Interface Technical Training

Customizing Handwriting Recognition in Windows 8 and 8.1

I recently picked up a Microsoft Surface Pro 3. I’ve always liked tablet computers and this looked to be a great opportunity to test one out in advance of Windows 10 launching.

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One of my favorite things to do with a tablet computer is writing notes by hand. It really comes in handy (no pun intended) when typing would be rude or when there’s not enough space for a keyboard. So I took out the Microsoft Surface Pen, paired it to the Surface via Bluetooth, and began writing.

Sadly, my penmanship isn’t great. Windows 8.1 had lots of trouble figuring out what I was writing. I knew that Microsoft has included handwriting training since Windows 7 because I demonstrated it during the WinHEC 2008 conference. So I opened up Control Panel and… couldn’t find it.

Is handwriting training gone in Windows 8.1? No. It’s still there. And this is how you find and launch it.

How to Launch Handwriting Personalization

Open the desktop version of Control Panel. There are several ways to do this, I prefer to press Windows + R, and then I type control and press Enter. This shows the full Control Panel. For the next step you must ensure that the view is set to either Large Icons or Small Icons.

Next, click the Language icon.

The Languages applet shows the installed languages, allows installation of additional languages, and allows customization for all installed languages. Click Options to modify the desired language (in my case, English (United States) is the only language installed). This shows the Language Options dialog.

Aha! That’s where the little devil is hiding. Now click Personalize handwriting recognition to open the dialog box you’ve been looking for.

Success! You now have your choice of two options:

Teach the recognizer your handwriting style is the training feature. This option will present a large number of phrases and sentences for you to write, and Windows compares your writing to the known text to learn how you form letters, numbers, words, punctuation, etc.

Target specific recognition errors to fix specific recognition errors. This is not full-on training and is best used after initial training to correct very specific recognition errors.

I recommend you start by teaching the recognizer how you write. It will take a while – typically Windows gives you 50 sentences to start before it performs its analysis. You can save your progress at any point and continue later, so make some time, get comfy, and write away!


Mike Danseglio – CISSP, MCSE, and CEH

Mike Danseglio teaches IT Security Training, Windows, System Center and Windows Server 2012 classes at Interface Technical Training. His classes are available in Phoenix, AZ and online with RemoteLive™.