Nov 252012
 

MyScript Memo seems at first like a simple app for taking handwritten notes, but the amazing thing is that it links into a handwriting-recognition service that works for Chinese (traditional or simplified)! Seriously, it recognized even my terrible hanzi! This is not like using the built-in handwriting input method. You write your whole note by hand and then convert the handwritten text to typed text afterward. And this is a free app (at this time anyway)!

If you jot short notes in Chinese, you may find it convenient to do so in MyScript Memo, rather than other apps. You don’t need to change your input and you can write continuously, rather than writing single characters and then picking off the palette repeatedly, as with the built-in handwriting input. Of course, the handwriting recognition may not be perfect, but in my testing it was surprisingly good. Here’s an image of some text that I wrote, which was read accurately as 我喜欢用电脑学习中文! 感恩节快乐! In fact, I copied the text into this post from MyScript Memo (you can see the uncorrected conversion in the next image as proof); the only cleanup that I did was to remove a couple of extra spaces between some characters.

Handwritten note in MyScript Memo

Handwritten note in MyScript Memo

MyScript Memo converting handwritten Chinese

MyScript Memo converting handwritten Chinese

Leaving aside the handwriting recognition aspect for a moment, here’s how MyScript Memo works. Each note is a single page. You can handwrite, draw, and/or add one or more images from your device’s Photos or using its camera.

Images can be resized and moved around. You can also select portions of your written text (using the lasso tool) and resize them as objects. By shrinking blocks of text after writing, you can fit a lot on a page, even with large finger-writing.

There are buttons to undo and redo (multiple levels), as well as an eraser. On the iPhone/iPod Touch, you will need to press and hold the undo button to reveal the redo button. Pressing and holding the eraser will reveal a button to clear the entire page.

Your completed note can be exported as an image or as text. The exported image can copied (for pasting into another app), saved to your device’s Photos, e-mailed, or sent to Evernote (with the option to add tags!), Facebook, or Twitter.

When you export as text is when the handwriting recognition occurs. The sharing options are nearly the same for exported text as for an image, but instead of being able to save to Photos, you have the option to send the text via Messages (SMS). By default, the recognition is done via an online service, so you must have an internet connection. You can choose to unlock offline, on-device handwriting conversion via in-app purchase ($2.99 as of this writing).

Notes can also be exported as MyScript files that are accessible through iTunes, but I haven’t quite worked out what you would do with that.

Annotating an imported image

Annotating an imported image

MyScript Memo has a lot of nice features without being overly complex:

  • a personal dictionary to which you can add words to assist in the handwriting recognition process
  • a “writing guard” to avoid accidental hand contact from being registered as writing/drawing
  • an option to preserve line breaks (useful if you are writing poetry or song lyrics)
  • a choice of “paper” backgrounds (various styles of plain, lined, and grid); you can opt not to include the background when you export the note as an image
  • choices of line thickness and color (choose from several preset colors or set up to four custom colors using a color wheel)
  • good documentation.

I did notice a couple of cons:

  • When resizing an image, dragging the handles at the corners should preserve the aspect ratio of the image. Because they don’t, it’s very hard to resize an image without distorting it.
  • The app works in portrait orientation only.

I can imagine a few educational applications for MyScript Memo. As a teacher, you could give students short dictation quizzes and have them e-mail their handwritten notes as images (without conversion to typed text); you could make corrections right on the images also using MyScript Memo. In general, you can encourage students to use MyScript memo for any written work that would normally be typed; not having the prompts of the built-in handwriting input will require actually recalling and writing every single character, which is good practice. And having to check the output of the text recognition for accuracy is also beneficial. Finally, if you hook up your iPad to a projector and use MyScript Memo as a sort of digital whiteboard in class, you can send copies of any notes that you make to students (or post the notes to a website or whatever).

Independent learners, too, can use the app for dictation-type exercises (say, from an audio file) or as a more natural and rigorous way to write passages of hanzi, even if they will eventually need to be rendered as type.

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