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Integrating Handwriting Recognition into Unix

James Kempf
Nomadic Systems Group,
Sun Microsystems Computer Corp.
2550 Garcia Ave., Mail Stop MTV17-08
Mountain View, CA, 94043


Many new portable computers are substituting an electronic stylus, or pen, for the mouse. While the pen can serve as a simple replacement for the mouse, it also provides an enhanced drawing capability. This capability opens up the potential for new modes of user interaction, one of which is text input through handwriting instead of keyboard entry. In this paper, the integration of handwriting recognition into the Unix operation system is discussed. We begin with an examination of the current state of the art in recognition algorithms and how handwriting recognition can enhance a user interface. A standard application program interface for handwriting recognition engines (HRE API) is then presented. The HRE API is distinguished from existing PC operating system API's in that it is specifically designed for multiple handwriting recognition engines of differing technologies, rather than a single, vendor-specific engine, and it shares a relatively narrow surface area with the window system. The latter characteristic allows it to be used with existing window systems, such as X, but does not hinder migration to other window systems should they become available. The API has been implemented with a public domain recognition engine and is currently being circulated among vendors of handwriting recognition engines for comment. Finally, the paper concludes with a discussion of where handwriting recognition belongs in the current X window system architecture, and what would be needed to make handwriting an equal partner with typed keyboard input for text entry.

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