Moleskine create some of the most popular notebooks that we house at NoteMaker. They’ve had a few successful forays into the digital/analogue world, with the creation of the Moleskine Evernote series and the Moleskine Creative Cloud Connected notebooks. So when the Smart Writing Set was announced, which takes Moleskine beyond ‘the notebook’, a lot of people got pretty excited! If there’s any brand who can build the bridge between analog and digital, it’s the legendary Moleskine. In this post, we’ll look at the features of the Smart Writing Set and provide our own thoughts of this latest innovative Moleskine release.
Review Moleskine Smart Writing Set: What is it?
The Smart Writing Set provides an ‘enhanced’ way to work through an impressive note-taking solution that allows you to incorporate both analogue and digital approach.
You can create offline first, where most people think more freely – using hard-wired creative brain elements, hand to eye coordination and reducing digital distraction.
Moleskine define the Smart Writing Set as ‘the new way to work, create and study’.
Thoughts or drawings can be started on paper and then refined in the Moleskine Notes app for iPhone or Neo Notes for Android to instantly digitise notes and sketches as they are made on paper. This combines the familiar tactile feel of writing in a notebook with convenient modern technology.
Notes can be handwritten in a meeting and sent as a PDF attachment to your team back at the office with a tap of the pen. Sketches can be shared in real time or turned into a just-in-time presentation.
What comes in the set:
- Paper Tablet with special paper designed to work with Pen+ in dotted layout
- Pen+ smart pen
- USB cable for smart pen recharging
- Pen tip ink refill
- User manual
- History of Moleskine
Pen+ Smart Pen
It is the clever smart Pen+ that ties the Paper Tablet to the digital world.
The Pen+ is a slim, aluminium black ballpoint pen (a Neo smartpen) with on-board memory that holds up to 1000 note pages and a hidden infrared camera that traces and digitises every stroke of the pen either immediately or later when your phone or table isn’t handy.
The Pen+ has a solid, sleek and comfortable feel with three flat sides and a tip that resembles a fountain pen. There are two ways to turn the pen on: using a button on the side, or starting to write. Note that sometimes the pen can cut off the beginning of your first words or sketches if you just start to write or draw. A good idea is to give it a few short taps on the page to get it going, otherwise it’s good practice to use the button.
There is another way you can lose notes: If you don’t hold the pen correctly. Because the Pen+ records your strokes via the camera, the part of the pen with the camera has to be facing down toward the paper — something that can slip your mind if you’re in a hurry.
On the Pen+ there’s an LED status indicator that lets you know whether it’s charging, has low battery or has a full charge and is connected to a phone; a Power button, and a cap with a metal clip. It also has a micro USB power port, and comes with a micro USB cord for charging.
The Pen+’s battery lasts for five hours of continuous writing – which would get most of us through any day – and takes standard ink refills, which are pretty simple and inexpensive.
The Paper Tablet works like a notebook but is purpose designed with extended rounded edges that protrude from the cover to look like a digital tablet. The pages also feature a little email icon that allows you to instantly email your notes in a digital form.
The tablet measures 13 x 21cm and the 176 inner pages feature thick, firmly bound, resistant 100gsm paper, ideal for writing, drawing and sketching.
If you’ve used a Moleskine notebook before you’ll feel right at home. It comes with all of the trappings you would expect from the brand, including the premium hard cover, the elastic bookmark and a pocket in the back for business cards or receipts.
The Paper Tablet uses invisible NCode™ technology by NeoLAB Convergence. A grid, invisible to the naked eye, is hidden in the paper, embedded within each page that allows the Moleskine Pen+ to recognise where it is inside the notebook to transfer all your notes from page to screen in real-time. This means you can’t swap in a regular sheet of paper and expect it to work the same. What we do think is pretty cool though is if you write on one page then switch to another, it will automatically be entered as separate files in the app, pretty nifty!
At the top corner of every Paper Tablet page, there’s an email icon — tapping it with the Pen+ activates a prompt to instantly email the page to someone.
Moleskine Notes App / Neo Notes
The final link in the Smart Writing Set is the free Moleskine Notes App for iPhone users and Neo Notes for Android users, which syncs to the pen over Bluetooth. Digital notes and sketches created on the Paper Tablet are stored here, which lets you share, export, edit and search.
This companion App is attractive and easy to use. It enables you to digitally edit and share what you create on paper in real-time without taking a photo, uploading files, or scanning documents.
Once downloaded, you can sync the Pen+ by following a couple of on-screen instructions that only take a few seconds to complete. After some quick tutorial screens, you’re ready to go.
If you have the app open while you write, you can see it transfer to the app almost immediately, which is kind of like magic!
When you use the Pen+ to write or draw on the Paper Tablet your strokes are simultaneously captured and transferred to the App. The accuracy of this feature is pretty impressive and it rarely misinterprets my writing, which is quite similar to a doctor’s prescription!
Through the app, you can edit your notes, highlight key ideas, correct a mistake and use label notes with tags to keep your ideas organised and easily searchable. You can liven it up by changing the pen thickness and selecting a full colour wheel of options.
Tag, search, or export each page, and even sync your content or ideas to your Google Drive, iCloud, Adobe and Evernote clouds, to ensure your thoughts and documents are always connected. And convert notes into text, SVG files, PDFs or image files.
You can also pair your handwritten notes with real-time audio recording and replay your synced notes and voice recordings straight from the App. This is a pretty neat tool for note-taking during lectures or interviews. To enable this feature you need to open the smartphone app, select the page you’re working on, select Voice from the drop-down menu and start the recording.
If you’re curious to see the pen’s remaining memory and battery, press an icon in the top right corner of the app.
With so many devices around, do we need this kind of product in our lives?
Whilst creating notes or designing directly via digital tools is completely viable, the idea of being able to go back to basics by creating on paper feels natural (and kind of old-school) but somehow right.
Moleskine aren’t the first to the market with a smart pen – Livescribe has been in the market for at least five years. But the Moleskine pen feels and looks much sleeker, which you’d expect from Moleskine. Plus, you’d have to expect that if you’re not first to market, you’ve had the time to refine your technology, and this does seem to work more seamlessly than versions of the Livescribe we’ve previously used.
“We see demand for our paper-based collections grow in double digits year after year, showing the continued relevance of paper in the digital age. On the other end we are well aware of all the advantages of digital, for editing, curating and sharing. This is why we see analog and digital as a continuum.” Arrigo Berni, Moleskine CEO
The Smart Writing Set is a handsome, feature-rich notebook and smart pen that easily brings your analog notes to a digital 21st Century world.
- Instantaneous means of getting drawings or handwriting into a digital form – no messing about with scanners or typing up notes.
- It’s pretty magical to use!
- Price - At $339, it isn’t cheap, but it also isn’t insanely expensive when compared to other smart pens.
- To keep it working well, you’d need to continue to buy the specific Moleskine Paper Tablets once your first is filled.
Keen to get organised? A new diary is a great chance for a fresh start. Check out the 2016 – 2017 Moleskine 18 Month Diaries.