What makes InkSeine unique?
InkSeine is a complete rethinking of what user interfaces should be for the digital pen and ink experience.
We’ve jettisoned pull-down menus and other trappings of the traditional mouse-and-keyboard interface in favor of mechanisms that are tailored to be fast and predictable when you are using a pen. This enables the tool to fade into the background so that your can really focus on your primary task: capturing your ideas, sketches, and creative thoughts.
To make it easier to access all of the information on your device, InkSeine has a great search experience integrated with inking. This offers you a really slick way to get at all your stuff without having to deal with the file system or switch to a separate “search application.”
When your searches turn up stuff you need, you can just drag any image, document, email, or web page into your notes. It becomes a small round icon that lets you get at the document in a fraction of a second whenever you need it again. If you drag an image out of search results from your local hard disk, the image is imported directly into your notes so that you can start marking it up. It’s a great way to bring together all the stuff that you need for your projects, and sure beats the heck out of trying to tap through folders with a pen.
We hope InkSeine can help you to Rethink Your Ink, and get the most out of your Tablet PC in the process. But also be sure to let us know what you find quirky or unproductive – we are keen to make it as useful as possible, as well as to weed out things we’re trying that, in the end, people don’t find productive or pleasant to use.
These are some of the cool features offered by InkSeine
- Blaze a super-fast trail by using radial menus for pen commands. Just hover to preview the commands. Touch down in the center and stroke towards the command you want to activate it. On a UMPC with a passive touchscreen, hold the pen on a radial menu to preview its commands.
- Select existing ink right on the page to initiate a search.
- Create queries in the context of your notes to keep track of searches, reuse them, or return to them later.
- Easily find emails, documents, ink notes, or web pages without leaving your notes.
- Drag links to the documents and web pages you find right into your notebook.
…or drag images into your notes, from search results or file folders.
- Filter your desktop searches by file type or date with simple pen controls.
- Scroll through any application by circling the pen – or capture screen clippings for markup – using InkSeine’s convenient tool ring. The tool ring floats on top of whatever applications you have open, ready for use.
- Automatic hyperlinks: When you use the tool ring to capture screen clippings from Office applications (Word, Powerpoint, Excel, & emails in Outlook), or from web pages (viewed in Internet Explorer), the capture automatically gets a hyperlink attached to it. Use the link to quickly re-access the document! InkSeine does not support automatic hyperlinks for captures from OneNote, PDF files, or web pages viewed in Firefox.
- View your notes page-by-page, like a real notebook. Never waste time scrolling and zooming again! Pages scale to fit the screen when you rotate your tablet.
- Hover over any page to get a preview of it.
- Highlighter hints illustrate how to use InkSeine’s pen gestures so you can quickly learn how to blast through information like a pro.
- Options let you customize the InkSeine user interface to your device and the way you work. (Click here for more information about the options).
- A unique comic book tutorial makes it fast and fun to get started.
InkSeine Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Q: How do you pronounce InkSeine?
A: Rhymes with insane. [ink-seyn]
Q: Why is it called InkSeine?
A: A seine is a fishing net. You need an ink seine to fish for information using ink.
Q: When can the general public get InkSeine?
A: February 15, 2008. See the InkSeine installation instructions for requirements and the link to the download.
Q: What Tablet PC should I get to run InkSeine?
A: Any Tablet PC that comes pre-installed with Vista will be a great host for InkSeine. To see what tablets are available and to get help deciding which device is right choice for you, we recommend visiting the GottaBeMobile forums and viewing the posts or asking your general Tablet PC questions there. The forum offers an amazingly helpful community of Tablet PC and UMPC users.
Q: What is the difference between InkSeine, OneNote, and Journal?
A: InkSeine is a prototype application (not a real product) from Microsoft Research. It has a number of innovative features for pen interfaces that we are trying out, in the hope that we can learn more about what works (or doesn’t work) for Tablet PC users “in the wild”.
InkSeine has been described by some people as “Windows Journal on steroids” – like Journal, InkSeine has a pen-centric user interface, but InkSeine has some features such as integrated search, cross-application capture of screen clippings and scrolling, and the ability to easily drag links to files and web pages into your notes.
