Review Price free/subscription
Windows 98 SE or later, Microsoft Office
Do you remember the paperless office? Someone somewhere in the world of IT came up with this fabulous idea a few years ago that the advent of electronic documents, email and collaborative technologies would eliminate the need for pen and paper altogether, saving businesses bundles of cash and the countryside from a whole lot of landfill.
Instead our offices seem to be churning out even more paper than ever. Most people still prefer, in the eternal words of Blackadder’s Baldrick, a “papery thing tied together with string” to scrolling through a 600 page novel on the screen of a PDA or tablet PC. Furthermore, everyone is still using pens and – sharp intake of breath – ring-bound notepads to scribble down notes in meetings.
How can this be? Surely the all-conquering behemoth that is the computer industry could have pooled its collective resources to stamp out such primitive behaviour by now? Well, incorporating the convenience and ease of use of pen and paper with the power of computers is clearly a knottier problem than the eggheads first thought. Despite their failure so far though, it seems that they’re still going hammer and tongs at it.
The latest effort at tackling the problem of comes from Wacom, the German graphics tablet manufacturer. Its JustWrite Office software aims at turning your graphics tablet into an annotation and note-making tool. It’s designed to work with Microsoft Office – versions 2000 and upwards – costs around €29.95 if you want to buy it on its own, and is shipped free with some of the company’s tablet products.
The premise is pretty simple – once installed an extra toolbar is installed in Excel, PowerPoint and Word. This toolbar lets you write directly onto your documents in various colours and pen thicknesses, add yellow tags in the style of a Post-it note or even a signature at the bottom of a letter. There’s also a highlighter tool so you can bring attention to particular sections of text and in PowerPoint you get some extra drawing tools, though nothing you can’t already do with that application’s existing drawing features.
If you’ve ever needed to mark up a document to send back to someone else, you’ll start to see how useful this could be. Instead of having to laboriously highlight with a mouse and use Word’s Add comments tool to type out corrections, you can scrawl directly in the margins, in between lines and cross out text – just as you would do with a pen after printing it out. Better still, you can send the document to someone else without having to scan it back in or (horror) resort to sending it via fax. That’s as long as you don’t mind other people seeing how bad your handwriting is…
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