Monday, November 1, 2004

CalliGrapher 7.4 gives you natural handwriting recognition


By Tim Hillebrand

I remember a few years back marveling at how strokes on a Palm device could be converted to text. But I can also remember thinking how clumsy it seemed when the Graffiti writing system required you to learn a whole new inscription method. Wouldn't it be wonderful, I thought, if you could just write in your normal fashion anywhere on the screen, and it would magically turn to text? Nah, that would be asking too much! But CalliGrapher, from PhatWare, has been doing just that for some time now, and does it even better with their new release of CalliGrapher 7.4. It really seems magical the way it works.

CalliGrapher gives you natural handwriting recognition on your Windows-powered Pocket PC in versions from 2000 and above. It also works on Pocket PC phones. Amazingly, you can even write in a mixture of styles that include combinations of cursive or print. If that's not enough in itself, you also get a spell checker. Pen Commander comes with the new version and enables you to create macros by writing a key word and circling it to make data entry faster and more efficient.

While CalliGrapher, shown in Figure A, works in a variety of languages, each language is sold as a separate module. Once installed, a simple pen gesture will switch to another language. With the release of version 7.4 three new Scandinavian languages are available for the first time: Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish.


Handwriting recognition works surprisingly well. (click for larger image)

Should you need to need access to a keyboard while in CalliGrapher, an excellent one is at your command with a single tap. Only nine icons may be displayed on the tool bar at any one time, but 36 different commands are available, and you can change them to display your favorites.

New features

There are several new features in version 7.4. The auto corrector works on the fly, as you type, similar to the same function in desktop word processors such as Word. Now margins are recognized and can be adjusted. One problem I've noted is that while you can set a large page size, the page may scroll while you are still writing and half your word ends up at the bottom of the new page, which can be annoying. The developers have also given us a whole new set of handsome graphics with high-resolution tool bars. The 40 line limit of PenCommander has been removed. This lets you produce a whole boilerplate document with a simple gesture. Think of the possibilities!

The new version of CalliGrapher also provides support for multiple configurations, which can store such parameters as recognition options, keyboard layout, custom keyboard layout, letter shapes, and ink options, customizable soft keyboard, customizable toolbar, reduced memory footprint, improved ink flow and recognition and more.