Archive | March 2004

Logitech io Digital Pen Review: Summary and Conclusions

My first week with the pen is almost over. I’ll try to summarize here what I’ve learned about the pen and how much I like it. If you haven’t read the other posts, you’ll find them here: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4.

Basics

You write with the pen on special paper that is fairly expensive. You drop the pen in its cradle. The io Software on your Windows computer presents you with digital copies of every page of special paper you’ve written on. You can organize and search your pages. Optionally, you can try to convert your scribble-scrabble into text using the included 30 day trial of handwriting recognition software.

Remaining Questions for Logitech (I also posted these questions to the Logitech io Forums)

  • When is the next version of the logitech io pen hardware being released? How soon is my pen going to be obsolete?
  • Since using the pen AT ALL requires writing on the included notebook, how do retailers feel about returns?
  • What is the manufacturer’s warranty policy on internal damage resulting from a fall?

Digital Paper

  • Pros
  • Cons
    • The paper is expensive ($25 for 3 notebooks – 160 pages each(80 sheets)).
    • It sounds like the pocket notebook paper format is not available for the Logitech Digital Pen.
    • Despite reports that photocopies of the paper are functional, I haven’t been able to get that to work.
    • Digital Paper is apparently not available in local office supply stores.
    • Aside from special printers from HP, there is no way to print your own digital paper.

io Pen and Desktop Application

  • Pros
    • After informal meetings, sending out gif versions of notes is easy and appreciated.
    • Unlike with Graffiti and keyboards, at meetings, I feel comfortable taking notes with the pen.
    • Unlike with Graffiti and keyboards, at meetings, I can record diagrams and quickly jump around the page.
    • Everything I write is automatically backed up to my computer.
    • It’s easy to categorize(in an arbitrarily deep hierarchy) and search notebook pages.
    • The pen is light and durable.
    • Pen syncs are fast.
    • Pages can be exported to gif, jpg and emf(vector graphics). The PalmOS Vector Graphics editor, Leonardo will, apparently, soon be able to import emf files. Pennovate Notes can already work with the gif exports after you convert them to 1bpp Windows bmp files with mspaint.
    • Owning the pen encourages me to write in a tablet instead of on random scraps of paper.
    • Given that the software was just recently updated, it seems that Logitech is committed to the platform.
  • Cons
    • The pen cost $158 at Amazon. A little pricey.
    • 3 or 4 times thicker than a normal pen.
    • The io software is slow to load.
    • The pen cap does not fit tightly on the back of the pen.
    • The ink refills are very small, and probably run out quickly.
    • Though you can export to Microsoft OneNote, OneNote will not recognize your strokes as text input, only as drawings.
    • There is no easy solution for synching pen documents to your Palm PDA.
    • There is no easy solution for using two PCs with the io pen.
    • The computer will not show you every piece of text you wrote for a specific time period(such as a meeting you had last week).

myNotes Handwriting Recognition Software

  • Pros
    • The pen comes with a 30 day trial of this software.
    • Luckily, I find that I only want to use handwriting recognition for about 1 out of 10 pages.
    • Adding words to the myNotes dictionary not only helps it process the current page, but assists future pages.
    • If I need to send out typed notes quickly after a meeting, syncing the pen and correcting the relatively few mistakes made by myNotes is A LOT faster than typing from scratch.
    • Sometimes myNotes has as much as a 90% hit rate on my chicken-scratch printed writing.
  • Cons
    • The software costs $40 if you want to use it more than 30 days. I think it should be free with the pen.
    • myNotes does not recognize indentation well. Your best bet is to select all and paste into another app for adding formatting.
    • myNotes does not recognize bullets. It does dashes a little better.
    • It does not understand words written in capital letters very well.

Caveats

  • I haven’t tried to train the OCR with the included training sheets, but I think my printed writing is too unpredictable to accurately train it.
  • I’ve used the pen for less than a week, so far.
  • Everyone’s handwriting is different… your experiences with the pen and software could be very different.

Resources

Conclusion

I’m keeping it. Hopefully, I’ll find ways to do the things I currently can’t do with it, but the things I can already do are changing the way I work a lot already. This pen is a fantastic asset for the workplace.

