Handwritten E-mail–what a lovely idea! Pilot, maker of traditional pens, is working on it. It isn’t perfected yet–this is still beta testing–but they have a beautiful goal. I suggest you watch the demo video first:

Pilot Handwriting video screenshot Dear Gary

The demo shows cursive handwriting easily edited and masterfully connected. Not so. I’m known for my calligraphy and its influence on my everyday handwriting. You wouldn’t guess that from this sample:

My Pilot handwriting sample 1
My Pilot handwriting sample 1. Translation: "This is the first draft--and it looks nothing like the connected, smooth, and polished version in the demo!

So I tried printing.

Pilot Handwriting Sample 2
My Pilot handwriting sample 2: Translation: This is a new scan, of my italic rather than cursive. You can see that precision sizing is important and that an accidental space is appearing before each lower case o.

It took four scans to get this much clarity and to realize that the adjustment feature does exist. You click on each letter before you save the font.

My Pilot handwriting sample 3
"Here's the fourth attempt, printing with a thick pen, then adjusting every letter a little thinner. The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog. Naturally, though, it hardly resembles my actual handwriting."

My attempt to write larger and more clearly improved the spacing between letters, but the lines overlapped because the leading (space between lines) doesn’t change. My “y” was missing, so that one was especially awkward and it turned out too thin.

It was time-consuming and not satisfying in its results, but it was fun to try on a lazy Saturday morning. I made it an artist’s date. If you want to try it, go ahead and read their instructions, then follow my additional tips for you:

  1. Print several copies of the template. Sure, you’re more likely to get it right the first time because you have these tips–and if you nail it, you’ll have extra ones to share with a friend.
  2. Use a thick marker.
  3. Print neatly, with large open spaces wherever spaces should be.
  4. Be as consistent in size and pen stroke as possible.
  5. Be consistent in your letter placement baseline. If I tried this again, I’d mark baselines on one copy of the template and place that under the one I’m writing on.
  6. Skip the Webcam upload. Use a scanner. (I would have tried the digital camera method as well if I could find my camera’s USB cord.)
  7. Adjust each letter by clicking on it, and move the slider bar to the left, making each letter slightly thinner.
  8. If a letter appears to be missing, use the slider bar to find it. It’s usually there, only hiding.
  9. Use the eraser for any extra marks that mysteriously appear. That’s what happened with my lower case O in sample 2.
  10. Fill sparingly. Maybe a stylus or an Etch-a-Sketch artist could manage this, but on a trackpad, I got only ugly pixelated lines, especially on diagonals.
  11. Starting over a couple of times isn’t a bad strategy.

After you send your handwritten e-mail, this message appears:

Pilot handwritten letter encouragement: "Your letter has been sent. Write another one. Or better yet, turn off the computer, grab your Pilot, and write an old-fashioned pen and paper letter."This project is ingenious. By the time you fail to duplicate your handwriting, you’re downright eager to grasp a real pen and paper and write something beautiful. And you’ve just seen that Pilot name how many times? If you know me well, you know I often encourage pen and paper. It’s a personal touch when you send it to another, and it touches your own subconscious, intuitive, creative, receiving soul.

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Text © Gwyn Nichols 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Images from Pilot Handwriting and samples of my own experiments.

Disclosure: I have no relationship with Pilot, but only discovered this through my usual online serendipity.