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Smart pens: what they are and what they can do

Smart pen with charging dock

Smart pens (or digital pens) are not regular pens with ink that you use to write on paper, but are fully functional digital pens that helped capture every details of your handwriting and sync them into your digital space where you are provided with various tools to highlight, link, organize, convert, and share your notes.

Since smartphone and tablet have become the mainstream in all institutions, people no longer buy ink pen and paper notebook to write or jot things down as this can be conveniently done on notepad applications.

We have apps like ColorNote and Evernote that make note taking easier using our smartphone or tablet QWERTY keyboard or stylus. Special apps like Samsung Notes and Apple Notes with advanced features like text recognition are available for specific device as well, and can be used as drawing board for drawing and sketching apart from taking note.

Smart pens are based on this idea - the thought is to have a digital pen and a specially-crafted notebook that serve as a mapper. They bridge the gap between analog and digital when it comes to writing and sketching, and offer features that does not only make note-taking easier but shareable and editable as well.

The world has gone digital; smart pens are there to make sure that every single piece of your writing are secured, usable, editable, and shareable on-the-go, at anytime anywhere. There are different types of smart pen that use different technologies to capture handwriting and convert it to digital. The major producers in this field are Livescribe and NeoLab.

Livescribe Echo Smartpen in-the-box

Some smart pens have ink tip and can be use to write on regular paper. These pens also support ink cartridge that can be use to refill the pen ink when the ink finish - they offer the best of both world. The Livescribe Echo Smartpen is a perfect example - it has an ink tip but it required a special Livescribe dot paper that the user will need to write on.

The Livescribe dot paper is a regular paper with microdot markings that help the pen map and capture the handwriting of the user using a proprietary tech. With Livescribe Echo, the user have both the paper copy and the digital copy of his writing.

Most smart pens comes with companion app that can be installed on Android, iOS, Windows, and Mac. The companion app let users pair their mobile device or PC with the pen via Bluetooth or WiFi and sync their notes to cloud-based storage service such as Google Drive, Dropbox, iCloud, Box, Evernote, OneNote, Adobe Creative Suite, and others.

The companion app also provide features that enable users to edit their notes, convert their notes (to pdf, word and other digital formats), search, tag, and organize their notes. They are not all about note-taking as they can be used for other purpose. Some smart pens have inbuilt microphones that let users take voice note if they feel irksome to write anything down.

Some can be used to transcribe texts. Some allow users to take note and at the same time add voice note to the texts. The benefits are numerous. The Wacom Bamboo Spark Smart Folio, for example, can be used to sketch as it use Wacom's proprietary EMR technology. Moreover, it works on any A5 paper.

Bamboo Spark Folio smart pen

Users have complete control over their written texts and documents and can change the ink color, text size, font, margin, pagination, and other stuffs within the companion app of the smart pen. What's more? You can encrypt your note to make it confidential, depending on the type. Teachers, students, journalists, and artists will find them useful in their daily routine.

Their price varies depending on the features and the specs, but you can get one for as low as US$120.

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