting too.

The more I get to use tablets the more frustrating I find the input mechanism. Screen keyboards on phones are horrible. The Jolla phone keyboard is quite bad as you need to be very accurate with your keyboard taps. Most of my posts have crazy typos, which makes using an onscreen keyboard an exercise in frustration, not to mention the fact that half your screen is hidden.

A pen style input is the most compact method of data input available today. it is simply that we don't have good enough software to handle handwriting input ... yet.

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That's rumors, regarding Apple and a stylus, I distrust that.

But yes, one reason I bought the Jolla phone was, that it had the possibility of adding a hardware keyboard. Unfortunately, the TOH keyboard by Dirk is too large for my tastes and I got used to a Lastu Case for my Jolla. So, I will probably buy a bluetooth keyboard which I will then share between Jolla phone and tablet. Makes me sad.

the_mgt ( 2015-01-20 01:14:49 +0300 )edit

It may well be rumour, but it would still make the iPad more useful. I was thinking more along the lines of pen/stylus input for tablets rather than phones. Phone screens (except perhaps phablets) are just too small. But a tablet screen of about 200mm or larger is fine for writing on. An on-screen keyboard takes up half the space on the screen and a real keyboard negates the advantages of a tablet. It is just another bit of largish stuff to carry around. A stylus/pen is small, compact and readily portable. It is also the main way humans have been recording information for thousands of years.

Taran ( 2015-01-20 01:55:05 +0300 )edit

And, of course, here it is, the rumour made real... The most compact, the most flexible, the most portable and the most ergonomic input device for a human to use outside of direct brain connection. All you need is the right software libraries...

Taran ( 2015-10-02 22:53:48 +0300 )edit

answered 2015-06-15 20:08:24 +0300

PetrK gravatar image

What about this project - Phree? Seems promising, because of different technology than ordinary stylus. I think, main problem could be handwriting recognition.

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answered 2015-12-01 00:51:22 +0300

Tholla gravatar image

I don't know much about app developing. What i know is that apps for Sailfish could be written in Qt / Qml. Now i found this blog post:

Means that, that now handwriting recognition is possible and "only" the code must be ported to Sailfish?

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Asked: 2014-11-21 22:25:13 +0300

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Last updated: Dec 01 '15