Digital Writing: Any Paper, Anywhere

There are many digital pens out there that convert your handwritten notes and drawings to a digital format for storage and editing.  Two that have risen to the top are the Livescribe Pulse and the IOGEAR Digital Scribe.

The Pulse uses a tip-mounted camera to capture the writing and store it into internal memory. From there, it can be plugged into a USB port for transfer of the documents.

The Digital Scribe uses a receiver that captures the writings of the pen.  It can be attached directly into a USB port while writing or stored and transferred later.


The main advantage of the Pulse is that it is one piece instead of two.  This makes it a little more convenient to carry (though the Digital Scribe is easily transportable itself).  It has a built in microphone so that lectures can be captured and stored while a student is writing ( very useful ).

The Digital Scribe seems to have stronger performance overall.  With the right setup, it can capture and display live-writing onto a computer or overhead.  The quality of the output seems a little better and it can use ink that is easily available anywhere. The technology behind the Digital Scribe is similar to the Wii Remote.

Which is Better?

The real separator, and what makes the Digital Scribe superior for me, is the paper.  Livescribe uses what the call “dot paper”, and in fact does not work without this dot paper.  The Digital Scribe can use any paper.  Beyond the 100 sheets of dot paper included with the Pulse, is expensive. In effect, this paper is to the pen as expensive ink cartridges are to inkjet printers.

While the recording device in the Pulse broadens its appeal, it seems like a “token” feature.  Most students who record lectures use equipment that focuses specifically on sound recording.  While I did not test the sound quality of the Pulse, it appears to use the technology that many mobile phones use to capture sound.  In other words, I would recommend sitting close to the front.

For business and scholastic purposes, the Digital Scribe is the superior choice, both for convenience and quality.  Its ability to write on any paper is a feature that, by itself, would compel most to prefer it for the long term cost savings.

I just might have to say “goodbye scanner”, and exclusively use the Digital Scribe for my note taking.

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