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The LiveScribe Pen - Reviewed

By Andrew Pollack on 01/10/2010 at 09:21 PM EST

It's been a busy few weeks getting ready for LS10, In the mean time, Barb bought me a new toy for Christmas and I'd thought I'd do a review.

The LiveScribe Pen makes note taking in meetings & presentations a lot easier -- if it works. The question is, Does it?

1. What does it do?

Basically, it's a pen with a good voice recorder built in that remembers where it was in the recording at the time you write any particular note on your pad of paper. The paper itself is "active" with microprinting so the pen always knows exactly where on the page it's writing. There are active controls on the pages as well, for volume control, recording controls, etc. You take your notes while recording, then you can tap any note you took and hear what was being said at that point. Your drawings also upload to your pc along with the audio, so the live pages work there too. Oh, it has apps (in theory) and it has some other tricks, but that's basically main point of it.

2. Does it work?

Yes. It does what it says. It took me about 15 minutes to figure it out, then another 20 or so to get their software set up and firmware downloaded -- then another rounding of learning how it works a few days later. After that, I totally understood the product and can use it fairly well. It does exactly what it's supposed to do.

3. What's it like to use?

The first thing to know before you buy one, is that it's big. In the words of Tiny Elvis, "That sucka's huge!". I have a pretty big hand so for me, it's reasonably comfortable -- but I think for most men and nearly all the women I know, this thing would be just to big to write with much. That's the bad news.

The good news, is that you don't need to write much. One thing you learn to do almost immediately, is stop writing. Instead, when the pen is recording, just just down a word or two to remind you of a top you want to go back to. Instead of writing down notes to remember what the speaker said, you're jotting cues to point you back to the sound of him actually saying it. And it works great. It also works in a meeting where you draw a diagram and talk about a plan. Your notes are always available to you tied to the conversation.

4. What's Wrong With It?

While the product technically works, fit and finish is very limited and it feels like they rushed it to market. Here's my list of issues:

4.1 The size. It's just too big for most hands

4.2 It comes with an ink refill - about a millimeter wide and six centimeters long - with no place to store it. That's gonna get lost.

4.3 The special paper -- while it comes in a decent variety of sizes and styles, pads and folios, ledgers and journals -- you have to use it

4.4 The usb cradle is bulky and poorly suited to life in a briefcase

4.5 The desktop software is severely limited. Managing "pages" for someone with a Notes background, feels like it's missing all the categorization and work flow.

Basically, my biggest issue is that it's a pain the ass to CARRY the thing around so that you use it. The pads are nice, but they don't seem to sell a reasonably nice little folio that holds the pad and a pen. The pen is too big to fit in most of the usual ones, so what exactly do you do? It comes with a cheesy plastic sleeve, but that has no clip on it at all. I just don't get what they were thinking with that.

5. Should you buy it?

I think you have to try it out first. I'll use it a lot during sessions at Lotusphere, and at client meetings sometimes. Otherwise, it will probably not get used from day to day. Call that a definite maybe.

There are  - loading -  comments....

re: The LiveScribe Pen - Reviewed By Richard Schwartz on 01/10/2010 at 11:48 PM EST
Does it integrate with any 3rd party software? OneNote? EverNote? Or... I
won't even ask...
Small Flip Page Notepad that I use regularlyBy Wayne MacKirdy on 01/11/2010 at 11:03 AM EST
re: Small Flip Page Notepad that I use regularlyBy Andrew Pollack on 01/11/2010 at 11:27 AM EST
Yeah, I have that -- my question is, why the hell do they sell this without a
loop to attach the pen? None of the notepad products at any size do. It makes
no sense to me. The pen itself, the mini-cradle it comes with, the tiny
little ink refill it comes with -- there's no place to PUT them. That's the
weakest part of the design so far.
re: The LiveScribe Pen - Reviewed By Bill Schmidt on 01/19/2010 at 10:01 AM EST
Hi Andrew! How well will it fit into a pocket protector!? : )
re: The LiveScribe Pen - Reviewed By Mark F on 02/24/2010 at 07:51 AM EST
"refills" for the writing part are available in several colors
and "no ink". However, although the paper shows the
colors the pen recordings are not distinguished between
the various colors. (Two colors are used for display, but
this is to separate old from new stuff.)

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