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How I use a Tablet PC



Xavier mentioned in my intro that I am lucky enough to have access to all kinds of Tablet PCs on a daily basis. And I do enjoy getting to try out so many different Tablets. When Xavier asked me to write about how I use a Tablet PC, I have to admit that I had to think about it… It really has become second nature to me now.

I started using Tablet PCs in 2002 soon after Microsoft launched its take on the pen computing platform. My first Tablet PC was a Compaq TC1000, which to be honest was a bit disappointing. It was way underpowered and frustrating to use, however I upgraded to the TC1100 soon after it came out and never looked back. I used a TC1100 with docking station exclusively for about 5 years.

For years when I was in public with the TC1100 I was approached and asked, “what is that?” – an experience that I have found is pretty common amongst Tablet users. The next question was invariably, “where can I get one?”

For years I felt that there was not a satisfactory answer to that question, so I decided to start in 2005. My brother Mathew and I now both travel around Australia demonstrating and selling Tablet PCs to businesses of all sizes as well as lots of government agencies. Over the last few years we have sold countless Tablet PCs to government departments like the Australian Defence Force, CSIRO, the state police forces, many local councils, and hospitals. We’ve deployed Tablets for customers from large mining companies like Rio Tinto to small businesses, but only a few to consumers.

In the last year, we have seen a massive upturn in interest in Tablet PCs to the point that we cannot keep up with the number of inquiries that come in through our website every week. Tablet PCs are indeed very hot right now!

So let me tell you about how I use a Tablet PC, and I’ll start by saying that my printer does not get much use. In fact it was out of toner for a couple of months until my wife insisted that she needed to print something last week.

I usually start my day off making breakfast and turning on a tablet – usually a new model Motion C5. I used to go into the office first thing to check on emails and I would never make it back for breakfast. So first up I’d say that Tablet PC has improved my diet!

I travel a lot, and I rely on a slate Tablet PC as a mobile office. I generally work from the Motion C5 exclusively when away. The C5 does look a bit strange, but I just love the screen, power and form factor.

I’ve become quite proficient at using the TIP (Tablet Input Panel) in Windows 7 and I find that I usually score 35 – 40 WPM on a typing speed test. Whilst it’s not quite as fast as typing on a physical keyboard (at least for me), I know that it is a much faster method of input than a virtual keyboard when mobile. I think that the TIP is still one of the best kept secrets in IT.

So I’m using Tablet PCs on planes, trains and automobiles. I’m often writing articles, commenting on blogs or sending emails while I’m moving.  Over the last 12 months I have been really drawn to the Motion Computing Tablet PCs because of their awesome Hydis AFFS+ display. I never have to worry about lighting, I can just see it everywhere in full color and I love that. I think “view anywhere” displays are really important for a truly mobile work tablet.

All of our Tablet PCs have embedded 3G / mobile broadband in them so I can be connected in most places and we are very fortunate to have exceptional 3G network coverage here in Australia without all the fuss of lock-in contracts.

Since I run a Microsoft Small Business Server, my email, CRM and files are centralised and available to whatever device I have with me, including my iPhone and now iPad. So my whole office is with me 24×7 on a Tablet PC and I truly do work anywhere! On any given day I could be working behind the wheel of a rental car (when it’s stopped of course), in a hotel room or out in the backyard on a nice beautiful Melbourne day like today. As long as my battery is charged I have access to everything that I need in my business!

Some of the other things l use a tablet for:

  • Signing and annotating documents – mainly PDFs (using Bluebeam REVU) and Microsoft Word
  • Using the Windows snipping tool for sending instructions and help to customers
  • Writing blog ideas and articles in OneNote – ideas seem to flow so much better with a pen and digital ink than a keyboard
  • Mind Mapping
  • Reconciling my bank account – Crossing off as you go, it’s something that you really need to do on paper – so why not digital paper?
  • Doodling and sketching when I’m bored
  • Browsing the web – Steve Jobs is right, a tablet is by far the best way to experience the web – does it matter if it’s not his tablet?

Tablet PC software that I can’t live without:

  • Office 2010 – especially OneNote and Outlook / Exchange
  • BlueBeam PDF Revu – fantastic product for Tablet PC users, especially in those construction
  • Windows 7 and Internet Explorer 8
  • Mindjet Mindmanger 8
  • Paint.NET
  • Kindle for PC
  • Alcohol 52% for virtual CD/DVDs and plenty more…

My current crop of Tablets:

  • Motion J3400, C5 and F5 – Awesome fast active digitizer slates with amazing displays
  • Gigabyte T1028 – Netbook with a great 92% physical keyboard and a touch screen
  • Viliv X70 and S5 – I often use the S5 for accessing external files and media playing in the car (with a 60Gb media library)
  • iPad and iPhone 3GS

Tablets I just sold:

  • Motion LE1700 – to a Royal Australian Air Force FA18 instructor
  • HP Tc1100 – I had 4 or 5 of these over time and I just sold the last one – hard to let go of – my favourite tablet concept to data in my opinion with a great set of accessories
  • Samsung Q1U

I also just reluctantly sent back a loan HP Tm2 and a Fujitsu T4310 – I will be getting these in permanently soon. I’ve had many other Tablets including the Toshiba M750, HP 2730p and Lenovo X200t which are all awesome Tablets. I’ve decided to go for a Fujitsu T900 to replace my desktop soon. I’m also awaiting an iPad (all the way from USA because it’s not coming to Australia for a couple of months) and I will certainly be picking up an exciting new lightweight Windows 7 slate later in the year… Can’t wait to tell you about it!

