I-Pen Electronic Pen and Pen&Internet\’s Complete Note Taking Solution Review

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Product Requirements:
Processor: Pentium class CPU
400 MHZ or higher, Memory: 64MB RAM or more, Monitor: SVGA
(800×600) or better, Writing device: screen tablet, Tablet PC, graphics
tablet, mouse, touchpad, Operating System: Windows 98/2000/XP and Windows
XP Tablet PC Edition. Inquire by email
about ports to other platforms, Handwriting Recognition: Pen&Internet’s
riteScript handwriting recognition technology, File Size: ritePen
executable file and standard vocabulary database files are approximately 8MB.

Last October, when I attended Möbius,
one of the most exciting new technologies to which I was exposed was the
Tablet PC.
Among other things, I marveled at the way it was possible to write directly on
the PC’s screen in either cursive or print, at which point the software could
recognize and convert the entry into typed text. Of course, there were some
humorous examples produced when the software didn’t immediately recognize the
desired input. But for the most part – I thought the technology was amazing.

Fast forward almost a year later. I still don’t own a Tablet PC, but one of
its many cool features is now available for everyone with a PC: the handwriting

In order to get the same effect on my laptop, I had to add a plug and play
device called the i-pen. The i-pen is
essentially a mouse, but instead of the flat oval shape with right and left
buttons and a center scroll that we are all familiar with, the i-pen packs the
right and left buttons into the sparkly blue cylindrical shape of a writing pen.

ipen r8  
ipen r9

The tip is very similar to the same composition as a replacement stylus tip,
being a white, semi-pointy soft plastic. When the tip is pressed, it acts as the
left button a mouse. The button on the i-pen near the tip offers the same
function as the right button on a mouse. A special 4.5" x 6.75" pad is included
with the i-pen for input. This pad is much slicker than a regular mouse-pad, and
it allows the i-pen to glide effortlessly while writing. The i-pen is sized so
that it is similar to a comfortable writing pen, and it fits well in my hand.

ipen r10

After installation, an icon is added to your system tray from which you can
access the i-pen’s features. For reference, it is the second icon from the right
in the following picture.

ipen r6

Using the i-pen. you can move your curser all over the PC’s screen – pointing
and clicking as you desire – just as you would with a regular mouse. In fact,
the i-pen will be listed as a mouse in your PC’s hardware.

ipen r1

As convenient as the i-pen is as a mouse, with the addition of the

software it becomes a serious handwriting tool.

According to the included documentation, "ritePen
is an easy-to-use and powerful handwriting recognition application. It allows
you to write anywhere on the screen of your computer using a pen with your
Tablet PC or other screen tablet, graphics tablet, or even writing with a mouse
or on a touchpad. ritePen instantly converts your English language handwriting
into text and enters the text into any Windows application, such as Microsoft
Word, WordPad, Notepad, Excel, Outlook, File Manager, Internet Explorer, etc.


When the software has been installed, its presence is shown by the pen icon –
which you can see on the left side of my toolbar.

ipen r2   

Clicking on the pen with either your regular mouse or the i-pen will disable
the handwriting features, and this is noted by the slash appearing over the icon
in the following picture.

ipen r3

Right clicking on the i-pen icon allows you to set up various features of the
software, such as ink line size, color and various writing tweaks – including
how much of a delay you want between when you write something and when the
software transcribes it.

ipen r4  
ipen r5

You can actually run the ritePen software with your mouse, but where is the fun in
that? With the i-pen in combination with this software , you can open a
document and start taking notes in your own handwriting.

I did quite a bit of writing with the i-pen and enjoyed watching my words
almost always perfectly convert to text. This is definitely better than the
tired technology I had tried and given up on my Pocket PC 2002. Unfortunately,
this was not a process I was able to capture
with my usual screen-shot software. So, with that in mind, I am showing you a
picture of a handwriting input sample from ritePen’s quick start guide.

ipen r7

What this picture shows is that with the program open that you need to
writing into, you can use the i-pen to "write" anywhere on your computer’s
screen – from your mouse-pad.

When I wrote the phrase "Next generation handwriting recognition" with the
i-pen, the result I got said "Next generation handwriting recognition."
This impressed me because my chicken scratch isn’t always the most legible –
especially when I am writing electronically. I was able to reach the same
successful result writing in both print and cursive – not bad for a program that
doesn’t expect you to "teach" it your handwriting before you can begin using it!

Of course, depending on your writing style, you may still get some humorous
results. When I entered "Take pups to kennel" in my Outlook Calendar, I got "Take
prysstt kennel.
" Of course, this is probably my sloppy handwriting more
than anything…the second time I wrote it, it came out correctly. I almost wish
ritePen could have recognized Graffiti – I know that if I could have used that
"language", then the software could have understood everything I wrote!

I did find that when entering text I had the best recognition success if 
I would write a sentence, give it a second to transcribe, then write the next
sentence. It takes literally just a second or so for the software to
"understand" your writing and convert
it to text.

One of the most amazing features of the software is that even when you are in
pen mode, the software is intelligent enough to be able to tell when you need
your pen to act as a mouse. Putting the pen over any of the menu items on your
screen will allow you to open and use those items. It’s as if it simulates the
Tablet PC experience of being able to hover over an item and intelligently
understands if you are about to write or if you are about to point and click.

