Anyone who has tried to take notes on a tablet knows how tricky it can be. Your choices are often limited to hunting and pecking on a digital keyboard or fiddling with a clunky stylus.
Seeking to cater to fans of ink and paper, Livescribe has created the Sky smartpen, a writing tool with a tiny computer inside that records notes written on special microdot paper. The notes are then sent wirelessly to a personal account in the cloud through a partnership with Evernote, the digital archive service.
The pen has up to 8 gigabytes of memory, which translates into thousands of pages of words, pictures and diagrams. It also records audio during the note-taking session, which can be beneficial for meetings and lectures. Users can play back precise moments of the audio by touching the pen to the corresponding spot in the handwritten notes.
Sky includes 500 megabytes of free storage through Evernote. Once in the cloud, the notes and audio are accessible on any computer, or any iOS or Android mobile device.
The pen comes with an extra ink cartridge, two easy-to-lose caps, a notebook of microdot paper and a micro USB cable for charging. The Sky pen and accessories, including extra notebooks, are available online at Amazon.com and Livescribe's website, as well as at retailers like Staples and Best Buy.
I tested the four-gigabyte Sky pen, which costs $200, and found it easy to set up and use. Instead of buttons, the pen's functions are listed in the notebook; just touch the pen to the command you want.
The pen, although chunky, felt comfortable in my hand when I was writing or doodling. And syncing through Wi-Fi to my Evernote account was effortless. I was able to see the notes quickly on my iPad and iPhone; however, I could not open the Livescribe player on my PC at work to play the audio. Livescribe is working to iron out a few wrinkles, but the Sky smartpen could end up bridging the gap between paper and tablet.