After having played with the Tablet PC for a while, I felt the need to be able to write on the screen at all times. I was wondering if anything was out there on the market that would do what I wanted. Enter the i-pen from Finger System Inc.
The i-pen is a digital pen that works like a mouse. In addition, it facilitates the ability to write in your own handwriting on your computer.
I looked through the i-pen User Guide and was informed that I should install the driver for the pen first. After I installed the driver I plugged the i-pen into an available USB port. It was recognized immediately and I was using it as a mouse without hesitation.
Next came the task of using it to write in documents in my own handwriting. The i-pen ships standard with a special mouse pad, but I didn't find that initially in the box. As a result, I was writing on a desktop surface while using my laptop. The movement for the mouse was fine, but writing in my handwriting wasn't working well. Once I moved to the pad it worked much better.
As a test I launched Microsoft's Paint and played around. It worked well, and I enjoyed drawing pictures. The pen also ships with riteMail software for writing in e-mails, and Web-memo software for writing notes on top of websites.
As for writing in e-mails, the i-pen ships with a month free of riteMail, which lets you write and send e-mails in your own handwriting. I found the application to be solid (see our review), but I was having trouble still writing in my own writing on the screen. Every time I would write it would start angling upwards. Of course in this application it doesn't matter since you're writing an e-mail to someone in your own handwriting.
Next I tried to use the character recognition software. Again, my writing seemed to arc upwards, so the recognition left a lot to be desired. It was nice being able to switch back and forth from the pen to the keyboard, though.
In addition, the software is intelligent enough to know when you're trying to write versus when you're trying to click on windows and navigate the screen.
I should also mention that when you write it superimposes on the screen in whatever color you want without affecting your document. Then, after a user-configurable amount of time, it tries to recognize your handwriting and put it into text. This is very similar to the way the Tablet PC works.
As I was writing this review Finger System Inc. released a newer version of the software. It turns out that this latest version does a better job with my writing, but I'm still arcing upwards at times. I also had someone else try it to see if it was something that I was doing, and she experienced the same problem. Hopefully a later version will smooth out that issue.
The i-pen itself:
It's a pretty good-feeling pen, though I would have expected something with a little more comfort. In addition, there's a button on the side of it that's designed to work as a right-click. The placement of the button was a little off for me since I'm a lefty, so I kept hitting it by accident.
If you don't have a Tablet PC and want to come close to the experience, the i-pen is worth trying out. In addition, if you do any amount of drawing, i-pen is worth playing around with since it's only about US$100. It's also fun to write e-mails in your own handwriting.
You can read more about the i-pen at the Finger System Inc. website.