If I Knew Then, What I Know Now – Part II – Investments

Continuing those notes to self, if I could post a letter back in time, this time I’m trying to prepare myself for some of the harder-to- quantify aspects of Tablet PC ownership. Let’s talk about investments.


Give yourself some time to unlearn things that have been second nature. Part of this is realizing that not everything you input into the machine has to be manipulated.

So much of the value I attributed to the computer was being able to anticipate changes (edits, re-writes, assumptions) that I had a whole mindset of write-once, edit forever.

Ink on paper is some much more permanent (and bulky, and fragile). Ink in the computer is an odd hybrid. Easily copied, pasted, erased, backed up, it is different. At the same time it is more permanent than managed text. At least it is not as easily edited or transformed to different output mechanisms.

I came to this understanding slowly. It takes awhile to sense when ink is a better choice than text and when text is still m ore effective.

Favourite Applications – Transitions

I was lucky because my all time favourite application was and still is,  MindManager. This was the killer application of the 90s for me. When it became ink-enabled, that was the end of the wait. I couldn’t put it off any longer. I needed a Tablet PC. I was used to distilling ideas to key words and drawing lines to document relationships.

I read somewhere, someone was saying that he would never buy MindManager until you could use Ink in the text notes. Until I read that, it had never occurred to me. Even if you could do it, I seriously doubt I would.

So if I were writing to someone else about to embark on their Tablet PC journey, I would ask:

  • What is your favourite application?

  • What do you do with it?

  • Why do you like it?

Instead of looking for ways or excuses to use Ink in that application, I would dig further into the “Why do you like it?” aspect to see if there were any compelling reasons to bring Ink into the mix. If not, then fine. There’s no need to force it.

Work and Approach to Work

You can ask two related but different questions.

  • What work, or tasks do you do with a computer? (Let’s disregard leisure activities for now).

  • How do you approach it?

The first question my be more about outcomes, while the second is about beginnings and process.

For me, I start in the abstract and move to the concrete. Ink works well at the beginning, the generative part, but when things become more structured, I’m back to text.

In the days before relatively accessible Tablet PCs, I had to start new work on paper and migrate to the computer as the work progressed. If that describes you, then it will be a relatively easy transition for you. If not, then it may be more difficult to find the rationale for the extra cost.


Be prepared to invest some time in this. This does not mean that you have to throw away your keyboard and take 10 times longer to do things. I do mean that is may take a little longer at first to take the time to ponder, “Is now a good time to pick up the pen?”

Take some time to reflect and learn from the experiences. It might take five time as long to hand-write a personal note, but this is one case where the argument that I can type many times faster than I can write may be immaterial, if most of the composing time was actually spent staring at the screen instead of banging on the keys.

Oh, and about the money, if you look at the cost difference between a Tablet PC and a comparable (non-inking) portable computer, Ask yourself if a dollar a day spread out over the anticipated life of the machine is going to be worth it to you.

If it saves you even a couple of minutes a day or allows you to do things that you simply couldn’t do on a regular portable computer, you probably have the justification for it.


Why do adult learners go to school? When it comes to applications software most I have met are perfectly capable of teaching themselves. So why do they go to school?

A big part of it seems to be the need to get out of their other environments so they can focus on learning. I haven’t seen any place where you can go to school to learn Ink centric applications software. So if you are like many adult learners, you are just going to have to set aside some time.

Dear Pre-Tablet PC Self,

As you are thinking about getting a Tablet PC…

What are your favourite applications on the computer now? What do you do with them, and why do you like them? If there was another way to accomplish as much or convey the same or greater value, would you be willing to let some or all of those applications go?

If you could be more effective or do things that weren’t feasible before, would you be willing to spend a dollar or two a day to do it?

Are you willing to invest the time to ponder your work or tasks, and take the time before embarking on new tasks to ponder the applicability of using Ink?

Finally, just how will you find the time to learn the new approaches and software that enables it?


2 thoughts on “If I Knew Then, What I Know Now – Part II – Investments

  1. I think your point about time investment is very well taken. I bought my first tablet about 6 weeks ago. While I use computers constantly in my work, this was a personal investment. The good news in that regard is that I can take my time learning the new technology. The bad news is that I have to use my *own* time learning the new technology ;-), so it’s not going as quickly as I would like. Eventually I’d like to integrate the tablet into my work life. Hopefully soon; but you do a service to potential users to point out that there is a learning curve.

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