The Holy Grail of software for anyone using a digitizer or a tablet PC for notetaking is a program that will accurately transform their chicken-scratch into legible text that can then be edited in a standard word processor. For a reasonable $29.95, Evernote looks to assist in those situations with ritePen 3.0, a handwriting-recognition application that allows users to write anywhere on the display of a tablet or whiteboard using a digital pen.
Set Up and Ease of Use
It took very little effort to get started: we simply installed the software, fired it up, and connected a Wacom Bamboo pen tablet ($79) to a Lenovo ThinkPad T61 notebook. A small, floating mini-toolbar let us toggle the digital ink on or off (you can also use the taskbar icon if you prefer), select the thickness of the ink strokes as well as color, and import entries into the ritePen's dictionary from Microsoft Word. You can also choose from various languages (English, French, German, Italian, Russian, Spanish); ritePen automatically switches the recognition language when users switch their system's keyboard to a supported language.
When we scribbled sentences into Microsoft Word and URLs into Firefox 3, we were impressed with the accuracy of the software, as it was able to identity and convert the majority of our handwriting into text. On the odd occasion when it couldn't read our inputs, ritePen offered suggestions. Even better is that ritePen 3.0 gives Tablet PC users the freedom to write anywhere on the display--not just within designated text boxes.
The software is also smart enough to recognize when we weren't writing. Upon launching Microsoft Paint, ritePen 3.0 let us draw freely, without attempting to convert our strokes into text. However, sometimes when we would attempt to use the scroll bar on a Web page, we ended up marking it with digital ink. In those instances we had to turn ritePen 3.0 off to navigate successfully.
No Keyboard Needed
This digital pen also supports advanced gestures that eliminate the need to touch the keyboard. We were able to add line breaks, backspace, cut and paste text, and perform other traditional keyboard functions using only the digital pen (ritePen's Web site has a short but informative tutorial). Double-tapping a word highlights it, while dragging the cursor icon across a series of words allowed us to select sentences and paragraphs. It all worked quite smoothly, but selecting text was confusing at first; it takes a second or two for the familiar black block to appear, which initially made us believe we were crossing out text instead.
We were also able to create shortcuts in the Settings menu by clicking the Macros tab and assigning a letter, word, or phrase to an application. For example, we launched Outlook by writing the letters "OE" and circling them.
ritePen 3.0 Verdict
While we would like to see Mac compatibility, for $29.95 the ritePen 3.0 for Windows (a free, 30-day trial is available) is an excellent application for adding handwriting recognition and several other useful tools to your PC. Graphic artists, or anyone who would prefer using a pen as an input method, will find ritePen 3.0 a very nice alternative to the traditional keyboard.