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Dear Bill:
The State of Windows Pen Extensions 2.0

by Scott Griepentrog

Once upon a time you made Windows for Pen Computing. I loved it though it only was an add-on to Windows. But I could run all my standard software and even some old MS-DOS programs with the pen and the pop-up keyboard. I could do my time sheets in Word, sign them using annotate mode, and fax them directly to my client, saving me time and paper.

Then came Windows 95 and the new 2.0 version of the Pen Services. All looked well until I took my pen and tried to edit my time sheet and sign it. I couldn?t. Word 7 didn?t work right with the pen. I could write on the page, but the ink just disappeared without being saved with the document.

Now I could no longer go out into the field, take notes, and sign off on documents without having to lug a keyboard around. The pen computer which made my life easier turned into just another machine with a klunky old keyboard. All because your programmers quietly disabled pen functionality inWord. This snafu was eventually termed a bug <www.microsoft.com/ kb/articles/q134/0/43.htm and www.microsoft.com/kb/articles/q134/ 0/43.htm>. It took over half a year for your folks to fix it. All that time I was less efficient, more annoyed, and extremely unhappy with Microsoft. Then things were okay for a while until I picked up a copy of Office 97. After the Word 7 pen fiasco I figured you?d have your programmers test all the pen features before you released the software. Well, the pen annotation mode is broken again. It draws on the screen, but forgets to blank out the sections where you pick up your pen between words. This makes it nearly useless. How long will it be until this bug is fixed? How long before I can once again sign my name at the bottom of a letter without looking like a four-year-old?

And while we?re talking, I really can?t fathom why you dropped the absolutely most useful pen feature of all?gestures?in Pen Services 2.0. And why you removed all the useful keys?escape, function keys, arrow keys, control, alternate, insert, delete, etc.?from the 2.0 pop-up keyboard. Now we can no longer use quick shorthand to cut and paste, delete, and so on, and we can no longer run MS-DOS programs, or a telnet session with a unix host where you need Control-C to stop a program.

Why have you abandoned pen users? Pen Services 2.0 seemed nice enough and the big Programmer?s Guide to Pen Services gave me hope, but then there were all those ommissions, and the pen drivers were no longer on the Win 95 CD-ROM as you had promised, and getting pens to run on Windows 95 almost required black magic. In your Playboy interview a few years ago you said you wanted a Concerto pen computer, and we keep seeing pens in your videos. So why do you ignore us, our needs, our money? Why have you yanked features we once had in this terrific new technology? Don?t we warrant at least a small effort by a few people tucked away in a division somewhere? Pen people are a dedicated lot, and we?re even willing to help you in making the pen future happen. For example, I took it upon myself to solve the problem with the missing keys in your pop-up. It is at http://stg.net/stgkb. Now I can get twice the work done in half the time. Which means money in my pocket and more cash to spend on Microsoft products.
Scott Griepentrog

 


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