Annotating paper on the Tablet PC

Tuesday, April 5th, 2005
As anticipate migrating to a TabletPC, I've been researching various productivity applications that I plan to use. This blog entry is not about a solution - yet. It's about my search for one.

One capability that I look forward to is the ability to mark up PDF files - not just any PDF files, but those that originate as paper. When I am in my office, I use my HP Digital Sender to take a stack of documents and scan them into PDF files so that I can work with them in digital form. However, when I'm out and about, with a Tablet PC, I will need another way to quickly capture paper documents into PDF so that I can edit them.

The options that I am considering will include a hybrid of hardware and software, hardware to capture and software to edit. The capture side has my attention right now. I'm presently considering two solutions: a portable scanner and a digital camera. Let's look at the benefits of each.

Portable Scanner

  • High resolution scanning
  • Suitable for OCR (for PDF+Text applications)
  • External device, cables, adapters
  • Additional steps to capture
Digital Camera
  • Easy to use
  • Much faster than a scanner
  • More expensive than scanner
  • Difficult to align for text capture
  • Images not suitable for OCR
  • External device, cables, adapters
  • Additional steps to capture
The ideal solution, in my view, would be for Tablet PC manufacturers to add a digital camera, scanner, or both, to a Tablet PC - I'd certainly pay for these options. I would like to snap a picture by holding up the Tablet. Likewise, I would like to scan a page in 1-2 seconds, either by drawing the Tablet across the page (like the HP Capshare) or by feeding the page through a slot at the edge of the Tablet.  I remember there was once a laptop with a built-in scanner.

I'm not asking for much. Once I see a Tablet PC with a built-in scanner and camera, I plan to ask for a built-in micro laser printer - don't laugh; it will happen. Right now, I'll settle for a fast and reliable mobile paper capture tool.

I'm certain that someone has thought through all of this long before me. Who will build it first?  (Toshiba? Fujitsu? Anyone?)

While I wait for an integrated solution, I plan to explore solutions that I can create using off-the-shelf technology.  I'll keep you posted.

Do you have a solution for real-time mobile import of paper documents into a Tablet PC?

Post a comment.

Discussion/Comments (8):

Scanning with tablet


I have the same requirement. My solution is a small Canon flat bed scanner,a CanoScan N1240U, that is approximately the same size as a tablet PC, weighs about 3.5 lbs, and draws its power from the USB 2.0 port.

It's not a speed demon but it produces decent scans that work well in OCR software.

Posted at 04/06/2005 4:24:31 by Steve New

A good way to go

Steve, I have the Canoscan N1220U and it works great. It's light, inexpensive, and I can slip it inside my briefcase. At this time, this will be my hardware solution, at least until I find something better. Ideally I would like something a little less obvious, particularly if I want to scan a page during a business meeting.

Thanks for the input!


Posted at 04/06/2005 10:28:09 by Eric Mack

Can you do with a sheetfed scanner?

While they do have their limitations, the sheetfed scanners from Visioneer have always been very good. See { Link } for more information. PaperPort is also included, which is a boon for annotating documents both on and off a Tablet PC.

Posted at 04/07/2005 10:37:40 by Sergio

A possible (interim) solution

One option: Visioneer Strobe XP 300 mobile scanner with Paperport 9.0 will allow me to quickly capture a single-page document and bring it in as a PDF file.

{ Link }

Posted at 04/07/2005 12:17:30 by Eric Mack

Annotating paper on the Tablet PC

I use a Visioneer Strobe XP 100 with my tabletpc, and have been very happy with the solution. It's very small and light-- you don't even notice it in your bag.

I haven't tried the latest generation of these devices, but I can only assume that they've improved.

Posted at 04/16/2005 15:47:15 by Joseph R. Jones

Annotating paper on the Tablet PC

One great way I have found to get paper into my Tablet is to use a low cost/free online fax service like efax or call wave. You can use any available fax and send the doc to your Tablet in PDF format

Posted at 04/23/2005 8:57:18 by John

Fax question

Can you recieve a fax on your tablet, digitally sign it, then send it back?

Posted at 02/10/2008 22:31:37 by Damian Szostak

re: Fax question

Yes, as long as your fax image viewer supports digital ink.

Posted at 02/11/2008 1:22:21 by Eric Mack

Discussion for this entry is now closed.