Thinking (developing) in "ink"

More and more, I'm seeing interest in Ink-enabling applications. This is cool, but how do you make use of this technology as a developer, particularly if you don't have a TabletPC.

First, you need to download the Tablet PC Platform SDK (current version is 1.5). You can get this at the SDK & Emulators site off MSDN ( ).

The Microsoft Windows XP Tablet PC Edition Platform Software Development Kit (SDK) contains the information you need to develop applications for Microsoft Windows XP Tablet PC Edition. The Tablet PC platform encompasses Windows XP and its extensions that enable input and output of handwriting and speech data on a Tablet PC as well as interchange of this data with other computers.

Once you have this installed, check out the documentation and the vast array of samples. In VS.NET, you can also add the tablet Windows Forms controls (Ink Edit and Ink Picture). To have them show up in your palette, right click in the palette and choose Add/Remove.

While you can do a lot of cool things with these controls, the issue of persistence of information is important. Questions you should ask:

-Do I want to convert to text immediately (this makes it easier to store to a back end) or leave the ink as ink

-How do I want to pass this around (rich ink format, HTML, XML are possibilities)

-Are all the users capable of using the Ink Controls? If not, this should affect how I use the controls (persist them as HTML or XML).

The SDK gives you the basic tools you need to work with TabletPC applications, but does not contain all of the tabletpc OS tools and utilities. You actually need the OS to do this. You have two options here:

1) Get the Tablet PC OS and install it (from scratch, using a proper TabletPC CD Key). You can get the bits with a tablet PC, or through MSDN Subscriptions (CD/DVD or Subscriber downloads)

2) Somehow figure out a way to get the tabletpc bits installed under Windows XP Pro or Windows Server 2003. To get you started with this process, check out how some folks have done a similar thing for Windows Media Center bits on Windows Server 2003 by getting the appropriate files (from installation disks) and hacking inf files (see )