For the back to school season, I’ve got the must have gadget which might help you keep your notes and your work neatly organised for exam time.
The Dane-Elec Zpen comprises of an ink pen and a clip that attaches to the top of a pad of paper, similar to that found at the top of a clipboard. Inside the pen, there is a wireless transmitter with two small cell batteries to power it. The pen itself writes as normal with ink on to normal paper, but inside there is a sensor that recognises movement and contact with paper and records it digitally.
Data is transmitted to the clip at the top of your pad wirelessly and stores it on the 1GB flash memory. Each time you want to create a new digital page, all you have to do is open the clip and close it. An LED light flashes to indicate that a new page has been started.
Sometimes you want to stop the pen from recording what you write, so there’s also a pause button on the receiver or you can power it off completely. The receiver contains an NiMH battery which recharges when it’s connected to a USB port and is good for up to a weeks daily usage.
Zpen ships with two software applications on the drive so you can view your notes wherever you go. PenInkViewer works on Windows, Mac and Linux machines and allows you to open up your notes and export them as PDF or image files (JPEG, PNG or BMP). That’s the extent of the functionality that is included on this application but it does run straight from the USB drive without needing to install anything. To convert the handwritten notes in to an editable text format, you’ll need to install the Windows-only application, MyScriptNotes.
A quick demonstration of the handwriting recognition featuerd showed the limitations of how scruffy you can make your notes. Visit the Flickr image by clicking on the image above to see how much of the text was actually recognised.
Overall, the Zpen is a brilliant idea and takes the concept that was introduced to me in the Selwyn Acecad to a new level of portability. Instead of carrying around an entire clipboard, all you need is a USB dongle and the pen and you can make any surface become a digital notepad.
For students heading back to academia next month or for those who still use the mighty pen in their every day jobs, definitely check out the Zpen as it might just be the productivity boosting gadget that you’ve been looking for.