Monday, November 21, 2011

Issues with Inking in Word 2010

Normally when an input device such as a Wacom is plugged in, the inking tools in Word 2010 should automatically come up to allow freehand writing in the application. Below is what it looks like in Word when the Ink Tools are available. You can click on the images here to make them bigger if it is difficult to see.

However, this doesn't always happen and there is a limited amount of information online about how to troubleshoot it. Here are some things you can do.

1. Go to Review and then choose Start Inking. That should make the Ink Tools come up in another tab like above.

But what if you don't see the Start Inking button?

2. Customize your toolbar to include Ink.

  • In Word, go to File and then choose Options on the left side, toward the bottom (under Help).
  • Then choose Customize Ribbon on the left side (highlighted in yellow below). 
  • The image below shows what it looks like when Ink is included in the ribbon under Review. If you do not see this, click the drop down menu under "Choose commands from" to something other than the default which is Popular Commands since Ink is apparently not popular. 
  • Then find Ink (they are in alphabetical order), select it, and then click Add in the middle of the screen and OK.

That really should work, but if it doesn't here's another idea:

3. Check if the Tablet PC Components somehow got turned off. To find this, go to the Start button, Control Panel, Programs and Features, and then choose "Turn Windows features on or off" on the left side. Then scroll down to find Tablet PC Components and make sure it is checked. If it is not checked, check the box and click ok.

Here's a completely different way to go about it: 

4. Let's try PowerPoint then. This is not ideal because the eraser is not easily accessible, but it is something. Open a slide in presentation mode, then right click on it (command click on a Mac), choose Pointer Options, then Pens. In PowerPoint 2010 for Windows it will save the inking on the slide, but in PowerPoint 2011 for Mac, it will not save. The image below is from PPT for Mac because I don't know how to take a screenshot of a right click on Windows :) 
If you've found other solutions, please let me know. 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Paper Tablet App for Livescribe Echo Smartpen

Being able to control your computer's cursor by writing on a piece of paper with a pen is kind of weird when you think about it. This is exactly what you can do with the Livescribe Echo Smartpen, if you purchase the $15 Paper Tablet App.

I wrote a fairly long post on the Pulse a while back, but here's some basic info on Livescribe pens if you don't want to read that whole thing: you write with these pens (below) on special paper and what you write and say can be recorded since there is a microphone in the pen and the paper tracks where you have written. You can click on parts of the paper to replay the audio recorded at that point and you can also upload and share the "pencasts." So the most common uses are for meeting or class notes and they can also be used to create pencasts as online tutorials. The videos on the Livescribe page are good to check out if you're not familiar.

Livescribe has two types of pens: the original Pulse (silver) and newer Echo (black). The main difference between the two is that the Echo connects to the computer via micro USB while the Pulse has to sit in a charging cradle, so the Echo can be used while connected to the computer charging.

I was not excited about the Pulse and the Livescribe software back when I got the Pulse, but it has gotten better:
  • You can now download the Livescribe desktop software from their site and install it on multiple computers, then the pen can be connected to any computer with the software.
  • I didn't have any problems getting started. It just took a while to download everything and then update the firmware of the pen. 
  • I'm not sure if I overlooked this or if it came about later, but you now have the option, as a viewer, to turn off the preview in a pencast, see what's coming in grey, or see the whole pencast at once. I found it very distracting to see a preview of what is coming. 
The main thing I still don't like is that you can't download an editable file.
  • This, of course, means you can't edit out any mistakes. 
  • You also can't upload it to YouTube, which helps make the video accessible to people with hearing disabilities by time coding a transcript with the audio to produce captions. As far as I can tell, Livescribe is completely ignoring the issue of captioning. When I Google "livescribe captioning" my old blog post is one of the top hits and the other main relevant page is about how to use a Livescribe pen to create captions (record the audio with the pen and then play it back really slowly so you can type it). 
Now, on to the Paper Tablet App! 

The Echo with the Paper Tablet app sort of combats my continuing issue with not being able to download an editable file because it allows the user to write on a piece of paper, yet it shows up on the computer screen and can be recorded with screencasting programs like Camtasia.

You may wonder why someone would want to do that. Normally I'd recommend a Wacom Bamboo tablet ($69) but some people really struggle with writing on a tablet like this because they have to write on it and then look at the computer screen. The Echo and Paper Tablet app allows them to write on paper and see it on the paper but still record it on the computer so it is editable and captionable.

The Paper Tablet app worked surprisingly well on Windows. Mouse control was very accurate and my handwriting showed up on the computer screen very true to what it looked like on the paper. My aspect ratio was a bit off but I couldn't figure out how to change it; their instructions didn't make sense to me.

