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Livescribe 3 review: Turns your handwritten paper notes into digital text in real time

Jeffery Battersby | Sept. 15, 2014
Capturing notes in a classroom lecture or business meeting can sometimes be a daunting task. And, if you're like me, the race to capture the spoken word and put it on paper can sometimes keep you from listening to what's being said next, leaving your notes with Grand Canyon-sized gaps that limit their usefulness. The Livescribe 3 Smart Pen and associated Livescribe+ app for iOS are designed to change the way you capture information, helping you take notes while the app and pen track what's being said in classroom, meeting room, and lecture hall.

In addition to capturing your written notes and related audio, Livescribe+ offers tools for organizing your notes and the notebooks those notes live in. Every time you use Livescribe 3 to capture your notes, a timestamped reference gets created in the Livescribe+ app. Special buttons at the bottom of each Livescribe notebook page can be tapped during the course of a lecture to tag, favorite, or flag a page. Everything you capture using the Livescribe can be emailed and printed directly from the app and if you use Evernote or OneNote, an image of your captured page can be sent directly to the account for which ever app tool you're using.

Livescribe offers a variety of notebook options — from Moleskine-like notebooks to your typical spiral notebook — starting at about $6, but if you have a color laser printing capable of printing Postscript files at 600 dpi, you can print your own notebooks at home for the cost of paper, toner, and electricity.

The biggest problem I continue to have with the Livescribe system is the size of the pen. I'm no dainty boy, my hands can span an octave-plus on a piano with little effort, but I find the Livescribe pens to be uncomfortable to use. The barrels are too big and bulky and tend to be a little top heavy. For me, this results in tired hands after just a few minutes of note taking. Your mileage may vary, but I'd be happier with a more streamlined version of the Livescribe pen. This may be a wish that's impossible to fulfill, as the window near the pen tip that holds the camera that captures your writing needs to be pretty big in order to do its work.

Bottom line

The addition of an app for collecting, managing, and turning your notes into text in realtime is a huge plus for Livescribe. While I prefer better writing instruments than what Livescribe currently offers, the ability to capture what I listen to as I write notes and then play that back to update and correct my notes makes Livescribe 3 an excellent alternative to basic pencil and pad note taking.


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