Crossposted to PalmAddicts

Logitech io Personal Digital Pen. DAY FOUR. A review in parts.

This is the fourth installment of my investigation of the Logitech io Personal Digital Pen. The previous 3 parts are here.

HAPHAZARD PALM INTEGRATION – I’ll keep trying!!

Today, I converted a gif exported from the Logitech io software (a pixel-based picture of a “Digital Paper” notebook page I wrote on) into a 1 bit per pixel bitmap using mspaint. I then stored that bmp file on my SD card and used Pennovate Notes to view and edit the page. Notes is a very impressive piece of software and I look forward to finding a way to automatically store the pages on my SD card (of course, I’ll have to register Notes first). Naturally, changes I make on the Palm will not be synced back to the io software, but I think that’s ok for now.

I wrote a note to the company that offers Leonardo, a vector graphics program for PalmOS. If I can convert the pen strokes from the pen to a vector format viewable on the Palm, then zooming will be much cleaner. I also have a request out to the Logitech io support team – I’d like to get documentation of the .pen file format(it’s mostly xml, but a huge chunk of it is compressed and possibly encrypted).

In short, I’m happy with the Pennovate solution, but I’ll look around more and see if there is a better solution.

POSSIBLE APPLICATIONS

Calendar Integration – I mentioned yesterday how I wish each pen stroke was time-stamped so I could see all the text I wrote during a particular meeting, no matter which pages the text was written on. You can already create appointments and todo items by filling out the bottom of each sheet.

Portable Viewer – A viewer (with search capabilities) for the .pen format could probably be written quickly(if the format docs were available) for the J2ME platform. Then the viewer(or maybe even an editor) could be used on PDAs and alternative OS’s.

Document Markup – If you could print documents onto Digital Paper, you could make your notes and the io software could store your notes directly on the document in question. For instance, I could print out a proposal from a vendor or a resume from a potential employee on the special paper and all of my notes could be stored alongside the doc when I sync the pen.

Printable Digital Paper – Printers, ink and software that can print the Anoto patterns on regular paper would be fantastic. I had heard that a solution for this already existed for the Nokia pen, but I think that was false. HP is working on a line of Anoto printers, but I’d rather use my trusty old inkjuet.

LONGEVITY

I just went to Staples to see the wide variety of Digital Paper there is to choose from. Unfortunately, except for 3 standard notebooks in the clearance bins, there was no Digital Paper to be found. I don’t mind ordering it online, but I have to question, a little, the longevity of a device that doesn’t sell well enough in SILICON VALLEY to justify keeping it’s refills in stock at local stores. The guy at the counter said that they sold only 2 pens during the year they stocked them(I hope he was exagerating). Obviously, being able to print my own Digital Paper would quell this fear immediately.

COMPETITORS

iPen Memory (Q2 2004)
The iPen Memory doesn’t require special paper, but it won’t be able to tell you where on the page or where in a notebook your text was written. All of your writing will just run together on the desktop application and you’ll need to sort it out. Still, it will probably be cheaper because it uses a pressure sensitive tip, not a camera to figure out what kind of stroke you are making.

Nokia Digital Pen
The Nokia pen uses the same Anoto technology as the Logitech Pen. Both Logitech and Nokia (and, later, Ericcson) use Anoto paper, but Logitech-ready pads may not work with Nokia-ready pads. I haven’t found a definitive statement on this topic. The big advantage to the Nokia pen(and, later, the Ericcson pen) is that written messages can be sent as MMS by connecting the pen via Bluetooth to a phone.

A great comparison table for the Nokia, Ericcson(not available yet?) and Logitech Digital Pens is here.

UPDATE ON IO SOFTWARE

I must be writing more cleanly. The last two documents I ran through the handwriting recognition app have had about a 90% hit rate. That’s fantastic! Even without the recognition, it’s great to have the digital archive. In a month or so, I’ll toss this notebook in a box or a filing cabinet and start a new one. If I need to refer to old notes, they’ll be right there on my computer, sorted and searchable.

NEXT

This series of notes on the io has been really helpful for me in evaluating the pen. I’ve decided to keep it. Despite the cost of the unit and the paper, the Digital Pen has become as much a part of my day as my PDA. Tomorrow, I’ll finish this review up with a nice summary. Expect occasional posts after that when I get photocopying working and when I’ve found a better solution for using my PDA with the pen.

