Why Hard Copy Is Hard to Beat

By Peter Coffee  |  Posted 2003-03-10 Print this article Print

Print—of all the old-fashioned things—is still a cutting-edge tool.

When Microsoft wants to promote a new way of doing things, the companys toolmakers know that application developers demand a well-paved path of least resistance. The latest version of the Tablet PC Software Development Kit is an excellent example: A developer can now offer Tablet PC optimization, enabling convenient pen-based text input, custom gesture recognition and other features, with a tiny amount of easily written code.

Tablet applications will certainly spread, once users see them as a distinct advance in interacting with data, with events and with one another.

But even as the Tablet PC tries to replace the piece of paper as the portable tool of data capture and communication, the OS X version of Microsoft Office for the Macintosh makes it easier for users with mouse and keyboard to work the way they have to think: not at the tip of a stylus but across an entire page of information at once, using techniques such as selecting and operating on several unconnected passages of text in a single step.

And many of us, its important to recall, spend much more time rewriting than writing: more time suggesting changes, or incorporating our contributions, than merely taking notes or producing first drafts. Much of what we produce is intended, in turn, for an audience of clients or other customers. Anything that makes it easier for them to understand, and accept, what we have to say is a highly leveraged investment.

Productive creation, and still-growing graphical sophistication, make print—of all the old-fashioned things—still a cutting-edge tool. Even the most aggressive proponents of the Tablet PC will admit, Im sure, that paper is still the standard of comparison for durability (ever seen a Tyvek laboratory pad?), readability and convenience, not to mention its ease and affordability of large-format presentation: Compare a poster or map with a same-size flat screen.

Printing hardware, for that matter, continues to astound me. The Canon i850 that I just purchased is remarkably fast, quiet and precise in producing documents and photo prints.

If paper had just been invented, wed consider it the marvel of our time. Dont overlook its role in your portfolio of information tools.

Tell me whats too hard about hard copy at peter_coffee@ziffdavis.com.

Peter Coffee is Director of Platform Research at salesforce.com, where he serves as a liaison with the developer community to define the opportunity and clarify developers' technical requirements on the company's evolving Apex Platform. Peter previously spent 18 years with eWEEK (formerly PC Week), the national news magazine of enterprise technology practice, where he reviewed software development tools and methods and wrote regular columns on emerging technologies and professional community issues.Before he began writing full-time in 1989, Peter spent eleven years in technical and management positions at Exxon and The Aerospace Corporation, including management of the latter company's first desktop computing planning team and applied research in applications of artificial intelligence techniques. He holds an engineering degree from MIT and an MBA from Pepperdine University, he has held teaching appointments in computer science, business analytics and information systems management at Pepperdine, UCLA, and Chapman College.

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