Microsoft OneNote, on the other hand, is a feature-rich application for taking notes and collecting research, but even though OneNote supports inking, it adopts a more text-centric usage model. This makes perfect sense for OneNote since the majority of OneNote users employ ordinary computers and laptops without inking capabilities.
Thus InkSeine is complementary to OneNote. InkSeine has a simple set of functionality with a pen-centric user interface. InkSeine lacks many features that OneNote users love, including tagging, organizing, and synchronizing notes, automatically saving all entries in a single hierarchically organized notebook, etc. Also, InkSeine does not support text entry at this time. What InkSeine really offers is a unique interface for working with ink.
For more information, see the discussion of InkSeine, OneNote, and Journal on the GottaBeMobile forums.
Q: Why isn’t InkSeine integrated with OneNote? I’d rather use OneNote to store everything, but have the InkSeine interface.
A: InkSeine is a research effort and is trying out ideas that may or may not be a good fit for OneNote. In principle it would be great to have an InkSeine interface on top of OneNote. In practice integrating InkSeine with OneNote would take a major development effort and would likely require removing much of the whacky stuff that we are trying out in InkSeine, in order to mesh well with the ways that peole are used to working in OneNote. By building our own “concept car” that demonstrates what the future of inking might hold, we can explore ideas without being limited or jaded by the way that OneNote currently works. If ideas in InkSeine are found to have merit, then the product groups will assess whether they would make sense in the context of future Microsoft product offerings. This is where your feedback can really help us to improve InkSeine and understand what works well about it, and what doesn’t.
The Tool Ring
Q: What’s this crazy arrow on my screen?
A: The circular widget that hosts the spiral-shaped arrow is InkSeine’s tool ring. It comes up by default when you launch InkSeine or open a document from within InkSeine. The tool ring floats on top of all of your windows so that you may scroll documents with the pen, or quickly access the camera to capture screen clippings without having to return to InkSeine.
Q: I’m trying to use the scroller on the tool ring but the application doesn’t scroll. What’s wrong?
A: The scroller simulates the wheel on your mouse, so the correct window must have the input focus for the scroller to work. You need to tap on the area of the screen you want to scroll, and then touch down inside the scroller and start circling your pen.
If that still doesn’t work, then the window you are trying to scroll may not support the mouse wheel.
The scroller does not work with Excel (we cannot fix this). Also, we have several reports that it does not work in Firefox, although it has worked in Firefox for other people. We have not been able to track down the problem yet.
Q: I want to have links to the screen clippings that I take using the camera on the Tool Ring. Can InkSeine do this?
A: YES! Automatic hyperlinks are now available in InkSeine for Office 2003 and 2007 (Word, Powerpoint, Excel, Outlook emails), as well as web pages in Internet Explorer.
Unfortunately we do not yet have support for backlinks to clippings taken from OneNote, Adobe Acrobat (PDF) viewer, or web pages hosted in other web browsers (e.g. Firefox, Opera).
Special thanks to Brian Meyers and Greg Smith in the VIBE research group for helping us adapt their code to make this great feature possible.
Q: Can I set up my page with something other than graph paper?
A: From the page menu at the bottom center of the screen, stroke left to select Page Setup… That will bring up the page style dialog. There is no direct support for page background bitmaps yet, but you can drag a bitmap into your notes from the InkSeine search panel or from a file folder, and ink on top of it as a temporary work-around.
Q: Can I set up my own pen and highligter colors?
A: InkSeine does not offer custom pens or highlighters at this time. We plan to add this feature to InkSeine as soon as possible. However, you can copy ink strokes with different colors that you draw in OneNote or Windows Journal into InkSeine.
Q: How do I use the options to customize InkSeine?
A: Use the InkSeine Options command to call up the options panel.
Here is a summary of what each of these options do:
- Use pen button for lasso mode: If your Tablet PC pen has a button on it, this option lets you use it to enter the lasso selection mode. You can also tap-select by holding down the pen button. If you find that you frequently hit the button on your pen by mistake, you can disable this option to prevent the button from interfering with your inking.
- Hover feedback for radial menu appears: This slider lets you adjust how long you have to hover over one of the round icons in InkSeine to see the menu’s choices. This setting also affects the hover-activated thumbnails for the page tabs at the bottom of your page. Icons for files, links, or searches that are embedded in your notes always have a slightly longer delay because otherwise these menus are too easy to bring up by accident.
