My Personal and Professional Love Affair With My Echo Smart Pen
About a year ago I was asked by my boss if I was interested in using a smart pen for taking notes. Being a gadget geek and never one to turn away from new technologies (especially when they are free), I accepted. I was presented with a set of three black spiral notebooks and a black pen that said “echo” on the front and “8GB” on the back. I was intrigued. Then, I was given a short introduction to the features. I was hooked. My love affair with Livescribe had begun.
The tagline on Livescribe’s website says “Interactive notes on the go”. What the heck does that mean? Let me go over this, feature by feature:
The first thing I noticed about the Echo Smart Pen was the tiny speaker in the middle of the pen. There is also a tiny microphone just above the speaker. This enables the pen to record audio while jotting down notes. This is incredibly useful for taking minutes during meetings, which is one of the main ways I use it for work. Every word is remembered and nothing is missed. The pen can also play back the audio, either through its speaker or through the headphone jack at the top of the pen.
Sure, recording audio is cool, but is that it? Not by a long shot.
Smart pen = Camera pen
Teeny tiny dots
A pencast is a digital version of your notes. Playing back a pen cast allows you to see your notes come to life as they were written and recorded. On your computer screen you are be able to see the notes being written as the audio is played. Clicking on any point of the written notes will jump the audio to the exact time when that particular note was being jotted down. Also, additional notes can be jotted down as the audio plays so you can have a more complete set of written notes.
The Echo pen has a USB jack that connects to a computer or laptop and transfers the data, charging the pen as well. The data is transferred to Livescribe Connect, the desktop software that organizes the notes by notebook, and plays the pen casts.
Livescribe Connect also enables the sharing of pen casts. Pen cast notes and/or audio can be forwarded via email or shared on platforms such as Facebook, Google Docs, Microsoft OneNote and Evernote. There is even a smartphone app that allows you to see and hear your pen casts when you are on the go.
In my personal life I have used Livescribe to create mind maps, make to-do lists, journal, sketch and create art. I don’t think I have even scratched the surface.
Good and bad
Besides the great features I have just gone over, other plusses of the Echo smart pen include:
- Long battery life (I’ve gone over 8 hours of recording before recharging).
- Ample memory (The 8GB model holds up to 800 hours of audio).
- Good variety of notebook styles, including mid-sized journals that remind me of Moleskines.
A couple of bads (well, not really bad, just not that good):
- The ink refills are small and don’t last too long. They are also not the best quality, as far as writing on the page.
- The pen is a little bulky (I’m getting nitpicky here).
The Livescribe Echo Smart Pen is an awesome digital note-taking and audio recording tool. Notes come alive with the same audio and handwriting they were taken in. Meeting minutes, lecture notes, diagrams, sketches and collaborative documents can easily be shared and relived. It has joined the short list of my cannot-live-without tools for work and for my personal life.