The way I use a Tablet PC is probably very different to the way you do, and what I hope to achieve with is to hear and share some of your experiences with Tablet PCs. As Tablet enthusiasts, its up to us to make sure that the true story about Tablet PCs is heard!

Xavier started a thread recently at the Gottabemobile forum recently where you can post your ideas on what Tablet PCs are good for, so if you haven’t already make sure you get on over to the forum and add a post!

– Handwritten draft created with Microsoft OneNote 2010.



  1. Randall Garrett

    04/20/2010 at 2:41 pm

    Hi Brett,

    Well written piece. You sound like a man after my own heart. FWIW, my iPad is in Perth this week at the API’s Australian Property Conference but will be in Emerald, just outside Melbourne, for a while before being returned. We are tablet enthusiasts and you may want to contact our Darrell Cann down under ( I’d bet you would find a lot in common to talk about… ;-)

    -Randall Garrett-
    ..Apex Software..

    • Brett Gilbertson

      04/21/2010 at 7:07 am

      Thanks Randall. I do know Darrell and have even sold a few licences of Apex Nexus! It is a great product for Tablet users who need to do technical drawing in the field… The ink input is a really great example of how to develop for Tablet PCs… I must get a video together on that soon!

      Say G’day to Darrell!

  2. double_o_don

    04/20/2010 at 3:04 pm

    I think that you will enjoy and appreciate the T900.

    I received mine yesterday and am loving it.

    I finally gave up waiting for the return of hi-res screens and acquiesed to the current industry mindset.

    It is my first new tablet since acquiring my first M1400 when they were introduced.

    My goal, much like yours, is to push as close to paper-free as is possible.

    I look forward to your future posts on GBM.

  3. Alex

    04/20/2010 at 5:46 pm

    Great article, Brett.

    I’ve read that OneNote 2010 is worse than 2007 because the ribbon takes up too much space. Are there things about OneNote 2010 that you like better than in OneNote 2007? Do they outweigh the ribbon issue?

    • Brett Gilbertson

      04/20/2010 at 6:30 pm

      Thanks Alex, yes the Ribbon does take up a bit of space. It hides easily though and I just got used to it…

      I actually like the consistency across apps now… Apart from that I don’t see much change.

      • gop_07

        04/21/2010 at 1:43 am

        I got used to keep the ribbon hidden, as everything I need is in the customized tiny toolbar under the menu tabs.
        ON 2010 is not so different from 2007, but still it is far better: it is just more flexible, handles better math, better exporting to word, better searching etc., and I can’t wait for the web app!
        Anyway, your paper-free experience is inspiring. I’m still holding for my first tablet pc: lightweight and extremely long battery life are absolutely necessary for me, but maybe I finally found a candidate (HP TM2).

  4. Nameless

    04/21/2010 at 3:46 am

    My main uses for a Tablet PC all involve going paperless. I just can’t stand paper from a student standpoint-it means cluttered notes that aren’t as easy to duplicate and much easier to lose, not to mention big, heavy textbooks. If only I had one in my high school days…

    OneNote is currently my single must-have app, and it helps that my university pretty much just shipped it to me along with the rest of Office 2007 at no additional charge (besides the expensive tuition, anyway). I just write in it, and it just saves it without plain text conversion, like paper-only I can easily search and edit the ink as it is. Space is also practically infinite-I don’t have to worry about running into any edges with a bit of scrolling.

    I don’t draw very much at this point (horrible art skills), but I like to dabble in SketchBook Pro every now and then. Free for college/university students on one of Autodesk’s sub-sites, and the interface is built with the Tablet PC in mind. It may lack the raw functionality of something like Photoshop CS5, but it’s also leaner, cheaper (MUCH cheaper), and the interface is delightfully minimalist.

    It’s certainly not my primary gaming machine by a long shot (that’s why I have a custom-built desktop), but I also happen to enjoy playing Crayon Physics Deluxe and World of Goo with the Wacom pen-enough that I probably wouldn’t want to play them with a conventional mouse. It just wouldn’t feel right at all.

    That said, my current and only proper Tablet PC-a Gateway E-295C/C-14*XL-is too bulky and heavy to make a practical slate (especially for digital document viewing), and the viewing angles are rather poor. Combine that with the fact that Windows and most of the software running on it is designed with a keyboard and mouse in mind, and I just use it in laptop mode 90% of the time. (I’d probably use it in slate mode more if I wasn’t in the middle of transferring universities and waiting for the fall semester to start.) I used to have an HP TC1100 that fared better in terms of portability and screen viewing angles (with the BOE Hydis screen), but had to sell that and the docking station I bought for it to afford the E-295C in the first place, as processing power and raw performance are a necessity for me. (Pentium M Dothan 1.1 GHz to Core 2 Duo T9300 2.5 GHz? GeForce 4 Go 420 32 MB to Mobility Radeon X2300 128 MB? How could I resist?)

    I’m getting the notion that I’m actually not using the pen enough, however. Perhaps I should just sit down with the E-295C in slate mode for once and write or draw something. I’ve even considered starting my own ink blog to express myself in a way plain text never could (even if I can touch-type plain text much, much faster).

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