- Search from context menu: This option lets you choose the default type of search that appears in the “green plus” menu.
– Personal Search searches your local hard disk(s).
– Web Search lets you search the Web by default instead.
– Tag for Search creates a search icon but does not immediately open a search. This allows you to return to the icon at a later time and either stroke to the right for Web Search, or down for Personal Search.
- End lasso on looking glass as shortcut for search: This option enables a special icon that appears at the start of all lasso selections. Make a complete loop with the lasso and lift over the search icon to Tag the selection for Search. Some people like this feature, but others find it error prone, so we have disabled this feature by default. Give it a try to see if it is for you or not. How to use this feature is illustrated in the selection tutorial for a pre-release version of InkSeine.
- Recognize handwriting to place InkSeine documents in Windows Search Index: By default, InkSeine automatically performs handwriting recognition on all the ink in your InkSeine notes every couple of minutes. This enables your Personal Searches to pick up results for InkSeine notes as well as other text documents on your system. However, the way InkSeine does its handwriting recognition is inefficient and this may bog down your tablet if you have a very dense note, or an older Tablet PC. This option enables you to decrease the frequency of the handwriting recognition, or even turn it off. But if you turn it off, you won’t be able to use search to find InkSeine notes, unless the word you are searching for appears in the title of the note.
Q: I have an older tablet and InkSeine gets kind of slow every few minutes when there are a lot of notes on the current page. What can I do about this?
A: Use the options panel (shown above) to reduce the frequency of InkSeine’s automatic handwriting recognition for search indexing, or disable this option altogether if necessary.
Queries & Searches
Q: Can I make Web Search my default search when I select ink?
A: Yes. Use the InkSeine Options command from the options menu at the top of the screen to bring up the options panel, as pictured above. Then use the radio button to select Web Search as your default search type from InkSeine’s context menus for selections with ink in them.
Q: When I do a Personal Search, the search panel just says “Error in Query Engine.” What’s wrong?
A: InkSeine uses Windows Desktop Search for Personal Search queries, but particularly under Windows XP, WDS takes some time to start when you first turn on your tablet, or after a reboot. Try the query again in a while and it should work. This is less of a problem for Windows Vista Search.
If this error keeps happening for you, double-click on it and report the details of the error to the InkSeine Team.
Windows XP also occasionally has problems with losing Outlook email results from its search index. To remedy this, right-click on the Desktop Search icon in the Windows task tray. Pick the Desktop Search Options command, and then choose “Rebuild Index” to force desktop search to pick up your email results. Again, this problem seems to have been resolved in Vista.
Q: I’ve created a query in my notes by lassoing some ink and choosing the search command. What are the semantics if I open that query again at a later time?
A: InkSeine always re-issues the query when you open search results. In this way, you can be assured that you will always have up-to-date results when you open a search panel.
Q: I used a highlighter and now I can’t access my query since the highlighter covers it. How can I open the query again?
A: 1. Use the lasso tool to tap-select the highlighting:
2. Next use the Send to back command from the selection’s green plus menu to place the highlighting behind the query icon.
3. Now the query icon is back on top so you can get at it.
Q: How can I activate the lasso without moving my hand to the edge of the screen?
A: You can use the pen’s barrel button as a shortcut for the Lasso selection mode.
Q: How can I easily select a single stroke?
A: Select the lasso tool, and then tap to select exactly the stroke that you want. You have to tap pretty close to it, and tap-select will select whichever stroke is on top if there are several nearby.
Q: How can I select a big bitmap without lassoing it?
A: Select the lasso tool, and then tap to select the bitmap.
Q: What’s the rule the lasso uses to decide if objects are contained in the lasso or not?
A: Ink strokes must be “mostly” in the lasso. For bitmaps, the center of the bitmap must be in the lasso. For hyperlinks, either the round icon or the center of the green title area must be in the lasso.
Q: How can I select a hyperlink or query to move it?
A: Lasso it, or touch down on the link and stroke to the south-east to choose the Select command. You can also employ the other commands on the link to Open it, Remove it, or Cut / Copy it.
