What I Use: Livescribe Sky Wifi Smartpen

Since Livescribe released their first smartpen several years ago, I have been fascinated by how their technology worked but never broke down to buy one because I didn’t see an immediate need. That changed recently and I finally succumbed to my urge and bought the Livescribe Sky WiFi Smartpen a month ago. I can say that it has been well worth the money.
The Sky WiFi smartpen from Livescribe, has 2GB of memory that can record up to 200 hours of audio and thousands of pages of notes (4GB and 8GB models are available as well). It can then wirelessly sync your notes and audio to your Evernote account. This allows you to search, replay and even share your notes in Evernote from any device running Windows, OS X, Android or iOS. This creates a totally wireless workflow accessible at anytime on any device.
The basic concept is that a person will write less and listen more as the smartpen captures everything presented in a class or a meeting. At the bottom of the pen, where the ink cartridge is located, there is a small gap that allows the Sky’s camera to record what you’re writing. The smartpen also has a built-in microphone. During meetings or classes, record audio while you take notes and then transfer them to Evernote over a wireless network. Everything you hear and write will be captured so you won’t miss a single word. After you have taken notes, you can play them back and hear exactly what was discussed. It also will sync to what was said by simply tapping anywhere on your notes to hear the audio that was recorded at the same time that you wrote it.
All of your handwritten notes and audio recordings are uploaded to your Evernote account by pressing Sync Now in your Livescribe dot paper notebook. Your handwritten notes appear in two colors: green and black. Notes that do not have any audio recordings associated with them appear in black.  Notes that appear in green means that there is an audio recording associated with them.  To play back a note’s recorded audio, click on a note that has a recording attached to it and Evernote will open a new page and play the recording in full automatically. The audio fidelity is also surprisingly good.
Of course there has to be a catch. The Livescribe Sky WiFi Smartpen only works with special Livescribe dot paper. Livescribe dot paper uses standard paper printed with a unique pattern of tiny microdots. These tiny patterns allow it to capture the exact location of everything you write on the dot paper. Alternatively, you can print your own dot paper using any regular inkjet or laser printer, but  it’s just not as nice as the off the shelf notebooks are. They aren’t terribly expensive and well worth it if you are going to use your smartpen regularly.
The one downside to the Livescribe Sky WiFi Smartpen is that the writing experience is awful, like using a very cheap ballpoint pen. This has been the one thing that I have not liked about any of the other Livescribe smartpens such as the Echo and Pulse. That said, this is also not a pen that you would use for all day, every day writing tasks so the pen quality is not a deal-breaker.
If you’re like me, trying to take notes get in the way of actually paying attention during meetings. Add in the fact that trying to keep those notes organized can be a hassle as well. The Livescribe Sky WiFi Smartpen is the best device I have used that builds a bridge between traditional paper note-taking and a person’s digital life in the cloud.

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