What I want to do is to be able to enter handwriting/math symbols into a graphics program like Windows Paint or Windows Journal - for sharing math with people online. I've been looking at digital pens, graphics tablets, digital notebooks. (A scanner could be used for this too but I kind of know how they work so I'm not really asking about that.)
I have a laptop running Windows Vista.
Maybe the Iogear Digital Scribe, or some kind of digital pen, is what I need. From the description on http://www.iogear.com/product/GPEN100C
, it works with the laptop in streaming mode, it doesn't automatically try to convert handwriting to text, because it doesn't come with such software - probably could be used in Windows Journal, though they mention the OneNote application to use with it, which I don't have. (Windows Journal supports tablet input so probably it's ok with this). You can see what you're writing because it also writes with ink on paper - apparently you get a streaming digital copy on the terminal. It also works with Microsoft Vista.
Other kinds of digital pens might really do the same thing, although a lot of them don't work with Vista.
A graphics tablet would probably work - but the inexpensive ones like Bamboo have a small work area, like only about 4x5". I wasn't sure if that would work for me. The work area is apparently mapped to the whole laptop screen - so that you'd have to write really tiny if you're writing small math symbols, like subscripts and subscripts of subscripts ... Maybe you can change the mapping so you don't have to scale down your handwriting, and that might work, if it's easy to move the area on the screen that the tablet is mapped to ...
With a small work area it seems like it's more useful as a pointing device, and I don't need or want anything replacing the drag area on my laptop. Graphics tablets have a lot of subtleties like pressure sensitivity which I don't need, and it seems like the tradeoff for that is a small work area.
Best Buy, which is the only store around here that has a graphics tablet, the Bamboo, doesn't let you try it! All they said was, we have a 30-day return policy. If all you can do when you go to the store is stare at the box while getting uninformed advice from a salesperson, why not buy it from Amazon ...
Anyway I'd appreciate comments - all this is very new to me and there are a lot of details involved in whether it'll work well, it's hard when I can't try one in a store and have to try to figure it out by surfing.