[Editor’s note Oct 2013: This article was originally written July 2012. LiveScribe have released a new pen with WiFi support and EverNote integration. I have not looked closely at this new LiveScribe pen, but a quick look makes it seem like pen is getting more solid on the software front. I still don’t find the audio recording useful, but capturing notes immediately (no need to sync) does sound cool.]
I just purchased a Capturx digital pen with Microsoft OneNote integration. I thought I would share some first impressions on the pen’s feel and quality. I will post more later on it’s functionality.
Note: I still have a LiveScribe pen, but after moving house I could not find the docking station. I had not used the pen for a while, so I downloaded the latest desktop software to see if it was worth resurrecting the pen properly. The desktop brought back memories of being a LiveScribe developer (they had an open developer program which has since be closed). At the time the LiveScribe software never inspired me. It always felt OK, but not great. It lacked that sharpness of say Apple. My impression installing the latest desktop software was it has not changed – more features heading in the right direction, but not inspiring. (They do have OneNote integration now, which is great, but from my reading on the web it felt like you transferred to the desktop, and then from the desktop to OneNote.)
How did I locate the Capturx pen? Browsing looking for information on LiveScribe / Microsoft OneNote integration I found an article comparing digital pens. LiveScribe they ranked one and two (different models) with Capturx third. So I went off trying to find out more on the web. I did find some information, but was a little surprised how thin on the ground information was. I was looking for people’s real experiences – what use cases did it solve for people? I found user guides etc, but was surprised how little there was around describing the pen from the perspective of someone who wanted to use it.
What did impress me however is Adapx feels like a solid software company. (Adapx makes the Capturx pen.) develop custom solutions for customers. It felt more like OneNote integration was a side line business. They do lots of customized work for their customers. E.g. define forms, print them, then have them automatically loaded up on a SharePoint server, possibly over a mobile phone. Great for service agents in the field uploading information. This side did not interest me, but the immediate feel was they knew what they were doing when it comes to software development. That was convincing enough for me to give the pen a go.
I ordered the Capturx pen online as I don’t think they sell through stores. The Capturx pen is almost 3 times the price of a low end LiveScribe pen. And it has less features. You cannot load apps onto the pen, it does not have a voice recorder, etc. However I have a very specific use case I am trying to solve. I go to lots of meetings and want to take notes. Personally, I find it distracting to have a full laptop open during the session typing away, and it feels a bit rude to others in the meeting. How do they know if I am reading mail or taking notes? I find pen and paper better here – it’s much clearer that I am only taking notes. So I just want to take notes, have follow up lists for people I interact with, have my own TODO list, etc. I don’t need audio recordings (they never worked for me in a business context – it felt rude recording them). I don’t need piano apps. I don’t really want to use a separate second rate desktop application either – having it sucked straight into Microsoft OneNote so I have a solid desktop app around it is much better. So the extra LiveScribe pen features were not useful for my needs. I decided to pay the higher premium for the pen to give it a go. (I had actually decided to stick to pen and paper rather than get another LiveScribe pen.)
So what are my first impressions of the Capturx pen? So far it’s pretty good.
- The software installed easily and just worked.
- To turn the pen on just remove the cap.
- To upload, insert pen into the pen dock (once you tick the “always sync without prompting” checkbox). The notes go straight into OneNote.
- Getting that set up was simple.
- OneNote does the handwriting to text conversion. It is far from perfect, but seems decent.
- You can use all the OneNote features mixed in with the pen. I can search for text using OneNote search. I can create sections in OneNote and move pages into those sections.
For me so far (having the pen only for a day or two) I am happy. It is very simple. My workflow is very frictionless – just dock pen, and text appears in OneNote. My initial Capturx impressions? Nice. Simple. Solid. Sensible.
In a future post I will describe a bit more how I work and how well the pen is working for my specific need. Just because the pen suits my need does not mean it will be perfect for yours. But I am happy and don’t regret the extra money. You get what you pay for. I think they have got the right idea – minimal friction – “it just works”.