I found the best way to record on a white background is just to open up a blank PowerPoint slide in presentation mode, right click to get the pointer options, turn on the pen, and then write on the slide. PowerPoint 2010 will keep the inking on the slide. This could be pretty cool for recording a face-to-face class; the instructor could have a bunch of blank slides ready (or have some skeletal info on them) and then write on the slides and save the PPT and upload it to D2L. You can also do this with a Wacom though.

Issue 1: Livescribe should not indicate that the Paper Tablet app is compatible with Mac because it is basically useless. I did the same thing with PowerPoint, but when I hit escape to get out of presentation mode, the inking was just gone, since there is apparently no way to save it in PPT 2011. My handwriting turned out really weird too; it was smooth on paper, but very angular on the computer screen. It looked like the writing of someone with bad arthritis.

Issue 2: The amount of usable space on the paper is kind of a funky thing to figure out. I first tried it with my notebook in portrait orientation and I had about the size of a postcard to write in. When I switched it to landscape, I had almost the whole page and I think that if I was able to figure out the aspect ratio I would have had the whole page. When I used it on the Mac I had about a 6" x 4" space. I have no idea why that was.

Issue 3: I did not like the heaviness and size of the pen. I spent probably an hour messing around with it, and my wrist still hurts today. The pen is quite big and I felt that I had to press hard on the paper. I strongly prefer writing with the thin and light Wacom Bamboo stylus. However, I am not normal: a few years ago, I broke my wrist badly and had surgery to basically screw it back together. It hardly ever bothers me anymore though.

Issue 4: If people are creating tutorials that take up more than one page of paper, they will have to do some editing in between because each page needs to be deactivated and then the new page needs to be activated and that will take a little time.

Issue 5: It is a little awkward to write with the cord in the way. It is not very flexible and is difficult to straighten out since it came bundled up. Even completely straightened out, it's still not very long, so you have to stay fairly close or get another one.

CONCLUSION: The Wacom Bamboo/Camtasia combo is still, I think, currently the best and most economical option ($69) for annotating/inking and recording a tutorial. If a Windows user (not a Mac user) really couldn't adjust to the Wacom, this Echo pen with the Paper Tablet app could be a decent substitute for a still reasonable amount of money ($120 for pen and app). It would be an especially good buy if the person was interested in using it for meeting notes and other quick tutorials using the Livescribe software to create pencasts.

The main issue is still the complete lack of a way to caption the pencasts when used as course content. Because of this, I can't recommend using Livescribe pencasts as tutorials unless a document was created with the transcript and whatever additional visuals (such as diagrams) were necessary to understand the transcript and this would get time consuming. Simply providing a transcript would technically make the pencast accessible according to the letter of the law, but it is likely that a lot of the meaning would get lost without the visuals too. Equal access really means captioning...and technically should include a verbal description for people who are blind or have low vision.

*The one exception to my lack of recommendation would be foreign language or other subjects in which hearing is pretty much necessary to learn the content. 

I hope that this post is out of date soon because something comes along soon that completely changes this situation. It seems crazy that there is no good, reasonably priced option to annotate/ink directly on an electronic device and record it. The iPad has a ShowMe app which is probably the closest thing on a tablet. I just don't like having to use my finger or an iPad stylus and, of course, not everyone has an iPad. A tablet PC would be great, but they are still quite expensive. I have a SMART podium in my office that does this great with a nice thin stylus, but those run about $3500. I'll keep looking!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Captioning in YouTube & Making Camtasia Videos

I've been exploring the captioning features YouTube offers as a quick way to make a video accessible to people who are deaf or hard of hearing. Unfortunately the automatic voice recognition is horrible. One video I made came back with weird phrases like "you need to copy all mexican bank code" and "indians who helped won't be html dinner." That is definitely not what I said! 

What YouTube does well is time code an uploaded script, so the words appear on the screen at the right time. This is how I captioned the video about embedding a Google form and video in a D2L page in my previous post. 

When I give advice on creating Camtasia videos, I encourage people to read from a script or at least an outline. However, I just disregarded my own advice and talked pretty much off the cuff when I made the embedding video. I've also heard that people learn better from a conversational voice and I think most people prefer it to when someone sounds like they are reading. Unfortunately, I realized that I use the word "so" to start about half of my sentences. 

If I had read from a script, I bet that I would have used less words to get to the same point. As I was typing up what I said afterwards for the transcript file, I noticed there were a lot of "fluff" words in there that weren't necessary. That could be part of what makes it sound conversational though. 

In a few spots, I wished I would have added something so I just put it in a callout. I'm not sure how effective this is, so let me know if you have any feedback. 

