Did you ever get stuck as the official notes-taker for a meeting? It’s not so bad if you can take your laptop in and type them up as you go, but it’s a pain if that’s not an option. You can photocopy your handwritten notes, but sometimes you’re expected to get them into the computer. There are some digital pens out there that allow you to upload handwritten notes to your computer, but they require you to use special, expensive papers. LogiPen has introduced a new digital pen that allows you to take notes on your own paper, upload them to your computer, then save them as an image file or convert them to text. When LogiPen offered a LogiNotes pen to The Gadgeteer for review, I told Julie I’d like to give it a try.
What’s in the box:
2 pen batteries (SR41)
Standard ink refill
Quick reference guide
LogiManage software and MS Office Plug-in CD
Microsoft Windows XP (SP2), Vista, Windows 7, and Mac OS 10.5 (limited version)
50 MB available hard disk space
Minimum screen resolution: 1024 X 768 pixels
32 bit color quality
Coverage area: up to A4 page (size: 210 X 297 mm, or 8.3 X 11.7 inches)
Resolution: 100 dpi
Standards: CE and FCC compliant
The instructions with the LogiNotes system say to install the batteries and ink refill in the pen, connect the base unit (receiver) to the computer with the included USB cable to charge the battery (battery type not specified in included documents), then load up the software. (Since it could take up to 12 hours to fully charge the receiver, I had plenty of time to load up the software and read the documentation!) I was told to go to the LogiPen support page to download the most recent version of the software. I have 64-bit Windows Vista, and I was a little worried to see I was getting a beta version of the LogiManage software.
Just a note here about all the photos below this point. Many of them are screen captures. A few of them will show the full workspace of the program. Some of them I have cropped to show only the information of interest to save space. Also, the LogiManage software defaults to using a blue-lined background for the uploaded page. The LogiPen isn’t able to import the design of the actual paper you wrote on. You can change the background page layout to blank, grid, or lined.
The LogiManage software controls getting data from the receiver to the computer. A conversion program, to convert your handwriting to text, is required. Vista has a native handwriting conversion program, Digital Ink. While the receiver is connected to the computer via USB, you can use the LogiNotes pen/receiver and LogiManage to create handwritten notes and drawings directly on your computer. You can export this data to Office Word files or to email as images or editable text. You can also use the pen as a mouse, but I found it was difficult to use as a mouse.
You have to write on paper using the ink refill, or you can use the stylus tip and write on your mouse pad (I guess), to use the LogiNotes pen as a mouse. It seems to fight with your regular mouse for control of the computer, unless it is allowed to time-out after one minute of non-use or unless you park it in the pen holder on the receiver.
The true beauty of the LogiPen LogiNotes system is that you can use the receiver to capture handwritten notes even when you aren’t connected to the computer. Simply attach the receiver to the top of your paper or notepad (up to A4 in size), and take notes using the pen transmitter. According to the online documentation, the LogiNotes receiver can hold up to 150 full A4-sized pages.
The LogiPen system uses ultrasonic sounds to capture handwriting. The pen transmits ultrasonic signals that are “heard” by microphones in the base unit. The LogiPen system calculates how long the signal takes to reach the microphones in the receiver to determine your hand movements and position on the paper.
So how well does the LogiNotes work to capture handwritten notes? I clipped the receiver to my notebook, traced around the bottom of the receiver to show its placement on my page, and then I started writing. I tried handwriting, printing, and drawing. I made notes at various places on the page so I could see the limits of coverage. (I was using 8.5 X 11 inch paper, instead of the A4 paper.) I have a couple of screen captures to show the text as it appears when uploaded by the LogiManage software, and as it appears after conversion to text. I also scanned my actual notebook page so you can see the original. You can see that the uploaded image matches the actual image well. There is missing data from the extreme right/left sides of the page, and the data I wrote near the top of the page, at the sides of the receiver, is missing. I can store this as a note (.ant file) that can be read by the LogiManage program, or I can export it as an image (PNG or gif file), ISF, MHTM, txt, or RTF file. I can also send the file to email or to Microsoft Word, which I’ll talk about more in a bit.
I have another series of photos here showing a scan of my original handwritten page, the page as it appears in the LogiManage software, and as it appears after conversion in LogiManage. For some reason, the uploaded page has one line curving up at the end, and the second “L” in will in the third sentence is missing. You can see that the text still didn’t convert properly. I wonder if this is because the version I’m using is a beta version. In any event, I think exporting the uploaded page as an image will work better than the text conversion.
There is another method to convert the page to text. You can export the page to email or to Microsoft Word as an image or as text. The above example shows the page exported to Word as text. This is a much better conversion that could be quickly corrected. If I could not use an image of my handwritten page, I’d export it to Word for what seems a much quicker clean-up.
I find the LogiPen LogiNotes system to be a great method of capturing handwritten notes for later transferal to my computer. I don’t know if the problems with conversion to text within LogiManage is due to the beta version I’m using or because of the Vista handwriting recognition utility, but I hopefully it will improve in the official release for 64-bit Vista. It’s really not a problem because exporting the page as text to Microsoft Word seems to work well, and I can always keep my notes as an image file. LogiNotes will make transferring notes to my computer a snap, and it won’t require any expensive paper.
Edited to add pictures requested by Bryan:
I only use Circa notebooks – I don’t even own a legal pad – so I hope this picture shows what you wanted to see.
In the second picture, you can see the receiver is small enough that I can leave it on my paper and still zip the notebook.