Crossposted to PalmAddicts

Logitech io Personal Digital Pen. DAY THREE. A review in parts.

As you may know, I’ve been posting notes regarding my experiences with the Logitech io Digital Pen for the past few days. Here’s more!

GENERAL OBSERVATIONS

I wish I could open my Outlook calendar, pick an appointment and see all notes taken with the pen during that time, regardless of what page in the book they were written on. The pen doesn’t timestamp each stroke and I think it should.

You can save Digital Pen documents as images. I copied a couple JPGs to my SD card, but RescoViewer treats them like small 320×320 images and zooming just shows low-res blowups. There is probably a “better for large images” JPG viewing application out there and that would help. I think the ideal solution would be a synch process that copies all the Logitech io .pen files to the memory card in the same hierachy they appear in you’re My io Documents folder. Then, there should be an application on the pda that can interpret the XML .pen files to display the pen strokes. Zooming and panning would be a lot cleaner that way. Maybe there’s a way to convert the .pen files to a format used by a “vector graphics” palm editor. “Vector graphics” are images made of shapes and strokes rather than pixels(like bitmaps).

When I write a word in all capital letters, the handwriting recognition tries to recognize each letter without the context of the surrounding letters that make up the word. The only way to make it treat the all caps word correctly is to enter the word in the dictionary in all caps. This was frustrating for me, at first, because I normally write in all caps.

There is no workable system for users who want to dock their pen at work and at home. I haven’t tried it, but I see how the files would get completely out of sync, with some pages ending up at home and some at work. This is a problem that could be resolved by desktop software. And I hope it does.

The Logitech io Digital Pen has a TERRIBLE cap. It fits on the back of the pen, but falls off if you turn the pen upside down or wave it around. Incidentally, if you lose the pen cap, the pen will never know when to turn off and it’s batteries will wear down.

NEXT

Hopefully, I’ll find a good solution for viewing pages on my PDA and document that tomorrow. I’d also like to discuss, briefly, productivity applications that I think this technology could spawn. The following day, I’d like to wrap up, with a pleasant summary and compare the Logitech io Pen to the feature lists of similar products that are on the market now or soon will be.

Crossposted to PalmAddicts

Logitech io Personal Digital Pen. DAY TWO. A review in parts.

Today, I took several pages of notes, during meetings, with the Logitech Pen. Here are my thoughts.

OCR

Yesterday, I was not satisfied with the handwriting recognition(trial included). I was using the included Post-Its and I thought the included notebook might be better. The handwriting recognition software is not noticably better with the notebook. But, I learned a few tricks. Doing a “select all” when in the handwriting recognition application lets you grab all the text and you can format it yourself in Outlook or Word if you plan to share it with someone else. Also, the best way I’ve seen to improve the handwriting recognition is to add words that it missed to your dictionary.

The OCR software does not recognize bullets, so you need to use dashes if you want the formatting to carry over to converted text.

I haven’t tried to train the OCR with the included training sheets, but I think my printed writing is too unpredictable to accurately train it. Maybe another day.

STABILITY

I’m much more comfortable with the interface now and I realize that yesterday’s description, “Clunky”, may have been too harsh. Also, I think it’s great that all my notes will soon be stored safely on my PC. A rogue cup of coffee or an over-zealous desk cleaning will no longer mean lost data.

CONVENIENCE

I think I won’t be using the OCR software much, but it’s nice knowing that if I had to get the notes from a meeting and distribute them quickly, I could convert the text, make a few corrections, load it up in Outlook and format it properly. I did just that for one set of meeting notes today and it was much quicker than typing the whole thing in from hand-written sheets.

All pages are searchable, even if you haven’t run them through the OCR software. So, I’ve gotten into the habit of putting a very clear title and some keywords at the top of each page. Typing in a search phrase will give you a list of documents that contain those words. Also, the documents can be organized, in the io application, into a hierarchy. That hierarchy is matched with files and folders on disk, in the My Documents/My io Documents folder.

COMFORT

At meetings, I feel comfortable taking notes with the pen. As I mentioned yesterday, typing lots of notes(or using Graffiti) during meetings feels impersonal to me and very constricting. With the io, I’ve been able to take notes the same way I’ve been doing it for years.

