I’m ready for my next Tablet PC Challenge

Thursday, October 27th, 2005
Inspired by this post, I've decided to challenge myself to see if I can effectively use my Tablet PC as a total replacement for pen, paper, and books. Next week, I start an intense 8-week business law course and I've decided to use this course as the subject of my next Tablet PC challenge. My objective is to determine what the benefits/drawbacks of using a TabletPC as my sole tool (to replace pen, paper, and yes, even Post-Its) for the next 10 weeks.  I've previously blogged about scanning and annotation tools. Now, I'm going to see if I can live with all of these tools in an intense way for the next two months. I figure this will be the tipping point for my use of a Tablet PC. Through this experiment, I'm certain to find things that I like, things that I dislike, and hopefully, a suitable collection of tools and best practices to help me use the Tablet in the most efficient way possible.

Why am I doing this? Well, for the past few months, I've used my Tecra M4 more as a laptop than a tablet. Some of this is due to the software issues I've previously reported. Some of this is because I got out of the habit of using the tablet after the various systems problems.

I still believe in the Tablet PC as a computing platform for the future. The question, for me, is whether or not it's truly a viable and productive tool for the present - at least my present.

That said, I'm going to take the next few days to reacquaint myself with the Tablet PC and the four applications that I plan to use for this evaluation: OneNote, MindManager, Adobe Acrobat, PDF Annotator. and the  I will also revisit various blogs, such as Chris Pratley's OneNote blog, to learn about some of the best practices for the use of each of these applications on a Tablet PC.
If you would like to offer me comments, recommendations, or tips on using my Tablet PC and the above applications as the total replacement for pen, paper, post-its, and books, or if you would like to offer me any advice for a beginning law student, please post here or click on the link above to send me an e-mail. My time's limited, so any shortcuts would be greatly appreciated.
In many ways, I expect that this challenge to myself will be much more difficult - especially getting rid of Post-Its. I suppose this is like a diet (another challenge on my someday list) in that I need to get past the first 30-days to build a strong habit. :-)
I want to acknowledge the many people, some of them popular bloggers, who have been kind enough to offer support and encouragement and advice as I've dealt with past challenges. You know who you are. Thank you! I've learned a great deal from many of you, and I hope to contribute back to the community by sharing what I learn through this challenge.
I do not expect that at the end of this two-month trial my conclusion will be that the Tablet PC is the perfect replacement for pen and paper - I'm not sure there is one. I don't expect that I will necessarily be more productive using only the Tablet PC either, in fact, I suspect that in some ways I may be less productive. My goal, and the objective of this experiment, is to learn where I can make the most productive use of this technology.

I've got several clients among my readers. I know that they, too, are watching to see what will happen. I'm just as curious as they are.

I'll try to blog on a regular basis.

Discussion/Comments (13):

I’m ready for my next Tablet PC Challenge


I have been trying a similar experiment with Grad School this fall. Books are the biggest challenge. Too hard to scan in the volume I have to read weekly. Otherwise it has been great. I have almost totally lost paper at work. My 2¢ worth.

Posted at 10/27/2005 18:22:07 by Karl

I’m ready for my next Tablet PC Challenge

Good luck, I'm anxious to hear how you fare. Have you taken a look at GoBinder 2006? The little I've used the beta 've been very impressed.


Posted at 10/28/2005 3:55:35 by Fred Beiderbecke

I’m ready for my next Tablet PC Challenge

Here's a work around for your Post-it withdrawal problem: try the Post-it software from 3M. The latest version is optimized for the tablet and is really quite a lovely implementation. I stopped using it last year when I first got my tablet, then about a month ago just out of idle curiosity I checked for updates, and now I can't live without it. Moreover, it's just $25.

Here's the link:

{ Link }

Enjoy. Cheers!

Posted at 10/28/2005 6:09:03 by Julie

re: I’m ready for my next Tablet PC Challenge

Thanks, Fred, for the encouragement. I've looked at GoBinder briefly. I plan to start with Microsoft OneNote - I want to see how practical the audio recording while note-taking feature is. I'll keep you posted.


Posted at 10/28/2005 10:29:11 by Eric Mack

re: I’m ready for my next Tablet PC Challenge

I don't know whether to thank you or not for linking to that post-it program. Part of my idea of self-deprival from post-its was to see if I could find and train myself to use something more efficient - assuming such thing exists. Nonetheless, I'll probably have a look at the program you linked. Thanks!

