Stylus/Handwriting Input Panel Project

What is this?

This is part of a project to enable development of a handwriting aware Tablet desktop for GNU/Linux and Unix computers. The screenshot above shows the actual text recognition result from my cursive writing via the MSInkServer component (see below).

I have self-contained, portable, full cursive and printed handwriting recognition available on my GNU/Linux tablet with this system, and I have been using it since May 2008.

The first component is a system to provide the cursive and printed handwriting recognition, which has been working reliably. The system uses an MSInkServer application which runs on Microsoft Windows XP Tablet Edition, and may also run on some versions of Microsoft Vista, to provide handwriting recognition for both printed and cursive input entered in the SHIP client window on a GNU/Linux system. That software has now beeen moved to it's own SourceForge project at:
MS Ink Server project

After reviewing my Windows XP Tablet license, I run my stripped down copy of Tablet XP in a 128Mb VirtualBox (I have also used VMware) session on my GNU/Linux tablet computer, and this SHIP client on the host desktop connects over a VMware host-only network connection to have the installed MSInkServer provide text recognition on my GNU/Linux desktop.

This component is the Stylus/Handwriting Input Panel (SHIP) which is a general purpose gesture-aware client for text input on Tablet computers using the X11 windowing system. Keyboards may be defined to input any Unicode characters, with options for using gestures to modify key entry, and multiple keyboards may be loaded and available. The SHIP client is a Java program and should work with most GNU/Linux and Unix desktop/laptop computer distributions running an X11 windowing system.

The SHIP runs on the desktop, accepting handwritten input, requesting recognition from the server, and allowing correction of the recognized text via an on-screen keyboard. The keyboard may also be used to enter text directly instead of by handwriting.


I have read that some Universities are mandating that both students and faculty use Tablet computers. As there is no fully functional text recognition available as Free Software, it is difficult to develop tablet functionality for GNU/Linux/Unix.

It's common, however, for Tablet computers to be sold with a copy of Microsoft's Windows Tablet XP. This project allows me to use the handwriting recognition I licensed with the applications I choose.

In time, I hope someone will develop native, Free, handwriting recognition libraries for GNU/Linux/Unix. In the meantime, this will allow and hopefully encourage development of a handwriting aware desktop for Free Software.

Future Roadmap

I am keen to speak with a WINE/Windows COM programmer about an idea I have for a more convenient way to accomplish this. Please contact me through the SourceForge project pages.

This client is quite usable, but it is only intended as a stop-gap to allow the use of the handwriting recognition service available now.  I would like everyone with an interest in using Tablet computers on GNU/Linux/Unix to work on using the system-level recognition service provided by the companion MS Ink Server project to enable handwriting input in all desktop controls, and to develop the infrastructure to allow handwriting to serve as a persistent primary data format.  Please read the pages for the MS Ink Server project, referenced above.

How do I install and use it?

The distribution tarball provided in this project includes the program and configuration files, and also a User Manual explaining how to install and use the system, create new keyboard layouts, etc.

Please note that prior to the current release all the components were bundled and provided from this project.  The User Manual contains sections about installing and configuring the MS Ink Server - please ignore these. This information is now superseded by the material provided on that software's own project pages.

The SHIP alone can serve as an on-screen keyboard for text entry, but the handwriting recognition requires that the MS Ink Server be installed on the system.

If you have any problems, please ask questions in the project forum.

The files, forums, etc., are available from the SourceForge project site:
Stylus/Handwriting Input Panel Sourceforge site