NEXT

Tomorrow, I’ll address processes. For instance, what’s involved in getting notes from the pen to my Tungsten C? I’ll try jpgs, unformatted text, formatted text, etc.

Crossposted to PalmAddicts

Logitech io Personal Digital Pen. DAY ONE. A review in parts.

“The Logitech io Personal Digital Pen: It writes as well as any ballpoint, but also permanently records all your ideas, sketches, and notes in digital form on your PC.” – from the main Logitech io page

“Digital paper with Anoto functionality is created by printing a proprietary pattern of very small dots on ordinary paper that is perceived by the eye as a slightly off-white color. The dots have a nominal spacing of 0.3 mm (0.01 inch). As you write, the built-in digital camera in the pen continuously takes pictures of the patterned paper. Then, when you place the pen in its cradle, all of your writing is transferred automatically to your PC.” – from the Logitech io technology page

Though I love my Tungsten C, none of the PDAs I’ve owned(starting with the original Pilot 5000) has allowed me to, comfortably, take pages of notes in meetings. The ThinkOutside Stowaway keyboard for my Palm V came close, but I couldn’t draw diagrams, etc. And then…

After reading about the Logitech io “Digital Pen” on Daily Gadget, I knew I had to have one. On Sunday, I read every post on the Logitech io forums and ordered one that night. It arrived today.

This pen is 3 or 4 times thicker than a normal pen, but it is light. Also, I feel confident that the pen is durable, despite the fact that a tiny camera sits at the tip, next to the ballpoint pen tip.

The pen writes well. The refills are very small, though, and I expect that the ink will run out quickly. It comes with 5 refills and more are available online.

The io software is clunky(loading, restoring the window after minimize), but downloads from the pen are fast and trouble free. Within seconds, you can put your pen in the cradle and, if the software is already running, open the downloaded document.

So far, I’ve only tested writing on the included Post-It Notes. I’ll try using the included notebook tomorrow. All the text I wrote(I normally print and I was a little careful) converted to text successfully. Unfortunately, text chunks with a lot of space between them were treated as different blocks of text and could not be copied to the clipboard as one chunk of text. I expect that the OCR stuff will work a lot better with the notebook. Also, I drew a pie graph with 4 slices and the shape recognition failed miserably.

The MyScript software that converts pen input to text is an additional $40. The pen comes with a 30 day trial of that software. I wonder if there is a free solution out there for OCR of the “.pen” files.

The paper is a little expensive ($25 for 3 notebooks – 160 pages each), but it is available in a lot of different formats. Several statements on the forums indicate that some people have successfully photocopied the paper and used the copies. I tried that on the copier at work with notebook and post it paper. The dots showed up, but the pen wouldn’t record.

The pen itself was $158 at Amazon. It’ll be worth every penny if it means I can get rid of a few of the piles of notes on my desk.

System requirements
Windows® 98, Me, 2000, or XP
Pentium® II 233MHz,64MB minimum,128MB, 300MB of free disk space
Screen resolution of at least 800×600 and 256 colors
Internet access
Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.01 or later; Microsoft .NET framework (both included in box)
Available USB port
CD-ROM drive
Pre-printed paper (initial supply included)
Email support requires one of the following MAPI-compatible email clients:
Microsoft® Outlook® Express 5.0 and 6.0
Microsoft® Outlook® 97, 2000, and XP
Microsoft® Hotmail®
Lotus® Notes® 5.0 and above
Eudora® Mail 5.0 and above
Netscape® Mail 6.2 and above

Tomorrow, I’ll report on my first full day of note-taking with the pen.

Crossposted to PalmAddicts

PalmAddicts.blogspot.com

PalmAddicts is awesome, for PDA enthusiasts… if you can keep up.

Tiny projectors for PDAs



I’ve always wanted a tiny, low-res, low-power projector mounted to my PDA. Looks like my wish will come true… eventually. PDALive is pointing to Upstream Engineering’s plan to ship a small(portable tv sized) projector in 2005 which will eventually shrink to the size of a matchbox.


A more vaporware version is in NEC’s P-ISM concept package.

Crossposted to PalmAddicts