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Tableteer’s Lament: No Ink in the Cloud for Emails



I don’t ink emails very often. But when I need to, it is a blessing to have that option. Whip out the pen, scribble a quick response and send it off. But the more and more that I transition away from my traditional methods of email correspondence to using GMail as my standard, the further I get away from Outlook. Of course if I’m not using Outlook, (I use Outlook 2007) that means I can’t Ink an email. Of course any other online or cloud email solution yields the same. Windows Live Hotmail certainly doesn’t seem to be planning to offer Inking as an option in the near term either.

So, what’s an Inker to do if he/she wants to use cloud applications for email and still be able to Ink up a response now and then? These are the types of compromises that I hate having to make, and I certainly wish I didn’t have to.



  1. Philip Seyfi

    11/01/2008 at 3:25 pm

    I definitely agree with you and have been thinking of this since I got a Tablet PC recently… I can’t wait to see all online apps compatible with inking :)

    P.S.: Gmail isn’t cloud computing :) (good article about it

  2. C-141XLer

    11/01/2008 at 3:25 pm

    I love to ink emails to relatives and friends. Makes it way more personal, like I dropped a letter into the mail.

    I don’t believe in the cloud, as it is described by most tech people today. I agree with it as a good useful tool, but not to be relied upon. I don’t get internet everywhere. Even my college restricts a lot of ports and applications. When I am somewhere I can’t get net access, I still ink out an email and when I get home Outlook will send it.

    I don’t live by the net, I just use it. I like sitting at the beach and doing my coding, no net available to me because I refuse to cough up another $60 to AT&T or Verizon. AT&T already gets about $130 from me for my cell phone with data and home phone. So if the tools I used were just available in the cloud – AT&T would get their way and another $60 bucks from me. Plus, if it just would not come in for what ever reason, I would not get my calendar, contacts, MS Word or anything else just running from the cloud.

    I follow John C. Dvorak’s ideas on this area. Useful, but not to be relied on for your day to day tools you must have.

    As for syncing across this cloud, I am 100% behind that idea. I do use Google mail which grabs all my email accounts and forwards them to me on my Tilt smart phone, TPC and home computer. Even my college can’t stop that – they do stop Outlook but I can access Google and check my mail or use my Tilt.

    As for Google calendar, I stopped using it because one to many times it dropped appointments or important info I needed for that appointment. Plus, its just darn ugly.

  3. jonathan becker

    11/02/2008 at 10:08 am

    You guys really do run out of intelligent things to say. A smart person enables IMAP or POP to download their e-mail onto their Tablet so they can use Outlook to send ink e-mails. A smart person does not forgo the $100 in TabletPC savvy software for their $2000 computer so they can log into a website to write their messages.

    Just be smart, and think about what you’re saying. This is like those people who complain that there isn’t enough free music to download onto their $300 iPods, even though $300 would buy them all the CD’s they would care to listen to.

    How’s this for an idea, how about lamenting the fact that ONLY OUTLOOK allows for inking e-mails? Personally, I would prefer to use a less bloated, faster program like Thunderbird. But there isn’t any Tablet support there.

  4. Warner Crocker

    11/02/2008 at 1:21 pm

    @jonathan becker: I think you proved my point with your preference for Thunderbird and lamenting the fact that only Outlook allows for Inking in emails.

    And as a smart person, I do exactly as you say. But hey, as an efficient person there are times I don’t want to open Outlook to ink an email and would love to do so while online working in a browser. Looking ahead, I’m also thinking that in penny pinching times, it would be nice to do so without having to drop the cost for a package like Outlook.

  5. Bill Campbell

    11/02/2008 at 10:01 pm

    At least the TIP is getting better with later releases of Windows. While I haven’t found many things about Vista that excite me (or make me hate it like many others for that matter), I have found using the TIP more friendly. Since using Vista, I have done a little more in tablet mode including using the pen for text input in browser based apps than I did with XP Tablet edition.

  6. john s.

    11/03/2008 at 11:07 am

    I am selling wristbands under the WWJBD (what would jonathan becker do) moniker because he just makes sense. Maybe we take this one step further however. While I may be to dense to understand this concept, from what I understand their is a move toward this “cloud” computing that is putting applications on the server side instead of client side. This would allow for only the installation of a web browser and no other “bloated” software. This would allow cross platform applications as well (not sure what it means but I read it somewhere). This makes no sense to me because you still have to log in with a user name and password so it seems like just another website. I just hope we can try to talk all the developers out there into building ink support for their applications instead of persuading a few big names into integrating ink support on their web “sites”…

  7. Michael

    11/03/2008 at 4:12 pm

    I think inking an email is awefully rude.
    Here is why…
    1) email is supposed to be plain text or at least has to offer plain text in order for anybody to be able to read it quickly.
    2) Inking email is like putting post-it all over your monitor
    3) It has no real value to pass along handwritten text, because it is sometimes hard to read for the recipient
    4) Think of when you have email discussions und you reply. Quoting parts of handritten text is difficult.

    This of course would also apply to inking IMs.

    Where do you see the improvent in inking an email directly instead of using the tip and converting to standard text?

    On Gmail: Think about it a seconf time, you got Apple Mail, Outlook, Thunderbird whatever and all are capable of doing IMAP. There is nothing to sync between clients, the data is on the server and you can even work offline if your client supports it. Google Mail does support IMAP. Try it – I think you will like it.

    Well I don’t like all these new “Cloud Computing” approches. For me the world wide web part of the internet is a way to read stuff not to put entire applications on.

    I don’t get the point in writing applications for the browser instead of the running the application standalone. Besides the security issues with storing your communication on some companies servers and the fact that those cloud apps are mostly not open source and therefore are not customizable. I think the only reason web applications exist is because they eliminate the need to think about synchronization.

    Blogs are a good example for where I draw the line. I feel comfortable reading blogs in the browser and commenting is also a feature that I think is okay to have in the browser. However editing the blog is something that I prefer to do with a desktop application.

  8. Warner Crocker

    11/03/2008 at 6:40 pm

    @Michael, good points. The “improvement” is convenience and of the moment. I’m frequently working with my Tablet PC in slate mode taking notes when an email comes in. It may require a simple answer yes, no, see me tomorrow, etc…. Dashing off that quick response in Ink makes all the difference in my workflow.

    BTW, I do use GMail via IMAP and I do like it.

  9. Mark Payton

    11/04/2008 at 12:01 am

    I tend to agree with parts of what lots of folks here have said, but definitely Warner is spot on in his original beef. Of course, what applies to the web (or the “cloud”) still applies far too much to so-called “bloated” local software–ink support is lagging. Blame MS there…

    I am no fan of cloud computing, as I say in my recent two-part screed on HP’s Digital Learning Environments. (The second part is at

    One of the many reasons, though I downplay it, is the utter lack of ink support. Aside from work previously done by Loren Heiny and Sumocat, I don’t know of much happening with ink on the web.

    As for ink in email, there are many reasons for it. Quick sketches of ideas, far better smileys than plain text can give, markups of embedded pictures, edits of previous message content, etc.

    To say that non-text email is rude is quite a throwback to the old Lynx browser days. While small devices may only be able to show text, there is still a definite place for graphic content in email and we shouldn’t be limited to thinking about the least capable systems any more unless they are what we are focusing on. Usually someone sending an ink messages knows the capabilities of the recipient’s system adequately to safely do it.

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