Recently, staff in the School of Health Sciences were asking for an app that would allow handwriting-to-text conversion. This was to be used when writing feedback during practical assessments, replacing the current workflow of handwritten notes which were later transcribed.
Handwriting to Text conversion
There are (and have been for a while), apps that offer the ability for users to handwrite notes on the iPad and other touch screen devices, and such notes to be converted into text. OneNote 2016 for Windows and GoodNotes to name a few. Feedback on these has always been mixed, and I guess this is partly due to individual differences in handwriting style.
Why MyScript Stylus?
- It’s free (the others cost ££)
- Its available on iOS, which was required for this specific use-case
- Importantly, it reduces the workflow required. The aforementioned apps require you to handwrite your notes into an app, then export the converted text and paste into where you need it (e.g. Turnitin, a Word Document etc). MyScript stylus installs a handwriting keyboard onto your device, so you can handwrite directly into anything!
Does it work?
The initial tests proved successful. I was able to handwrite into both Turnitin (using the Turnitin app), and a Microsoft Word document. It was also compatible with Notes, Pages and Evernote. There are plenty of settings that can be adjusted (e.g. Ink Thickness, scrolling speed etc) so a user can fine tune according to their requirements. The app supports a range of languages built in, with additional languages available for download if required.
The app converts your handwriting as you write, so word by word. This makes it easier to make adjustments on the go. There are a range of editing shortcuts you can use – such as erasing particular letters, or joining words together. The keyboard will display suggest words so if the conversion is incorrect you may be able to select the correct word with a single tap.
Ultimately the success you would have with any app like this is the quality of your handwriting!
A good stylus makes the difference
For my tests I used a Wacom Bamboo Stylus – it costs around £8 so is affordable but works remarkably well (thanks Fiona for the recommendation). Ultimately choosing a stylus is a personal thing, depending on your preference. However getting it right does make a difference to the success of handwriting-to-text conversions.
Conclusions – and moving on
In this case study, staff will hopefully start trying the app shortly and feedback on its success. With the launch of the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil, MyScript have also released MyScript Nebo, a similar app built for these new tools, allowing more sophisticated ink flow and the ability to write LaTex maths equations. Also, products like LiveScribe and Bamboo Spark offer users the ability to handwrite on paper with a traditional pen (almost), and then sync these notes to a device and convert them to text.
Either way handwriting is certainly not ‘dead’. The desire to use our touch screen devices remains strong, and hopefully from this blog you’ve seen it can still be practical.
Note: MyScript Stylus is a 3rd party app, and Information Services do not in any way formally support the use of such an app.