Q: I’m trying to select a small object, but I can’t drag it around because there’s no way to avoid hitting the resize handles on the selection. What can I do?
A: Draw another “dummy” ink stroke nearby, and select both of them. Now the selection will be larger and you can grab the small object, and the dummy stroke, and drag them around. Just cut the dummy stroke when you are done.
InkSeine Tips & Tricks
TIP #1: Drag & Drop files from Windows Explorer into InkSeine via the Open Folder command.
HOW: You can drag links to files directly into InkSeine from any Windows Explorer folder. A quick way to do this is to use Open Folder in a highlighted personal search result to open Windows Explorer with the directory containing a file. Then you can quickly drag more stuff from the same directory into InkSeine. You can even select multiple files and drag them all in, where they appear as a tidy row of icons inside InkSeine.
Any image files that you drag in will automatically import as bitmaps.
TIP #2: Rearrange Pages, create new blank pages, or delete pages.
HOW: Drag the page tabs left and right to rearrange them. Tapping on the page icon creates a new page at the end of the note, which you can then drag to a different spot in your note if you want. Or drag a page to the trashcan to delete it! Warning: No undo for page operations.
TIP #3: Drag & Drop any link or image from Internet Explorer into InkSeine while both applications are full-screen.
HOW: From the Internet Explorer window, drag from any link or image to the task bar and hold your pen over InkSeine. The InkSeine window will come up, and you can then slide back onto the note page to drop the link or image in your notes.
Images that are also links will only import as links, unfortunately, as the Windows Drag & Drop mechanism reports the link, but not the image, to InkSeine.
TIP #4: Create an empty search with filters to quickly access your recent notes.
HOW: Write a single ink dot or squiggle and lasso it for search. Tap on Clear to remove whatever random character the recognizer comes up with for your ink. Tap on the ink notes filter in the right-hand column of the search panel. If you like, narrow it down further by selecting only recent categories from the date filters along the bottom of the search panel.
Try using the other filters to quickly generate lists of other useful things, like all recent emails, office documents, etc.
What are some of the limitations of the prototype?
Because InkSeine is a research prototype, we sought to create a sandbox for ourselves where we could have free reign to try out silly ideas and crazy things that wouldn’t necessarily provide a clean fit into Microsoft’s existing products.
So we’ve taken some shortcuts in the development or avoided adding some fairly obvious “standard features.” Often the clean, spartan design is a blessing, but sometimes a desirable feature just isn’t there when you need it.
Below we’ve listed some of the known deficits of the application. Nonetheless on the whole it functions sufficiently well to give a real glimpse of what the future of Tablet PC software might hold.
Bugs. We have done our best to beat all of the bugs out of InkSeine, but undoubtedly we have missed some. Our team does not have the dedicated testing personnel of a real product team. Please report any bugs or failed installations and give as much detail as you can (copy the dialog or error message, describe what you were doing with InkSeine at the time, and tell us what device and operating system you are running InkSeine on). InkSeine auto-saves to a recovery file every few minutes, however, if your machine goes down or if you are unlucky enough to encounter a serious bug.
No text support. InkSeine has no support for text at all. You cannot paste text into InkSeine, nor can you type text into InkSeine. This is probably the biggest hole in the application’s current functionality. We are going to explore pen-centric mechanisms for handling text so that we can try introducing text without ruining the great pen and ink experience of InkSeine, but we don’t have a timeline for when that might be ready.
No keyboard shortcuts. InkSeine does not support any keyboard shortcuts or hardware navigation keys at this time. Even though InkSeine is a pen-centric application, we realize there are times when one is viewing notes with the keyboard at the ready, so we hope to add some shortcut keys in a future update.
No scrolling, zooming, or “Insert Space” command. Although InkSeine often does quite well without added widgets for scrolling and zooming, this can be limiting at times. InkSeine always scales the page to fit the current dimensions of your screen, so for example, a page that you generated in the portrait display orientation will be scaled down so that the full page can be viewed in the landscape display orientation. This keeps with InkSeine’s metaphor of a “real notebook,” and can often remove the need for a lot of needless scrolling and zooming operations when you are going through your notes. On the other hand, the lack of scrolling is particularly limiting for small-screen devices such as UMPCs. Do you really miss having the ability to scroll, or do you get by fine without it? Let us know when you send in your feedback about the application.
