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Panther includes a handwriting recognition feature called Ink, which allows you to provide text input to any application by writing rather than typing. Built on Apple's Recognition Engine (originally the Newton Recognition Engine), Ink requires no special "graffiti" alphabet—though people with messy handwriting may require practice to understand how Ink interprets characters.

When a recognized graphics tablet is plugged into one of your computer's USB ports, an icon called Ink shows up under the Hardware section of the System Preferences. The Ink preferences pane, shown in Figure 3.70, gives you the option to turn handwriting recognition on or off and to change several settings.

Figure 3.70Figure 3.70 Ink allows you to set your keyboard and mouse aside.

Turning on handwriting recognition launches the InkBar, a toolbar that floats on top of all other application windows. From the InkBar, you can toggle between handwriting recognition mode and pointer mode, select common menu commands and keyboard shortcut characters (Command, Shift, Option, Control), or open the InkPad, as shown in Figure 3.71. With the Inkpad open, you can switch between the writing and drawing modes using the buttons at the lower left.

The text or drawings you create in the InkPad can be inserted into other documents. Simply create the content of your choice in the workspace and click the Send button to add it to the active document at the current insertion point. For example, when finished typing a message in Mail, you could sign your name in the drawing view of the InkPad and insert your signature at the bottom of your message. Obviously, the application must support graphics input to accept graphic images.

Figure 3.71Figure 3.71 The InkPad appears below the InkBar to provide a space for you to write or draw.

Although InkPad lets you compose your additions before you add them to a document, you can also write directly into a program. To add text directly to an application, touch the stylus to the tablet to open a writing space with guiding lines and begin writing words. If a writing space doesn't appear, try touching the stylus to the graphics tablet in a different place. Your stylus can also act as a mouse, so some areas of the screen, such as window controls or menus, activate commands instead of opening a writing space.

Ink doesn't require you to learn special letter forms, but you must write linearly as if you were using paper rather than write overlapping letters as you would on a PDA. When you pause, your markings will be converted to text at the top of the writing space. To correct a mistake, draw a long horizontal line from right to left, and the last character disappears. If you have larger sections to delete, switch to the pointer mode in the InkBar, select the part you want to redo, and switch back to writing mode to try again.


Some applications that don't use standard OS X text controls behave unpredictably with Ink's text recognition. If you are using an application in which spaces don't appear between words as needed, try writing your content in the Inkpad and use Send to insert it in the other application.

Ink Preferences

Ink's preferences can be changed to suit individual users' writing styles and increase reliability. The following adjustments can be made under the Settings pane:

  • Allow Me to Write—Choose whether you can write within all programs or only the InkPad.

  • My Handwriting Style Is—Move the slider to describe your handwriting as closely spaced, widely spaced, or somewhere in between.

  • InkPad Font—Set a font for InkPad. For greatest accuracy, Apple recommends keeping the font set to Apple Casual, which contains letter shapes that are the most similar to those recognized by Ink, so that you can model your writing after it.

  • Play Sound While Writing—Check this box to activate the sound of pen scratching against paper while you write.

Clicking the Options button opens a sheet with additional handwriting recognition options, including the amount of delay before writing is converted to type, how much the stylus must move before a stroke is recorded, how long the pen must be held still to act as a mouse, whether the pointer should be hidden while writing, and whether to recognize Western European characters. If you change your mind about configurations you've made in either the Settings tab or the Options sheet, choose Restore Defaults to revert to the originals.

The Gestures pane displays shapes that have special meaning in Ink, such as vertical or horizontal spaces, Tab, and Delete. Click on an item to see both a demonstration of drawing the shape and a written description of it. You can also activate or deactivate Gesture actions using the check box in front of each item. Note that Apple recommends you provide extra space in front of Gesture shapes and exaggerate the ending stroke so that the system does not confuse them with letters.

The Word List pane allows you to add uncommon words that you use frequently. Ink uses a list of common words to help decipher people's input. If you come across a word that Ink doesn't know, click the Add button and type it in the text box.

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