Wednesday, December 1, 1999

Improve handwriting recognition with Calligrapher 5.3


By Clifford Brooks

As of late, there's been a lot of noise in the press regarding handheld computing, much of it steering in the direction of the Palm Computing camp, with major announcements and alliances becoming the norm.

Then there's Windows CE and the fate of the Palm-sized PC. If you believe the naysayers and the Microsoft detractors (yes Virginia,, they are legion), then you're probably wondering how Microsoft is going to get out of the mess they've created. On the other hand, if you use a Palm-sized PC on a regular basis, you've probably gotten over that. Even if your use rarely taxes the limits of your device, you've no doubt recognized the power and potential of Windows CE.

So this article is not about preaching to the masses but, rather, singing Windows CE's praises. But that's not to say the operating system doesn't need work. On the contrary, there are definite weak spots that will, in all likelihood, be addressed in the next version. After all, Microsoft appears to be listening. And that bodes well for both Windows CE and its user base.

Most importantly, third-party offerings have already addressed most of our concerns, and admirably so I might add. So where does that position us? Well, from my vantage, we're doing pretty well. We've got an arguably facile operating system. We have the wealthiest company in the world backing it. We also have a cadre of third-party maestros, and a hell of a lot of promise.

And then there's Calligrapher

Calligrapher was released during the early part of the Windows CE lifecycle, and has been upgraded in tandem with the releases from Redmond. Personally, I believe Calligrapher to be the most important weapon in the Microsoft artillery.

Calligrapher is a handwriting recognition program that allows you to write entire sentences in your own handwriting. In addition, it features a keyboard so that those pesky special characters can be input with ease. One of the coolest things about Calligrapher is the fact that it doesn't need to be trained. It just works, and works well.

I purchased Calligrapher about a year ago, and though I was impressed with its features and functionality, it was only about 70 percent accurate with my handwriting. Impressive, but not good enough to use as my input method of choice. It just required too much correction. Then, a couple of months back, the fine folks at Vadem/Paragraph released a free upgrade to Calligrapher 5.3. I had nothing to lose.

Calligrapher 5.3 added the aforementioned keyboard, but more importantly, the accuracy of the recognition engine was vastly improved. Now, instead of 70 percent accuracy, I tend to get somewhere in the neighborhood of 95 percent. Amazing! I was in heaven. With 95 percent accuracy and the ability to write entire sentences rather than single characters, the functionality of my Palm-sized PC expanded beyond my expectations. Suddenly, the glorified organizer with the nifty bonus features began to fulfill the title of Palm-sized PC. Note-taking became a possibility. Creating a digital diary became a must. Generating meaningful data on the fly became a reality.