Windows Handwriting Experiences

UX design, prototyping

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On Windows, there are two ways to input text using a pen—the Handwriting Panel and the Embedded Ink Control.

Goals

Allow users to more effectively input text with a pen without interrupting their flow. Reduce complexity in the experience without revoking existing functionality. Make handwriting input feel more intuitive and immediate.

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Strategy

The Handwriting Panel had a long history in Windows OS. For this version, I simplified the grid of buttons visible to the user by default to minimize cognitive load, added an entrypoint for user education, and reduced the number of steps required to commit text to a field. I created a prototype to test out microinteractions before finalizing the design, making sure the transitions between states were fluid and non-disruptive.

One of the biggest challenges was bridging the gap between design and engineering. The engineering team was in another time zone and there was a disconnect between units used to measure UI elements in the design versus the code. I worked diligently to file bugs, follow up over conference calls and email, check and recheck that the final product was pixel perfect.

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The Embedded Ink Control (EIC) is an evolution of the Handwriting Panel and was created to allow users to write directly into a text field. To inform the design for the EIC, I built prototypes for user studies to determine a comfortable height for the writing surface. I defined behavior for the text field growing automatically as the user continued to write, and helped to define gestures for quick editing of converted text.