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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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

One response to “Logitech io Personal Digital Pen. DAY FOUR. A review in parts.”

  1. Chris says :

    Hi John,

    did you get any feedback about the Logitech Io’s .pen file format? Or did you figure anything out, yet?


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