Much as I love my iPad, iPhone and MacBook I still prefer to write with pen and paper rather than type or write with a stylus, so I was interested in testing the Livescribe 3 Smart Pen to see how well it works for linking the two.
The Livescribe 3 is a rather chunky black ballpoint pen that works in conjunction with the Livescribe+ app for iPhone or iPad. To use it you need special paper – it comes with a spiral bound notebook and you can purchase more from their online store or livescribe retailers, you can also print your own.
To use the Livescribe 3 you first download the free app and charge the pen via a Mini USB cable (included) – the charging port is cleverly hidden under the stylus tip of the pen. Follow the instructions to sync your pen to the app and you are ready to go. To put the pen in writing mode you turn the center of the barrel, which extends the pen nib and switches it on electronically at the same time so you can’t accidentally start writing with the pen switched off, unless you run out of battery.
All the notes you write in your notebook appear in your notebook on the app. One thing I love about it is that if I get an idea and want to start writing I can do so straight away without having to open my IOS device and fire up the app – the pen “remembers” what I’ve written and it appears in my electronic notebook next time I pair the pen.
Much as I like having my notes stored in both paper and electronic format I think what you can do with those notes after storing them is a really important part of the functionality of a Smart Pen. The first time I saw the Livescribe 3 in action one thing that immediately caught my attention was the ability to turn hand written notes into typed notes and to tag their contents. In your electronic notebook you can view your notes in “page” or “feed” view. In page view you see your notes exactly as you wrote them. In Feed you can swipe left to delete a line and swipe right to convert it to typed notes. I must admit the first time I used this feature I was disappointed – it created a gobbledygook list of letters without spacing. However, as i started to get used to writing with it, and especially making sure the spacing between words was noticeable the handwriting recognition/ word prediction improved greatly; it still doesn’t get 100% of my handwriting but I have to do a lot less editing. Being able to switch it to text makes it much easier to share your notes with others who may not be able to read your handwriting perfectly (and ensures you can read it later too! ).
You can also add photos or text to your electronic notebook which is useful for expanding on your notes at a later date. It would be nice to also be able to annotate the pictures and text within the electronic notebook using a stylus. Livescribe also lets you add audio snippets or “pencasts’ to your notebook. You can record these using the pen at the time you are making notes or you can add them later in the notebook – they use your devices microphone so the app does need to be on when you are recording.
The app also lets you tag your notes with a flag, tag or star – this can be done by tapping the relevant symbol on the notebook page when you are writing the notes or can be added to individual passages later when editing in “feed”. This can be useful, but what I’d really love is the ability to search notes for specific words or to add metatags to pages or phrases. I love to see this added in future.
Livescribe also has Evernote integration you can send excerpts or whole notebooks to notebooks in Evernote and there is an auto update feature which allows a notebook to automatically update in Evernote.
Overall, if you still prefer to write with pen and paper but want to be able to keep, edit and share your notes electronically the Livescribe 3 is a great option. I love that I can’t forget to switch on the pen when starting to write, and that if I just have the pen and notebook with me it will update my electronic notes next time I pair. I love being able to tag notes but would like to see this expanded even more in future. One downside is you do need special paper to use this smart pen, but the notebooks are not prohibitively expensive (approx. $5 on Amazon) and you do have the option to print your own paper.
The Livescribe 3 smartpen is available at Livescribe.com, Amazon, Apple, and other retailers RRP $149.95. The Livescribe 3 Pro Edition is available for $199.95 and includes a leather-bound portfolio and hard-backed journal, as well as one year of Evernote Premium.
by Livescribe Inc.
Note: Livescribe+ is designed to be used with the Livescribe 3 and Aegir series smartpens from Livescribe.