The magazine of the Melbourne PC User Group
Intellipen Digital Pen USB Flash Drive
Adam Turner ©

The IntelliPen Digital Pen & USB Flash Drive lacks most of the advanced features of Livescribe's Pulse Digital Smartpen, but this is reflected in the price tag.

The IntelliPen works with any paper courtesy of a receiver clipped to the top of the page, which tracks the movement of the pen. This data is later transferred to your computer via USB. The receiver only weighs a few grams, so you won't notice its weight at the top of a, clipboard or notepad. When you open the receiver's clip to turn the page or insert a new piece of paper, a new virtual page is automatically created. Each virtual page is stored on the receiver as a separate file, which means if you go back and add notes to a physical page later, or make corrections, this is treated as new virtual page rather than an amendment to an existing virtual page.

The IntelliPen pen runs on two watch batteries, while the receiver is charged via USB. The pen is much thinner than the Livescribe Smartpen, as there are no fancy features such as audio recording or a display.

The IntelliPen relies on the supplied Pen&Ink software, which auto-runs from the USB receiver when you connect it to your computer. There are Windows, Mac and Linux versions of the software on the receiver, but these are stripped down versions which only let you view and print the captured handwriting. If you install the full version from the supplied CD, which is Windows-only, you get access to editing features as well as the ability to convert handwriting to text, although this requires you to download and install Microsoft's MS Tablet PC Recogniser. The handwriting recognition is very good, but not quite as accurate as that offered by Livescribe. This could be due to the fact that the IntelliPen handwriting images are not quite as sharp as those captured by the Livescribe Smartpen.

Even the full Windows version of the Pen&Ink software is extremely basic compared to the Livescribe solution. It won't search through your handwriting for specific words and it doesn't store your handwriting as a viewable archive they way Livescribe does. Pen&Ink lets you export your handwriting as a PDF or in various image formats and, once you've converted it to text, you can also export it as a text of RTF file. There's no way to perform even basic searches on your handwriting for specific words and, as with Livescribe, there's no easy way to create an advanced searchable database or cross-reference your handwritten notes with the text conversions.

The IntelliPen Digital Pen & USB Flash Drive does an admirable job of capturing your handwriting, but the basic Pen&Ink software highlights the fact that a digital pen is a great toy but it's only part of the solution if you want to take full advantage of digitising your notes. The IntelliPen still needs to combined with a decent document storage and searching system, such as Microsoft's OneNote, if you want to get the most from your digital notes.

The IntelliPen Digital Pen & USB Flash Drive retails for $149.

Reprinted from the July 2009 issue of PC Update, the magazine of Melbourne PC User Group, Australia

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