No matter how convenient and easy doing everything online is these days, nothing will replace the feeling of scribbling notes, sketches, and random doodles in that old, beat-up notebook you carry around with you everywhere.
The only problem? What goes into your notebook stays in your notebook. Sure, you could take a photo of it on your phone and email it somewhere, page by page, with no guarantee it won't look like rubbish on the other end, but what if you wanted to edit what you’d written, or show someone online what you’re drawing as you draw it?
Notebook giant, Moleskine, has come up with a pretty awesome solution for all of that. Teaming up with the makers of the Neo Smartpen, they’re now selling the Smart Writing Set, which combines a specially made Moleskin notebook and a smartpen that digitises your notes and sketches in near real-time and makes them editable online.
As Andrew Liszewski explains over at Gizmodo, the Moleskine Pen+ comes equipped with a built-in camera that tracks the movements of the pen’s tip on the notebook’s pages.
Instead of your typical ruled lines, the pages of the notebook are covered in a special dot-based grid, which allows the pen to figure out exactly where the tip is in relation to the page.
Other than this grid, which the makers are calling nCode technology, the notebook has not been augmented in any way - there’s no touchscreen or embedded electronics in it, so you’re not going to feel like you’re writing in some kind of pseudo-tablet or anything.
So once you’ve got your notebook and smartpen set up, how do you actually go about digitising everything? As Liszewski explains, that’s all taken care of by the Moleskine Notes app.
"Using a Bluetooth connection to the Pen+ it digitises everything you write or draw in the Paper Tablet in near real-time, and even has a shortcut in the upper right corner of each page for automatically emailing a digital version of the page’s contents," he says.
The app allows you to convert your handwritten notes into editable text online, you can show someone your sketches online as you draw them in your notebook so they can give you feedback on the fly, and you can record audio as you’re writing to be coupled with your text or drawings.
If you’re somewhere that doesn’t have a lot of Wi-Fi coverage, you can even 'upload' a whole lot of your notebook to the pen to be digitised later.
"[I]f your connected device is buried in a bag and you need to jot down a quick note, the Pen+ also has enough storage onboard to capture 1,000 pages of notes before they need to be transferred to the app," says Liszewski.
The only downside seems to be the price, which is US$199 for the smartpen, compatible notebook, and app. Replacement notebooks are $30, but you could always just copy the nCode technology grid and print your own pages for a cheaper option instead.
If, like me, you have terrible handwriting and don't see any reason to ditch the keyboard for the much less efficient pen, there are some real benefits to reserving handwriting for some tasks. Research has shown that kids who write by hand learn how to read faster, and are better at retaining information and coming up with new ideas.
And studies have also shown that because of the time it takes to handwrite something rather than type it, we tend to think more about what we're writing down.
As we reported earlier, when researchers in the US analysed handwritten and typed lecture notes from university students, they found that the notebook text was significantly more insightful than the typed notes, and helped the students remember the lesson more effectively.
"We don’t write longhand as fast as we type these days, but people who were typing just tended to transcribe large parts of lecture content verbatim," Pam Mueller, teaching assistant at Princeton University, told The Atlantic.
So even if you're not interested in picking up the neat little Moleskin gadget, do your brain a favour and grab a cheap notebook and pencil anyway. That is, if you can find a pencil in the middle of a global pencil shortage (wtf).