Some Tips to Get More Out of Your Vista Tablet PC

I’ve often said that it is the applications that you install on your tablet that make it will return the most value.  However, having said that there is a lot that you can do to Vista out of the box that will give you a better pen experience.

Here are my top tips for getting more out of Vista on your tablet.


First up – you need to improve your handwriting recognition.  There are several things you can do to increase the percentage of your handwriting that is correctly recognised.

  1. Proactively train the handwriting recognition engine.  This can be  done in two ways, as shown in the screen shot below (click for a larger image).
    I recommend doing the second option first – this runs through a wizard that takes about 20 minutes.  the wizard presents a number of sentences that you write in your normal handwriting.  The information is collected during the session and then updates the recogniser engine.  The first option can be used to focus on specific characters that you are having a problem with.
  2. Write in cursive.  I know – it sounds weird, but it is true.  Cursive (or joined up) writing is easier for the recogniser to process.  In essence, the fewer strokes that make up a word, the better the recogniser will be able to process it.
  3. As Rob posted recently, turn on Personalised Handwriting Recognition and Automatic Learning.  Personalised Handwriting Recognition adds words that are in emails you create to the recogniser.  This means that if you have typed something like a place name that might not be in the dictionary you have a better chance of it being correctly recognised when you write it in the TIP or in an ink aware application like Journal.  Automatic learning means that every time you pick an alternate when correcting something in the TIP the recogniser is updated.  There is an important point to note here – if you use a scratch-out gesture in the TIP or erase the ink and then write it again, the recogniser is not updated.  Look to see if there is an alternate.

You can also improve the way you navigate with the pen.  Here’s how:

  1. Turn on Pen Flicks. By default you get Navigational Flicks, which allow you to page up and page down the active window by flicking the pen up or down; and Forward and Back by flicking the pen to the right or left.
  2. Go one further and turn on Editing Flicks as well as shown below:
  3. If you have problems with getting the flicks to work, drop the sensitivity a bit.  It can make a world of difference.
  4. Remember you don’t need to keep the defaults – I know some people who don’t want to have delete available as a flick, just in case.  Personally I think with Undo there as well, you can’t do too much damage but a fun alternative is replace one of the diagonal flicks with the keys to bring up Windows Flip 3d.  To do this:
    • hit the Customize button on the Flicks tab of the Pen and Input Devices control panel applet (as shown above). 
    • click the drop down next to the flick you want to replace and select Add…
    • Enter a Name in Name field and then click in the Keys field.  Hold down control and windows keys and press tab.  The result should look like the shot below, click Save:
  5. It’s not all about flicks – another navigation tip is to remember to use the panning hand in Internet Explorer!  Look for the hand icon in the menubar. 
    Click that and you can drag the page up and down with your pen.
  6. >

    Another way Vista adds value is that you can have multiple actions assigned to most hardware buttons.  For most buttons you can assign an action to the button being pressed and an second action to pressing and holding the button.  This effectively doubles the number of things you can do with hardware buttons but most hardware manufacturers don’t take advantage of this.


    1. Add press and hold actions to your tablet’s hardware buttons.  Here’s some suggestions:
      • Launch the Mobility Center – this gives you quick access to a bunch of useful tools.  (There is also a keyboard shortcut for this Windows Key+X)
      • Launch Windows Flip or Windows Flip 3D – depending on which your graphics processor supports.  I have this assigned to the press and hold action for the center button of my D-Pad.  This means that if I want to switch to a different window that what is in front I just hold the center button, then use the direction buttons on the D-Pad to select the window I want, then press the center button again to select it.  This means I can quickly switch between windows on my slate using just the D-Pad.
      • Turn the display off.  Having a quick way to turn the screen off is a great way to squeeze the most life out of your battery.  Some tablets don’t seem to like using a press and hold action for this and they will turn the display off and then come straight back on.  On my X60 I’ve remapped the rotate button to rotate on press and hold and I use the press to turn the display off.


      A little performance can go a long way – even if you don’t think you need things to run faster, less CPU cycles will use less power.


      1. Warner posted about this – double the height of the taskbar.  This actually provides slightly better performance because the graphics process or does not have to deal with the edge of the Start Orb overlapping the bottom of windows.

      Last but not least – tweak the TIP for speed!   Not everyone likes this, but I find it much more efficient.

      1. Insert text by pointing at insert.  In the tools menu at the top of the TIP select Options.  On the Settings tab select “Pointing to the Insert Button inserts the text”
      2. Open the TIP by pointing at it.  Also in the tools menu at the top of the TIP select Options, then the Opening tab.  Select “Point to the Input Panel icon or tab to open the Input Panel.
      3. Get the input panel tab out of your way when in laptop mode – still on the opening tab clear the “Show the Input Panel tab when the pen is out of range” checkbox.  Note – don’t do this on a touch screen!

      That’s a baker’s dozen of tips to help you get more from your tablet.  It was getting to be a bit of a long post – so if you want more detail on any of the tips leave a comment and I’ll do a follow-up how to post.  Happy inking.