How good are Digital Pens?

Logitech Digital Pen

I keep looking for a good way to take notes in school. I like to have digital copies of my stuff, because they are easy to backup, transfer and share. Paper based notes are by far the most efficient note-taking method, but they have a big downside. They need to be scanned in at some point – otherwise they are just clunky, physical objects. Scanning notes is tedious, and resulting documents tend to be large and not very printer friendly.

Taking notes on my laptop is not very convenient either. I still haven’t found anything on linux that could even approach to match the flexibility of OneNote. But there is no way I’m booting windoze just to use that app.

Besides, drawing with a mouse is a pain… And I’m not planning to get a tabletop anytime soon. These things are nice for note taking, but kinda clunky for almost everything else. And the Linux support for these things is nearly non-existent, so they are useless to me.

Recently I began noticing these digital pens popping up on the market. Probably the most notable example is the Logitech IO2. This thing is a regular pen, with a built in motion sensor that tracks the movements of the pen on paper, are records them. Sounds great, but I’m wondering how good is it in practice. Drop me a comment if you had any experience with one of these things. How good are they at actually capturing the handwriting?

I’m not planning to buy the Logitech product. I just picked it because it comes up in the top 5 in a google search for digital pens. But it just to damn expensive for me. I am not willing to shell out $200 on a pen, that I may never use because it’s tracking or storage capacity sucks. Or because it does not work with linux…

The system requirements blurb on the Logitech store page only seems to acknowledge windows. This probably means that unless I hack it myself, I will not be able to use it in a non-windows system. To get it working you need to install proprietary drivers, and support software. The target consumers here are obviously only windows users. In other words, this product is completely useless to me.

What I really need, is a pen just like that – but with a built in solid state memory stick. I want to be able to plug this pen directly into a USB port and find my documents neatly saved as files in an open format (preferably eps or svg, pdf or something related). Just give me raw data in some kind of standardized format, and I’ll convert it to whatever I need it to be.

The pen should be able to take in standard, off-the shelf ink replacements (pick a popular size carried by Bic or someone else and stick with it). It should not require me to install any software, but you can provide some premium conversion app for lazy windows users.

The pen can take a small battery, or charge from the USB port. Battery would make it heavier, but also more reliable. You can always replace a battery in a middle of a lecture, without missing to much notes. You can’t do that with a USB charged gadget though. So I would be willing to trade the extra weight in for added reliability.

So, is there anything like that out there on the market? And if not, how hard would it be to make one? People would buy this stuff, if the price was right!

Who is going to make my pen?

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