No equivalent of a “Print to OneNote” driver for InkSeine. This is a great feature of OneNote / Windows Journal that is missing from InkSeine. We plan to explore whether it is possible for InkSeine to piggyback on either the OneNote or Journal print drivers to make it easier to import entire documents into InkSeine, but we’re not sure yet if that will be feasible. As a work around, you can select individual pages that have been printed to OneNote, copy them, and then paste them into InkSeine.
Undo within a page only. The Undo command only works for operations that you have performed on the current page. Once you flip pages, or Save the file, the undo stack is purged. Also, all operations on pages (New Page, Insert Page, Delete Page, dragging pages to rearrange them, etc.) cannot be undone.
Large file sizes. InkSeine files can get fairly large, particularly if you embed a lot of screen shots in your notes. We have a simple xml file format for rapid development. This also makes it trivial for our file type to be indexed by Windows. However, our encoding of ink strokes and bitmaps is very inefficient as a result, and supporting features like embedding files (rather than links to files) would be impractical due to ballooning file sizes. Also, this contributes to InkSeine consuming more memory than it really should.
Unimplemented Commands. There are some permanently grayed-out commands in InkSeine’s menus, such as the Import command on the File menu, Custom Pen and Highlighter settings on the Highlighter menu, or the different sized erasers on the Eraser menu. These are placeholders for functionality that we plan to add, but haven’t gotten time to implement yet.
Slow performance in some cases. Performance can get slow if you create huge notes (more than about 30 pages with a lot of content) or if there is a large number of strokes, bitmaps, and particularly highlighter strokes all on the same page. For “normal” notes that aren’t ridiculously dense, the performance is usually quite good, however. Also, InkSeine does background recognition of all the strokes on a page (in order to make them available for the indexer for search). This can sometimes bog down InkSeine on older tablets or notes that are extremely dense. The way we do the background recognition is not particularly clever, but usually it works ok and does not noticably degrade performance. If this does present a problem for you, use the Options panel to decrease the frequency of background recogntion, or disable it altogether if you wish.
Limited OneNote integration. You can copy and paste ink and highlighter strokes between InkSeine and OneNote. If you select both ink strokes and bitmaps from InkSeine, OneNote will only import the ink strokes. InkSeine places a bitmap representation of the selection on the system clipboard, but to our knowledge OneNote does not have a Paste Special command so that you can choose to paste this bitmap. OneNote always takes the ink strokes representation from the clipboard if ink is there. You can paste into Microsoft Paint or other applications to get at the bitmap representation if necessary. We support this to make it easier for people to experiement with InkSeine, yet still know they can move their notes into OneNote if that is what they use as their central repository for everything. Integrating other features of InkSeine into OneNote is currently beyond the scope of our research project.
Sharing or Syncing InkSeine notes. There is no support for zipping up an InkSeine note, with all of the files that it may hyperlink to, for sharing or sync’ing with someone else or to another computer. OneNote has excellent sharing and synchronization features; unfortunately, these would be too time-consuming to reproduce for InkSeine. We may eventually support exporting InkSeine pages to HTML, as one mechanism to share your notes with others.
Accessibility/DPI settings. InkSeine currently does not respect system DPI settings for menu sizes, etc., so it has accessibility and readability limitations if you have customized your system’s settings for that.
Limited interoperation with non-Microsoft products. InkSeine will return search results for any file type that gets indexed by Windows Vista Search or Windows Desktop Search on XP. Some non-Microsoft file types require you to install plug-ins for search in order for the files to be indexed properly.
InkSeine also provides a number of advanced features for Microsoft products and file types, such as the ability to open and link to Outlook emails. These features may not work for other mail programs. Similarly, features such as automatically attaching a hyperlink to image captures currently only work for Microsoft Office and Internet Explorer. They will not work for PDF files or web pages viewed in Firefox, for example.
No custom search filters. You cannot change the file types accepted by InkSeine’s existing file type filters for personal (desktop) searches of your local hard disk(s). We also do not support defining additional filters for other file types. Also, you cannot change the search engine used for InkSeine’s web search feature. We may add some limited support for customizing searches in a future release.