REVIEW – Whether you’re a student or a person who has a job that requires you to attend a lot of meetings, the ability to take notes is important. The Moleskine Smart Writing Set helps you make your notes easier to manage by using a smart pen to turn your analog writings into digital notes.
What is it?
The Moleskine Smart Writing Set is a smartpen and a smart notebook. When you write notes in the notebook, they are turned into digital notes that are saved in the Moleskine app.
What’s in the box?
- Moleskine Pen+ Ellipse smartpen
- micro USB charging cable
- D1 sized ink refill
- Volant XS Moleskine starter journal / setup guide (pictured above)
- Moleskine dotted paper tablet notebook (discussed below)
Design and features
The Moleskine Pen+ Ellipse smartpen is actually made by Neo, the same company that makes the Neo M1 Smartpen that I reviewed almost 2 years ago. But unlike the M1, the Pen+ from Moleskine has metal body instead of plastic that gives the pen a nice heft in hand.
The plastic cap features a finely ribbed design with a cool wrap-around metal pocket clip that is supposed to slide over the edge of a notebook cover. The idea is that you can carry the pen with a notebook. I find that even the Moleskine Paper Tablet’s cover is slightly too thick for this to work and even though I could slide it on the cover, I don’t because I’m afraid to damage the cover.
One one side of the barrel of the Pen+ has a status LED on the cap end along with the Moleskine brand name.
The other side has a small power button. Unlike the Neo M1 smartpen that automatically turns the pen on and off when removing or posting the cap, the Pen + will automatically power on when you start writing and will automatically turn off after inactivity – you can set the time limit.
A micro USB port is located on the end of the pen and is used to charge up the pen’s internal battery.
On the writing end, you’ll find the camera which tracks your writing and the dots located on the pages of the special notebooks that you need to use with this pen.
The Pen+ uses standard D1 style refills and comes with 2.
The Dotted Paper Tablet notebook
The Moleskine Smart Writing Set comes with a Volant XS Moleskine starter journal which is just a tiny notebook with some instructions for how to use the smartpen, and a Dotted Paper Tablet shown above.
The Paper Tablet is an A5 sized notebook (5 x 8.25in) with 176 pages that have special dots that allow the Pen+ to record your pen strokes. When I say that it has special dots, I’m not referring to the large dots, but very tiny dots that you really don’t notice until you look closely. Click on the image above to see the tiny dots. The Paper Tablet is available in a dot grid version like you see here and also lined and blank page versions.
Another way this notebook differs from other Moleskine notebooks is the way the pages stick out from the cover.
The pages stick out and are smoothly tapered giving it a unique look.
The number 1 is stamped into the bottom left corner of the cover. You can buy another paper tablet that has the number 2 stamped into the cover and Moleskine also sells the paper tablet with a red cover.
The back of the paper tablet has the Moleskine brand stamped into the cover. This notebook is like other Moleskine notebooks and has a pocket inside the back cover that you can use to store slips of paper, stickers, etc.
Moleskine M+ Notes app
The Pen+ syncs with the Moleskine M+ Notes app which keeps a digital record of your physical notebooks. Here you can see that the app knows that I am using the Volant XS start notebook that is included with the Pen+.
The pictures that you see above are synced copies of what I wrote on the physical pages of the notebook. The cool part is that while you’re writing with the Pen+, it not only records your writing, but it also records audio so that you can hear what’s being said as you were writing. This is a fantastic feature to have for people who want to use a smartpen for taking notes in meetings or classes.
In the app, you can also highlight passages and even change the color or size of the text. Another fun feature is viewing the playback of your writing or drawing as it happened.
You can even search for words that you’ve written which is a killer feature for people who want to keep a physical journal or diary but have no easy way to find a specific passage. I was really surprised how good the M+ Notes app was at finding words even if I’d written them in cursive instead of block print.
Another feature is the ability to translate your written words to text so that you can cut and paste into another document. You can also export to a PNG image, PDF, or another document format like PowerPoint and Word. If you have an Evernote, Google, Microsoft, or Outlook account, you can send pages those services too.
What I like
- Ability to use a paper journal but save what you write in the cloud
- OCR works surprisingly well even with my cursive writing
What I’d change
- Lower the prices for the Paper Tablets
I wasn’t expecting much of a difference between the Moleskine Pen+ Ellipse and the Neo Pen M1 that I’d reviewed previously since they are made by the same company. But I have to say that the Moleskine version of the pen AND the app are superior to the Neo version.