In the event that you haven’t been made aware up until now, Chromebooks have a really awesome tool you can use to type with your stylus. For me, that sounds like punishment since my handwriting is bad and I hate to taking notes with pen and paper. But for many of you, there’s a preference for handwriting over typing and if this applies to you, the ability for the Chrome OS keyboard to translate your jots into text on the screen is a nifty tool that I’d wager few of you use on a regular basis. You can see it in action in the video below.
As you can tell from the title of that video, the handwriting recognition in the Chrome OS keyboard has been with us for many versions of the OS at this point, dating back to Chrome OS 85. In the event you aren’t up to speed, we’re on M90 now, so that is 5 versions at 6 weeks a piece for a grand total of nearly 30 weeks since this feature arrived. What I’m getting at is the fact that this is by no means a new thing we’re talking about today from a usability standpoint.
What’s new, then?
The new part of this feature that we’ve uncovered today is the fact that this functionality works even when you are offline. That’s right! Your Chromebook keyboard can transcribe your scribbles into text in real time even when you don’t have a solid connection to the internet. This means that the machine learning that is needed to pull off this feat isn’t something that relies on the web to do so: it actually already lives on your device.
What does this mean? Well, for starters, if you rely on this feature to input text on a regular basis, you can use it on a plane or in a vehicle (as a passenger, of course) even when connections are spotty or non-existent. Second, it means users don’t need to worry that their text is being sent to a server somewhere to be deciphered. For security and privacy, that’s a big deal. And finally, it means that you can leverage this feature with the confidence you need to actually use it as a daily input tool. When things are fully dependent on a solid connection, that can lead to a lack of confidence in a feature and the nagging feeling that it may not work when you really need it to. No worries there for this one. The handwriting-to-text feature will work as long as your Chromebook is turned on, and hopefully for some of you out there, that is a breath of fresh air.