The Tao of Tablet PC
I’m going to deviate from my regular All SharePoint, All The Time programming to pontificate about one of my other obsessions – Tablet PC. Admittedly, I’m a latecomer to the whole inking experience – I started using Tablet PC for the firs time earlier this year. Funny thing is, it’s kinda like SharePoint – you hear people talk about it, you read a few blogs, you wonder what all the fuss is about, then you try it and BANG! You’re hooked.
My first Tablet was an Asus R1F. I took the Tablet plunge for purely business reasons. In my role as Chief Cook and Bottle Washer at BinaryWave, it’s my responsibility to meet with clients, do requirements gathering, write up proposals, author specs and reqs, and generally do all the pre-and post-sale stuff that bores developers to tears. I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve wasted over the last few years scribbling notes on a pad then transferring them to documents and Visio diagrams. I recall counting them up one month and coming to a total of more than forty – that’s a lot of non-billable time spent duplicating work.
So my goal was simple – get my notes and diagrams into digital form the first time around so I don’t have to duplicate my efforts. Post the files to a SharePoint project site so the dev team can access them and clients can update them. Simple, efficient, effective. There are really only two tools to get this done – Tablet PC and Office OneNote 2007.
It’s unfortunate that Tablet PC doesn’t get more recognition in the market and that OneNote is mostly overlooked by just about everyone. These two tools have changed my work life more than just about anything except, well, SharePoint. As I write this post on my new Fujitsu T4220 Tablet, I find it hard to imagine how I ever got anything done before my conversion to the Inking lifestyle.
Here is just a quick example of how Tablet PC has changed my life. Just a few weeks ago I was on a flight to Chicago crammed into steerage with a gazillion other hapless travellers. As anyone with more than 100,000 frequent flier miles knows, the one flight in which you absolutely have to get something done is the same flight in which the thoughtless zombie in front of you decides to lean their seat all the way back and have a nice snooze at your expense. Ever tried to open a full-size notebook on a tray table at 30,000 feet when it’s fully reclined? Ain’t no work gonna happen, my friend, unless you’ve got arms like an octopus.
So what does one do in this situation? In my case, I flipped the tray table up, spun my screen around, and proceeded to start stepping through some code I was trying to debug in Visual Studio. Now, I’ll admit that it’s not easy to write code while scribbling on the screen, but I solved a problem that had been plaguing me for days whereas I otherwise would have been forced to shut my computer down and seethe in frustration. If that isn’t worth jumping on the Tablet PC bandwagon, I don’t know what is.
I could go on and on. About spinning the screen around to show a client a quick demo in the back of a cab. Or taking notes in a lunch meeting, drawing out a quick solution to the problem, then emailing it to the dev team to code the fix before dessert arrives (let’s not also forget the life-saving goodness of Cingular’s 3G network and wireless PC cards). Or being able to catch up on all the blog posts I’ve missed for the last week while riding in packed car on the London Underground (just try that without a convertible tablet, I dare you).
Tablet PC isn’t for everyone. It requires a certain commitment to the platform and learning a new way of interacting with your computer. But with the built-in tablet features in Vista and the plethora of third-party utilities, it sure comes close the perfect computing experience for some (myself included). So if you’re looking for a way to increase your productivity and effectiveness, give it a try. You never know, you might get hooked on it, too.