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Misleading Courier Photo Reveals My Years of Deception



Larry O’Brien of Knowing .NET has taken to task the main photo from the latest Courier sneak peek, calling it “misleading” and pointing out that the writing shown on the screen could not have been written at that size. He went so far as to sector the screen and determine that the lettering was only 3mm tall. Yep, no way to write that small, but so what?

O’Brien goes on to concede that it’s “perfectly possible to imagine that what’s shown is a zoomed-out page and that when you’re writing and sketching you’re zoomed in to a much smaller viewport,” but that defies the envisioned usage as a Moleskine notebook. Does it really?

I don’t know about anyone else, but zoom is one of the things I love about journaling in my Tablet PC. No worries about trying to cram all the pertinent data on a single page, though it can be done by expanding the borders if that’s what you want. A digital journal is all about breaking those limits and zoom helps make that happen. If I want to be trapped to a particular size, I’ll write on paper.

To support my point, I present this behind the scenes look at my ink blog, Sumocat’s Scribbles. For years, I’ve been publishing my handwritten entries at sizes smaller than written. Currently, I write at full width across my 14″ tablet at 1440px wide then zoom back out to grab the ink at 640px wide. Zooming in to write and zooming out to read isn’t just “perfectly possible,” it’s what I do every day. If that photo of Courier is misleading, then I’ve been deceiving people for years (except that I shamelessly mention on a regular basis that I write in full-width landscape).

View image to see full size

Via Loren Heiny via Rob



  1. Frank

    03/06/2010 at 8:04 am

    Sumocat, you don’t understand the problem :-)
    You said it yourself: ‘Currently, I write at full width across my 14″ tablet’
    So you write across the whole screen. Great, that’s the way I do it too.
    Sadly that’s impossible with the courier. Just take a look at the photos. You’ll see ‘flow text’ on the right display which is written across the full width of the screen. Sadly, you can’t ink that small. So you have to zoom in. This means, you see only a part of it on your Courier display. So you would have to write four words, then pan the page to the left, write a few words, pan the page to the right, new row, write a few words, pan, write, pan, …
    You can circumvent this by taking your notes in landscape mode, but the Courier isn’t optimized for this.

    So in ‘Book mode’ your notes will never look similar to them on the photos, because you’ll never write, pan horizontally, write, pan horizontally, …

    So in reality, the notes will look much larger, you will fit a lot less informations on the display as the photos imply.

    The photos look as if they’ve taken two 12″ tablet displays, took notes on them, and then resized the photo digitally to courier sized displays.

    But the fact is: Using a courier, you’re notes taken with the courier will look totally different to them shown on the photos.

    • Sumocat

      03/06/2010 at 12:33 pm

      Frank: Actually I understand the problem quite well. Currently I use a 14″ widescreen but formerly I used a 10″ 4:3 1024×768. I’ve done the whole pan, zoom, and rotate routine. I’ve worked on fractions of pages. I’ve written out equations that can’t fit on the screen. It’s tough to maneuver by pen, but I imagine it’s easier with multi-touch gestures.

    • JM

      03/07/2010 at 12:18 am

      It’s meant to be a digital dayplanner that can pull info off the web…nothing more; why make it into more than it is. I think it’s a great tool, but it’s not meant to replace other applications that are already out there. This can be a great tool fro some. But for me personally, it isn’t because I never used my dayplanner when I had one, so makng it digital wouldn’t change anything. Those who use a daylanner well will love this technology as it adds a new layer to how they “plan” and interact via the planner; and their notes will most likely be the same as what you might find in a regular planner. imho

  2. Josh Einstein

    03/06/2010 at 8:09 am

    I think it’s nitpicky if nothing else. We all know small tablets are not comfortable to write on just as small paper pads are not. But I’ll take that over a crappy inkless Crapple iFad any day.

  3. AmbiDextrose

    03/06/2010 at 8:29 am

    I don’t see what the problem is- my handwriting (non-cursive) is ~4mm in height on my aged M4 and it’s still legible according to my colleagues. I do a lot of sketching and note-taking on a 5in x 8in (closed) Moleskine sketchbook when I’m out hiking with my family during the weekends.

    Maybe I’m different because I can scale my handwriting according to the width of the page that’s in front of me but it just feels that people are complaining about the capabilities of a mythical device because they KNOW their handwriting won’t fit on the proposed form factor.

  4. CLC

    03/06/2010 at 9:53 am

    I can write that small with a real pen… Give me enough pixels in a small area and it might be possible with digital ink for me.

  5. AmbiDextrose

    03/06/2010 at 11:05 am

    I think that’s the key- the display, although small, has to have relatively high resolution. This means that each panel will have to have more than 1024×768 resolution (at ~8.6in diagonal).

  6. Larry O'Brien

    03/06/2010 at 12:15 pm

    Just remember that I said _misleading_ and not _impossible_. When you say “We all know” what writing on tablets is like, what you mean is “those of us who’ve used Tablet PCs” which is a much smaller number than those who’ve used PCs and a VASTLY smaller number than those getting sucked up in the excitement about the iPad. Finger input? 768 x 1024? Those of us with Tablets _know_ that that’s not going to cut it (see my initial reaction to the iPad

    I think for formfactors of that size to work, you have to have significantly higher resolution than the 133DPI I had on my Toshiba M200, and _something_ innovative in the way of the stylus / screen. And FWIW, I think you need some UI changes — radar menus, some form of instant zoom. And, for God’s sake, native Ink in Office.

  7. SAM

    03/06/2010 at 12:22 pm

    I write order on a 3″ x 5″ notepad everyday.
    I include sketches and notes. My handwriting is small.
    I’ll have to test to see how many words I can get in a line, but a small device with a stylus would be great for me.
    If you have huge handwriting, then I can see where it would be a problem.

  8. bluespapa

    03/06/2010 at 6:09 pm

    There are a whole host of UI issues with this device, and Larry O’Brien has hit on an important one.

    Another is that I can rarely work with my Tablet PC or UMPC flat down, and while my old Q1 came with two differently angled props, getting just the right angle to see and write takes either special stand or jamming a wallet or book or something behind it–I’m high tech, but I have to jam my hat behind my cool device.

    Writing on a Moleskine is different in part because it doesn’t weigh a pound. And a Moleskine would be easier to write on if you were only writing on the top sheet of a pad. Not what I’d carry around, but it’s what makes steno pads nicer for some people than book-type journals, and you can do it standing up without a table.

    It looks like the sweet spot for me is a half a Courier. With an adjustable stand.

    Shocking to think Sumocat has been using Hollywood-style special effects for his handwriting blogs.

  9. Mark Byrd

    03/07/2010 at 8:13 am

    So the inking is “misleading”…? Hmmm… Point understood, but many times an ad is just an ad, meant to present concept & the flow, etc. I found the iPhone ads VERY misleading when it showed the user surfing the web – c’mon, whose internet is THAT responsive at their desktop, much less over the air…?!? Certainly Apple lied! ;-) Let’s move on… Can’t wait to see the device, IF it comes to market…

  10. DNel

    03/07/2010 at 3:25 pm

    I had to go back to the full picture to see if it was implied that the fingers were creating the notes. The hands were just there holding the courier open and using it like an ebook reader. As with the graphics, I took it that the notes were not created on the courier. Now the person can look over the material with the notes already there AND if he wants can add additional notes which would be larger. Nowhere does it imply to me that the notes were created on the courier and I’m not about to assume that.

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