Now that we have Camtasia available for faculty, it would be great to have a transcriptionist as well! I can type about 90 words per minute, so typing up my transcript wasn't extremely time consuming: it took about 1/2 hour for me to transcribe and put in line breaks for a 4.32 minute video. However, the average typing speed is 36 words per minute, which means it would probably take an average typist over an hour for a video this short.

I have used Camtasia for Windows to caption before, but I think YouTube is even easier. Camtasia does integrate with the Windows 7 speech recognition tool. Earlier this week I tried to train the speech recognition to recognize my voice better, but it wasn't even acknowledging that I was talking, so I need to look further into that. Unfortunately, it says it takes about 4 hours of training for it to be reasonably accurate.  Why can't the same voice recognition my phone uses (Droid X) be available on computers? My phone is amazingly accurate, and I know Siri on the iPhone is too.  Hmmm.

Using a Google Form to Make Videos a Bit More Interactive

Today I found a really cool tutorial explaining how to embed a video with a Google form below it so that students can fill out the form while watching and then the results are automatically sent to a Google spreadsheet. Something Cindy and I recommend when faculty want students to view videos out of class is to have some sort of questions or homework to fill out while watching the video, so this is a nice way to package that all and make use of technology.

Here is the video I got the idea from by Ramsey Musallam on Vimeo. It is about 7 minutes long, but I thought it went really fast. He explains it well.

I decided to get a bit of Camtasia practice under my belt and make my own video that specifically showed how to embed a Film on Demand from the library and a Google form into a D2L page. Check it out here. For your viewing pleasure, I have purified it. Sometimes purified links are slow or funky, so if it doesn't work, you can also view it right on YouTube.

On the left is what the page looks like in Google Chrome (Windows and Mac) and Internet Explorer. The image on the right is how it looks in Firefox (Windows and Mac) and Safari. I made the page in Chrome on Windows. It's kind of weird, don't think it's a problem in any case.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Logipen Disappointment

Nearly a month ago, I ordered a Logipen. My interest was mostly due to a math faculty member who said he was using it on his Mac but wasn't sure if he was using it to the full potential. He was using it as a pen input device (aka mouse) to write, view it on the computer, and record it with Quicktime to make a tutorial. (Another alternative to writing on a Wacom and recording with a screencast program like Camtasia)

I thought that since it writes with actual ink on a regular notebook is could be a great option for people who don't like writing on a Wacom, where you can't see what you are writing directly where you write it.

I was a little disappointed it had to charge for 12 hours before use. When I finally was able to use it, I downloaded the software from the disc that came with the pen and it gave me an error message and never opened, so I finally found it on the website and downloaded it from there.  It did work then, but unfortunately the quality was horrible and it jumped around a lot. To the right is a screenshot of what I wrote, which looked perfectly fine on the paper. My hand was not blocking the camera.

I tried it on my Mac and was really confused about what was going on with the software. When I finally figured out what it was called in my Applications ("Notetaker Preferences" - thanks for the descriptive title, Logipen! I have a few notetaker programs!) all it does is actually open preferences, which I guess makes sense based on the title.

I know they don't have the same functionality for Mac, but I was really confused about what is actually available. There are all sorts of names being used here and there: LogiManage, Logipen Notes, MyScript Software - I still don't really know what is what.

Regardless, the Logipen worked ok as an input device on the Mac. Still some jumping but not as bad as it did on Windows. It has issues pulling up my dock though. The main problem I had on the Mac was that my active area for writing was smaller than a postcard. Word for Mac doesn't have pen tools so I had to use scriblink (an online whiteboard) since there was no software for Mac (I guess?).

I emailed Logipen support with the screenshot above and all they really said was that it shouldn't work like that and asked if I was using the handwritten note function. I responded yes and haven't heard back, other than a confirmation that my email was received and someone would get back to me.

I tried uninstalling the software, reinstalling it, uninstalling it again and installing it on a different Windows computer with no luck. During a short period of time today when I was at a meeting with a bunch of technologists, it worked ok. It worked better without the software installed, but I had the same issue with a limited active area for writing. Then I got back to my office and it did the jumping thing again. I decided I have had enough of Logipen and I'm going to return it. Top Ten Reviews that also found some flaws with the Logipen so I'm going to assume it's not just me. I get the impression from other reviews that the best use for it is to take notes not connected to the computer and then upload them. That did work fine for me, but that's not what I wanted to do.

I already have a Pulse Smartpen (by Livescribe - $99) which works fine and is really the simplest way to record an inked tutorial since you can record writing and audio together. I just plugged it in and noticed there were software and firmware updates, so I'll have to see what's new with the Pulse. The Echo Smartpen ($169) apparently can work as a mouse so maybe I'll have to try that out. 

First picture from