Posted at 10/28/2005 10:31:46 by Eric Mack

I’m ready for my next Tablet PC Challenge

Are you going to be using an TabletPc/PocketPC combo to go paperless? Personally, I have to stick with paper, at least at work. I'm a part time painting contractor so i keep a little water proof riteintherain notebook and a fisher bullet space pen in my pocket. The notebook can wishtand rain and any pocket water/sweat i throw at it yet is cheap enourh to replace if lost or droped in a paint can and never needs batteries. Also i can rip sheets out whenever i need. The bullet space pep is shiny, cleanable, rugged, small, never leaks and can write underwater, over grease, upside down and in outer space. Untill my tablet can do those things I will will need paper to jot down on the spot notes in places where my tecra m4 dare not tread. My tablet is great for college though. Even for people going paperless like you i woulds still recomend having paper in case of an emergency, they can happen even to the best of us.

Posted at 10/28/2005 10:32:26 by mpteach

I plan to carry paper as a backup

Mike, I'll have a notepad in my briefcase - just in case. I hope not to have to use it. Again, I have no expectation that this experiment will result in my conclusion that it is possible to compeletely eliminate paper & pen./ I simply want to puch myself to see what I can learn from the experience. 8 weeks is short enough that I'm willing to give it a serious try. of course, if productivity drops too far, then I'll pull out the legal pad. Eric

Posted at 10/28/2005 10:34:09 by Eric Mack

I’m ready for my next Tablet PC Challenge

I'm keeping a little side project out of personal interest on electronic paper - the link on the web site goes there.

In my personal attempts to minimize paper periodically I have found that having a full-size capture device is not enough - it is also mighty handy to have a pocket-size device that can be ready at hand for when it's too cumbersome to pull out a keyboard. (My phone takes care of that.)

Electronic paper is a really difficult problem. Paper has quite a few affordances - lightweight, disposable, freeform text is all ready to do. It's great as a capture tool, and not bad as an archival tool so long as you invest some in organization. But I do applaud you for picking one thing and sticking with it long enough to get good at it and to see where the good and bad bits are.

Posted at 10/28/2005 11:06:11 by Edward Vielmetti

You may want to install activewords

You may want to install activewords { Link } to improve your tablet productivity. It really speeds up simple processes - try using their InkPad software.

Posted at 10/28/2005 11:59:54 by Tom Quinn

Tom Activewords is part of my toolkit

Thanks for the recommendation, Tom. Buzz stopped by the Digital Sandbox a few months ago to show off the new ActiveWords for ink. See the-activewords-team-does-it-in-ink

Posted at 10/28/2005 12:57:13 by Eric Mack

I’m ready for my next Tablet PC Challenge

Thanks for doing this. I am getting ready to purchase my first tablet, with the idea that I can limit taking books and using paper in class. I love new technology, so if i could scan in my books and annotate over and next to them without taking too much time from my already laborious schedule, it would seem to boost productivity!

Of course this is all in theory, so you have chosen to be the guinea pig for all of us paperless dreamers. And it doesn't go unappreciated. what scanner are you using? I hear the optibook scanner is great.

Posted at 11/01/2005 19:08:09 by Chris Pyle

I’m ready for my next Tablet PC Challenge

I've been using my tablet for about 8 months. The "sidenotes" feature in OneNote serves as a good replacement for "Post-its".

I find I've been able to use my Toshiba R10 in tablet mode most of the time. I take notes in meetings, convert many of my "important" paper documents to PDF so I can have access to them when I need them. I'm even able to use it in Tablet mode for my photography hobby. Internet access is the worst. The handwriting recognition doesn't do well with URL's.

I use OneNote and Outlook for organizing notes. Although I like ACDSee for organizing photos, it doesn't play well with tablets and I tend to use FastStone. ACDSee (and XNView) does have the ability to preview PDF files.

I find it very handy to organize all the PDF's I have on my computer. Unlike the organizer in Adobe Reader, I can keep PDF's in any directory and still get a readable preview. Photoshop CS works pretty well with tablets. Still haven't quite moved to a complete paperless solution for my office, but that may be comming soon.

Posted at 12/24/2005 9:41:14 by Gary

I’m ready for my next Tablet PC Challenge

There is a program on the Macintosh called Voodoo Pad. It is a Wiki/database that handles nearly any format seemlessly (it handled everything I gave it, html, word.docs, jpeg, png, gif, sound, movies, txt) I was hoping to find something simular for tablet pc.

Posted at 02/06/2006 18:44:21 by Edd

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