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Creating Tablet PC Applications with VS .NET

The Tablet PC platform supports applications with special tablet features enabled, such as ink input and pen-based operation. In order for this platform to become truly popular, third-party vendors will also have to ink-enable their applications. Find out how.

n the Fall of 2002, Microsoft introduced Tablet PCs based on the popular Windows XP operating system. By default, this new platform includes applications with special Tablet PC features enabled, such as Ink Input and Pen-based operation. In order for this platform to become truly popular, third-party vendors will also have to ink-enable their applications. Luckily, this is a pretty straightforward task.

Before getting started with the details of developing ink-enabled applications, let's look at the Tablet PC platform for a few paragraphs. After all, tablet-like devices aren't exactly new. You probably already own another tablet-like device, such as a Pocket PC or a palmtop device. Even before these handheld computers gained widespread popularity, there were other efforts, going back to the Apple Newton and devices such as the GRiDPad. Microsoft also made an early attempt at this platform with Windows for Pen Computing, an operating system based on Windows 3x.

Many of the early attempts to create tablet-like devices failed, mostly due to poor hardware performance. Devices were too heavy and, at the same time, not powerful enough to run sophisticated handwriting recognition programs. Battery-life, display quality, and brightness were major hurdles no one seemed able to overcome.

The only tablet-like devices that enjoyed significant success in the market place were (and are) Palm devices and Pocket PCs. These devices differ significantly from Tablet PCs, as they are specialized, small devices designed to be carried around in your pocket. Tablet PCs, on the other hand, are general-purpose computers. They run on the same processors as a laptop, they have large hard drives, and they have as much memory as any other computer. In short, they are pretty much regular computers with a bit of extra functionality.

What Is a Tablet PC?
The most striking feature of Tablet PCs is that the device is flat (simulating a pad of paper) and is operated using a pen. The pen is a rather sophisticated input device that can be used as you would normally use a mouse. The pen also enables handwriting and gestures, which can in turn be recognized as regular input by the Tablet PC OS. Windows XP Tablet PC Edition, a superset of regular Windows XP, supports all of this extra functionality. Hardware manufacturers have to support this functionality by providing technology that can sense the position of the pen on the display, such as integrated digitizers.

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