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Vendors show tablet PC wares

Two software vendors - Corel and Pen∬ernet - this week took the wraps off applications designed for tablet PC devices. Both aim to make handwriting the preferred method for inputting data into computer documents.

On Tuesday Corel previewed an application called Grafigo, which is due for release on 7 November.

Now in beta testing, Grafigo is designed to allow users to open graphics files - for example, a building floor plan - and add handwritten notes, diagrams and various shapes to those documents.

The software also will allow users to connect to the Internet and invite other Tablet PC users to join collaborative sessions. Multiple users will be able to access a single document and jot down notes on that document simultaneously.

Grafigo is specifically for the Tablet PC and will only be available on devices that run Microsoft Windows XP Professional Tablet PC Edition, said Corel product manager Roe McFarlane.

Corel will release Grafigo the same day that pen-based mobile computers from hardware makers such as Hewlett-Packard and Acer are expected to be available. The Acer device sports both a stylus and a keyboard. HP has yet to unveil the shape and features of its hardware.

Version 1.0 of Grafigo will be available as a free download, McFarlane said. "We recognise that the Tablet PC won't get the uptake that we normally see with other devices. We're just trying to get people to try it out."

The company will charge for subsequent versions of the software. Corel is targeting mobile enterprise users, and future upgrades will be released in a series of editions aimed at specific industries such as manufacturing and mechanical design.

Meanwhile Pen∬ernet, a maker of handwriting recognition software, announced the commercial launch of its Ritemail e-mail service, which allows users to send and receive handwritten e-mail. Designed to work on a range of computing devices, including Pocket PC and Palm handhelds, the company is promoting the software as an ideal application for the tablet PC.

"People using any pen-enabled devices can exchange handwritten messages," said Pen∬ernet general manager Leonid Kitainik.

Unlike applications designed to run only on tablet PCs, users of Macintosh, and existing Windows operating systems can also use Ritemail to send and receive e-mail.

Ritemail messages are delivered using Java technology and can be opened on any device that supports Java, including handheld computers running Pocket PC or Palm operating systems. Ritemail can be accessed with a Web browser, or can be installed as an application on the various devices.

Ritemail is offered as a subscription service, and went live on the company's Web site Tuesday. Pen∬ernet is offering Ritemail on a 30-day free trial. Afterwards it will cost between £19 to £32 a year, depending on the number of devices used to access the e-mail software.

Microsoft has also demonstrated Journal, a note-taking application that allows users to save handwritten files as well as translate notes into text. The Tablet PC edition of Windows XP will also allow users to input handwritten notes in Microsoft Office and other Windows applications.

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