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The digital pen has made quite an impact, in recent months. Theo Boshoff checks out three of the newer devices, rating them on their ease-of-use and practicality.

The digital pen can make life so much easier for anyone in a position where they have to jot down notes. We`re thinking PAs, students, doctors, and so on. A digital pen captures every letter written down and simultaneously stores it in a digital format.

This makes it easier to store and track all those important things usually written on scraps of paper that somehow always get lost.


Think of how great it would be if you could keep digital records of everything you write down. You`d never have to waste time retyping documents just to get those minutes of the meeting in an electronic format to either e-mail or file away. You could donate your scanner to a worthy cause, since capturing those written notes is the same as having a picture of what you`ve written down. The writing appears on screen in electronic format, just as you wrote it - in your own handwriting.

There are a ton of uses for digital pens - from the office to the classroom - and they help save a lot of time when organising data. It`s like having your own scribe on hand at all times.

Lifescribe Pulse Pen


Lifescribe pulse pen
The Pulse Smartpen from Livescribe is a high-end device. It does much more than just convert handwritten notes into digital ones. There`s also an option to record voice and collate what someone has said with the notes taken while they were speaking. You can then go back and review what was said at any time and, of course, it will also help make more sense of what was written down.


This technology is ideal for students taking notes in a university lecture hall. In addition to taking hand-written notes, everything the professor says can be recorded, saved and reviewed come exam time. The written notes and voice recordings are synced so they are basically linked to each other. When you do revision and click on a word, its corresponding voice recording will be played.

Like most digital pens, the Smartpen uses special paper with microdots. These dots are what the pens use to "track" written progress, sort of like an optical computer mouse.

The workbook stationery provided with the Smartpen needs to be purchased, but each sheet has printed controls used to perform actions such as starting recordings or pausing them. It`s as simple as pushing the nib onto the desired control.

DG Pen


DG Pen
The DG Pen is a marvellous device that can be used in any environment. The pen records what is written and converts it into digital format, but what makes this pen a bit different is that you can use it in the office environment together with all your company`s forms.


Using a laser printer, any office document can be printed on the microdot paper the pen needs to record its progress. Filling in forms becomes a doddle, this way.

Say, for instance, you print a document with ten fields that need to be completed, but are scattered all over the page. Wherever the DG Pen writes, it recognises precisely where notes and marks were made. It then overlays what has been written electronically on the form. You thus have an exact digital copy of the original document when you download the data from the pen to the PC and company system.

Each pen has a digital signature, so numerous pens can be loaded onto the system and given to various employees. When the data is downloaded to the system, you can see exactly who wrote what. This makes the DG Pen perfect for companies doing deliveries, such as couriers, and makes tracking and who signed for what, and when, as simple as pie.

When buying the pen, you have an unlimited supply of the special dotted paper you can print, so there is basically only a once-off cost for the device.

IntelliPen and flash drive


The IntelliPen comes in two varieties: a wired and wireless solution. We looked at the wireless solution as it makes a whole lot more sense than being tethered to the computer all day long.


What you get is a digital pen and a wireless USB receiver, which is attached to the paper you are going to write on. The plus here is that you don`t need special paper with microscopic dots of any kind.

It captures what is written and sends it to the USB receiver without any problem, but it is irritating to move the receiver, which you have to position in the middle of the page at the top, every time you turn a page. It`s a lower-end device when compared to the Pulse Pen and the DG Pen, but is also costs a lot less. As you clip and unclip to change pages, the receiver automatically starts a new page.

The device captures data in 3D, making it possible to use a handwriting recognition software package to turn handwritten notes into digital text.

We see this pen being used by school-going kids and professionals in the working environments where a fair amount of notes need to be taken. For example, secretaries who need written comments in digital format and don`t want to waste time retyping them after a meeting.

The IntelliPen set-up is plug-and-play, and really doesn`t need a university degree to operate. When finished, unclip the receiver and plug it into the PC`s USB slot to upload the document or data.

The receiver also acts as a normal 1GB storage device for saving other files, like music or photos. It also stores the installation files, which means that you don`t have to carry around discs to load it onto every PC or laptop that you use.

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