Pen Computing and Windows 95
Microsoft unveils a much improved version of its pen
The tough part is finding them
From Pen Computing #7 December 1995
One of the most common questions I see on the Pen Technology Forum these days is
"I'm thinking of upgrading my Compaq Concerto/Dauphin DTR-1/Your Pen Computer
Here" to Windows 95, should I do it? The answer is a qualified no. No, you can't go
out and buy the Windows 95 Upgrade at Egghead and install it on your pen computer and
expect your pen to work. I doesn't work that way. Here's how it does (or sometimes does)
Windows for Pen Computing version 1.0, you might recall, is actually an add-on to
Windows 3.11. It consists of a dll, PENWIN.DLL, a video driver like VGAP.DRV, pen drivers
and handwriting recognizer (MARS was the standard Microsoft driver). You obtained the
elements of Windows for Pen 1.0 from the manufacturer of your pen hardware or with the
Windows SDK (it came with Visual C++ version 1.5). This version of the pen extensions to
Windows was referred to as the Pen SDK, version 1.0.
The pen services for Windows 95 are referred to as Windows for Pen, Version 2.0. They
include, among other things, a greatly enhanced boxed edit control, and a new handwriting
recognition engine (maybe it recognizes English now as well as Martian!) Other than that,
the functionality is roughly the same. The same four controls are supported: boxed edits
(bedit), handwriting edits (hedit), ink input, and popup keyboard. The gestures are pretty
much the same, too.
Perhaps you remember that Microsoft was promising that pen support would be part of
Windows 95? Well, there is some pen support built in, but not a whole lot. As far as I can
tell, instead of one dll, there are now two: PENWIN.DLL and PKPD.DLL. PKPD.DLL is the Ink
Manager Library. It takes care of displaying ink on the screen. It is what is included in
Windows 95. PENWIN.DLL contains all of the functions that handle pen and ink input like
gesture handing and calls to the recognizer. That is NOT included in Windows 95. The only
place that you can get it is from the hardware vendor who supports your machine.
PENWIN.DLL, the pen driver and the recognition engine are only available from a hardware
So, if you want to put Windows 95 on your pen machine, you first have to obtain the pen
extensions from the manufacturer. This could be tough if you own a machine like the
Dauphin DTR-1 or (shudder) an NCR 3125. Even vendors currently supporting machines are not
jumping on the Windows 95 bandwagon. My company sells turnkey pen solutions to
manufacturers. We primarily sell vertically-oriented machines from Kalidor, Norand,
Symbol, and Telxon. I called a few of our reps at these companies to see when and if
Windows 95 would be supported. The first answered "Gee, nobody's asked me that
question yet." When I pointed out that Microsoft would eventually pull support for
Windows 3.11 he replied "Yeah, I guess we'd better start thinking about that."
Of course, it's not all that grim. I have heard that drivers are already available for
the Compaq Concerto, Toshiba T200, and soon will be for the Fujitsu Stylistic 500. The
real problem is if you have an unsupported pen machine like the DTR-1. In which case,
you'd better stick with 3.11 (I can't imagine installing Windows 95 on a machine with so
little storage space, anyway.)
In addition to user questions about Windows 95, there are a whole host of developer
questions. As a developer, you first have to be sure that your target machine runs (or
will run) Windows 95. None of ours do, so that's a problem.
Assuming they do then you can choose your development environment. I'm told that there
is an updated version of penctrl.vbx called pen2ctrl.vbx to access version 2.0 pen
services from Visual Basic. I assume this is the 16-bit version since it is a vbx. As far
as I know, there are no plans for a pen OCX from Microsoft. Let's face it, the pen
developer market is currently too small compared to the rest of the world for Microsoft to
bother with it.
You can always access the pen services the old fashion way; making the API calls
directly from a language like C or C++. If your company specializes in pen development you
should probably consider creating your own OCX or other component depending on your
preferred development environment. We're considering Delphi components. It is possible, of
course, that a third party might develop and support these, but again, with the market as
small as it is, this is unlikely.
One stumbling block for developers is obtaining PENWIN.DLL. Since this dll is no longer
distributed with the development environments, that probably means getting a tablet device
for your development machine which supports Windows 95 and Windows for Pen 2.0. I've gone
through a bunch of these, a WACOM tablet for PenPoint development, then an Acecat tablet I
never did get to work with Windows for Pen 1.0. I recently picked up a WACOM Artpad II
which is a blast to play with but doesn't support pen extensions. It uses the Wintab
interface to work with Windows programs. I am hoping they'll eventually support pen
services and distribute Windows for Pen 2.0. I've heard that CIC's Handwriter (a tablet
bundled with their handwriting recognition engine) supports Windows for Pen Computing 2.0.
As you can see, the bottleneck for both developers and end users is the hardware OEMs.
They are the only ones who can distribute the pen extensions for Windows 95. They won't do
it until their customers demand it. That means us. (In reality it probably means some huge
company with an order for a zillion or so machines contingent on Windows 95.)
My biggest concern is that Microsoft is really pushing developers to go to 32-bits.
Versions of Visual C++ after 2.0 can't even make 16-bit executables. Visual Basic 4.0 can,
but you miss out on all of the really neat stuff they've added in. And of course, most
folks want to move to Windows 95 and 32-bit apps to take advantage of the increased speed
and multitasking ability.
Many of the hardware vendors, however, are in no hurry to move. I don't know the
particulars of Microsoft's distribution agreements for Windows for Pen 2.0, so I don't
know if that's a stumbling block. But if Microsoft keeps pushing, and the hardware vendors
don't move, we developers are going to find ourselves in a very tight spot.
Personally, I'm not too worried yet. For the types of vertical applications that we
provide, Windows 95 is not essential. As long as we can still support Windows 3.11
applications, we're OK. Heck, we still have several customers actively using our PenPoint
product on IBM Thinkpad 710Ts. If we can support them, we can support Windows 3.11 users.
The bottom line is that at this point pen computing is a niche market, and one which is
too small to be a blip on Microsoft's radar. So we have to rely on the hardware vendors
and other developers to keep things moving in the right direction. The market might be too
small for Microsoft, but it's plenty big enough for the rest of us. And while pen
computing isn't changing our lives the way we initially thought it would, it is solving
some real problems in real life situations, saving people time and money. Windows 95 will
run on most pen computers eventually, we just have to be a little patient.
- Lisa Stampfli
(Lisa Stampfli was VP of Product Development and co-founder of
PenFact, Inc. in Boston, MA, providing pen-based and mobile solutions for manufacturing
and field inspection.)