If you are familiar with writing on a PDA with a stylus, then you will
appreciate that this software allows you to tap and drag areas that need to be
deleted, edited, or whatever. Some of the universal moves for making
corrections, such as a quick backward "hash-mark" for erasing individual letters
are allowed here, as well as a variety of other easy to learn editing and
writing moves that will enhance your experience. A complete list of these moves
are included in the ritePen’s documentation.

I have to admit, that as cool as it is to be able to watch my virtual
handwriting transform itself into printed word on a computer monitor, and as
cool as it is to be able to send hand-written mail with the included trial
software for riteMail,
I personally still feel more comfortable clacking out my words on a
trusty keyboard. Call me a creature of habit, but it is just the way that feels
best for me.

However, if you have a need for the things that you write to be produced
electronically, but you miss the experience of writing them out in longhand –
then i-pen with ritePen combination is definitely something you should check
out. These products allow you to replicate old fashioned note taking in a format
that will allow space age reproduction and replication – without the expense of
purchasing a Tablet PC.

Price: $99.95

Allows computerized writing in longhand
Excellent handwriting to text recognition that does not have to be trained
Reasonably priced

As good as the software is, there will still be handwriting recognition errors


Product Information

  • Allows computerized writing in longhand
  • Excellent handwriting to text recognition that does not have to be trained
  • Reasonably priced
  • As good as the software is, there will still be handwriting recognition errors

15 thoughts on “I-Pen Electronic Pen and Pen&Internet\’s Complete Note Taking Solution Review”

  1. Gadgeteer Comment Policy - Please read before commenting
  2. what connector does it have? if it’s USB, has anyone tried it on a mac (which already has handwriting recognition software, and if it really looks like a mouse (HID), it would just work.) also, who’s actually selling it? fingersystems looks more like a technology/oem site…

  3. Mark,

    I apologize – I should have mentioned that in the review! 😮

    It is a USB plug – so yes, the i-pen should work on a MAC. I suppose the accompanying software wouldn’t – but if MAC already has handwriting software – then you would be in business.

    Here is a live retail link I found:


    If you get one and you use a MAC, let us know how it goes.

    Judie :0)

  4. I don’t get the point of this.
    Even if a tablet (NOT a Tablet-PC, I mean a peripheral such as Wacom, Summagraphics, etc.) has a base it is still less awkward than that “solution”. The Graphire 2 line from Wacom is one of the best low-priced tablets around, and they have several advantages over the i-pen, such as pressure levels, the ability to use both a stylus AND a mouse…

  5. If I read the articles correctly, the “pad” it needs is very thin and should pack much more easily than a graphire (I can’t tell though: (1) is it flexible? (2) is it optional? ie. does the pen work on a piece of paper too, or does it need the pad?) (I used to carry a graphire with my laptop, but I didn’t end up using it enough to justify. This is small enough (without compromising on writing space) that I think I could. If it doesn’t need the pad, or if the pad rolls up, I *definitely* could…)

    thanks for the answers and links.

  6. Originally posted by b-spline
    I don’t get the point of this..

    Me neither, But then again I prefer a keyboard over handwriting…
    I can type a lot faster then I can write and assumed that that would be the same for most people…

    The only advantage I can see in these kind of input is when you want to draw…

    Am I missing something or is it just my button oriented mind? 😉

  7. handwriting can be a win if you want to keep one hand free for other things (such as jotting notes while taking pictures, or measuring with one hand and sketching into a cad program with the other.)

    my interest is for drawing, though: I simply can’t draw with a mouse. The mechanics are just wrong, for me. The graphire works well for that, and works fine on my desk at home – but is too much to lug around to coffee shops.

    and sketching into the clie’ and uploading is at best tedious…

  8. It works on Mac OS X 🙂 I plugged it in, waved it around, and the mouse pointer moved, so it’s probably a fairly normal HID. [This is encouraging for use with Linux as well, but I haven’t tried it there yet.]

    It also works fine on lots of surfaces that aren’t the pad (which is fairly thin, but not stiff enough to roll.) My “wood” desk does nothing, the metal of the PowerBook works great, a white piece of printer paper doesn’t work, if it has text on it it works a little, if it has a stipple-pattern on it it works as well as the supplied pad 🙂

    The safety warning messages in the package are amazing, too…

  9. I am extremely interested in buying an i-pen so that tablets are bulky and inconvenient. I’d like to use the i-pen, but i have some concerns.

    If I use the pen in photoshop, is the pen pressure sensitive so it draws a thicker line when I apply more pressure to the tip?

    Other than that, I think its fantastic, and will snap one up if it is indeed pressure sensitive. I want to be able to have it as cheaper alternative to stupid tablets.

    But do you reccomend using it for drawing and such? Or am I actually better off with a tablet?

    Thank you.

  10. can the pen be used to communicate in Windows Messenger, without doing any recognition? simply display what one person writes (draws)
    on the other person’s computer in real time? This could be useful for tutoring purposes.

  11. I am 74 and computer illeterate because I never had anyone show me how to use one. I was never given the opportunity to learn to type so, I have to us one finger which takes forever to accopmplish anything.
    I am looking for something to convert my handwriting to typed documents on the computer , both, in Microsoft Word and E-Mail.
    Can anyone suggest the proper equipment, where to purchase it, and it’s cost? Note: It would be hard to write on my monitor’s screen as it is directly in front of me and it would be at an extremely awkward angle.

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