Handwriting Recognition + Auto-Complete

I don’t know why we haven’t seen this before, but it should be easy to combine handwriting recognition with auto complete. Many handheld computers allow you to draw letters that it can recognize, and work as if you’d just typed. This can drastically speed up your ability to enter text on small devices where typing is impractical.

Many computer applications try to anticipate what you’re typing, and allow you to finish off the word by hitting Tab or Enter. Sometimes they only show you one suggestion, and sometimes they show you a whole list that is updated with every letter you type. An example of this can be seen by typing “www.g” in your browser’s address bar.

So, here’s my question: Why not combine the two? Auto-complete might use up a lot of CPU power, but I’ve got to believe that modern handhelds have enough resources to do both. I’m guessing that when handhelds first came out, they only had enough processing power to do the handwriting recognition, so that’s all they did. Now, people are used to them working that way, so they don’t demand a better solution.

Ideally, there would be a scroll/click wheel that would let you select the word you’re writing without moving your writing hand too far. There would be a left vs. right handed issue with a scroll wheel. My Blackberry has a scroll wheel in a good position for my right thumb which is good when I’m holding the Blackberry in my right hand. If I was going to use it with handwriting recognition, I’d have to write with my left hand which would be cumbersome (but maybe still better than typing). Of course, they could put the wheel on the other side and annoy lefties, or maybe they could put a wheel on both sides.

Anyway, I just thought it was a cool idea. The word list that the auto-complete uses should be updated by the application you’re writing in. That way, if you’re trying to write a date in a field, the application will know and will only show you date appropriate words. (Really, you should just use a calendar GUI for entering dates, but you get the idea.)