Xerox is trying to earn money the old-fashioned way: by suing somebody. In this case Xerox sued Palm Computing, claiming that Graffiti (the text input system used by Palm computers) infringed a patent Xerox received in 1997.
A judge has declared that Xerox's patent is "valid and enforceable," and that Graffiti does infringe on it. Palm has appealed the judgment, but has also announced that future Palm products will use "Graffiti 2."
Graffiti 2 is based on Jot, a handwriting recognition program that has been available from CIC. While Graffiti requires you to learn its alphabet, Jot mostly allows you to write as you normally would write on paper.
I was really disappointed when I learned of this. I get tired of hearing about companies litigating instead of innovating. Still, I'm glad at least to see that Xerox is suing directly, now. In the past, Apple sued Microsoft over who was first to steal the graphical user interface that Xerox developed. So I do feel that this is a small step forward.
But I like Graffiti. I like the fact that every letter (well, every lowercase letter) can be written with a single stroke. When I'm writing on paper, a lot of letters require two or more strokes. While Jot may be easier for new users to learn, I believed that Jot (and thus Graffiti 2) was going to be harder for Palm veterans to learn. I began to think that my Tungsten T would be my last Palm device.
I wasn't planning to try Jot (or Graffiti 2), but my article deadline is here and I have to write something, and I figured it would be easy to write an article about how much I hate Jot. I downloaded Jot from PalmGear.com so that I could try it out.
Turns out, I don't hate Jot. In fact, I can see that it has real potential for making my life easier - if I can learn to stop thinking in Graffiti. I've been using a Palm for over 3 years, and Graffiti is very natural for me.
One of my initial objections to Jot was true: there are some letters that require two strokes to write. But remember that with Graffiti, every capital letter requires two strokes. In Jot, you don't have to make the initial stroke that indicates you're about to write a capital letter - just write the letter so that it crosses over into the number input area at some point. Also in Graffiti, all punctuation requires two strokes: a tap to indicate that the next symbol is punctuation, then the symbol itself. In Jot, the most commonly-used punctuation symbols can all be done with one stroke. This means that overall, Jot should require fewer strokes with the stylus to do the same amount of input.
Jot has other advantages, too. For example, there is an option to write directly on the screen. For Tungsten T users, that means you can enter text without opening up the input area. There is also an option called "Show ink" - when this is enabled you'll see the ink onscreen as you write, whether you are writing directly on the screen or in the input area.
If you write international characters on your Palm, you'll find that Jot makes it easier. I could never remember the Graffiti method for writing any particular accented character, but Jot's method is simple to learn and remember: simply write the letter on the left side (in the letter input area, or on the left side of the screen) and then draw the accent on the right side (in the number input area, or on the right side of the screen).
The main disadvantage I see for Jot is the price: $39 is too expensive for what it does. This won't be a problem for future Palm devices, though, since Graffiti 2 will be built in to the device.
If you want Jot now, there is a cheaper way: CIC also offers the JotComplete Bundle, which includes Jot and WordComplete. WordComplete works with any input system (Jot, Graffiti, keyboard) and provides a shorthand for data entry. As you start writing a word, WordComplete will pop up a list of words that it thinks you might be trying to write. The list is updated with each letter you write. When you see the word you want on the list, just tap it and WordComplete will insert it into the text.
I haven't decided yet if I like WordComplete. I feel like it splits my attention, since I have to watch the popup list at the same time that I'm trying to compose what I want to say. Still, some people love this kind of software.
The JotComplete Bundle costs $29.99 - nine dollars less than Jot by itself. It's definitely the way to go if you want Jot now, even if you decide that you only want Jot.
You can download Jot and try it for five days, then buy it if you like it. I bought it, though I'm still struggling to learn how to stop writing in Graffiti.
Of course there's no need to buy it now - if you buy a Palm later this year, it will probably have Graffiti 2 instead of Graffiti. But either way I think it's worth a try, especially if you're new to Palms or are having trouble learning Graffiti.
Jot for Palm
WordComplete for Palm
JotComplete Bundle: includes Jot and WordComplete
© 2003 by Charles M. Olsen
Charles Olsen is a writer, trainer and MIS professional. He presents classes on Palm computing and time management on the Palm, and writes a monthly column about handheld computing for the HAL-PC magazine. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.