The Moleskine Smart Writing Set comes from a leader in the notebook and stationery world – Moleskine. In 2016 they unveiled a unique way to keep your ideas connected as you move between the analogue and digital world.
We first introduced the Moleskine Smart Writing Set last year and now, following customer demand and queries, we wanted to take the Smart Writing Set on a more detailed road test and provide our thoughts on how the Moleskine Smart Writing Set release actually works, writes and feels.
RECAP: WHAT IS THE MOLESKINE SMART WRITING SET?
The Moleskine Smart Writing Set pairs a Pen+ smart pen, companion app and specially designed Moleskine Paper Tablet notebook to instantly digitise, edit and share notes and sketches that are created on paper — yes, without taking a photo, uploading files or scanning documents. The free Moleskine Notes App for iPhone and Android users is a place to store notes and sketches that lets you share, export, edit and search them too.
What comes in the set:
• Paper Tablet with special paper designed to work with Pen+ in dot grid layout
• Pen+ (smart pen)
• USB cable for smart pen recharging
• Pen tip ink refill
• User manual
• History of Moleskine
NOTE: Refills for the Smart Pen+ are only available through the Neo Smart Pen website.
The Moleskine Smart Writing Set comes packaged in a compact, square box. After opening, the set’s elements are displayed neatly and are easily distinguishable.
How it feels
The Paper Tablet notebook feels similar to a standard Moleskine notebook but is slightly weightier in the hand. It comes shrink-wrapped and, like a notebook, has an elastic closure. The resemblance to a traditional notebook ends there as instantly you notice something different — this Paper Tablet is purposely designed with extended rounded edges on the pages to look like and feel like a tablet, a subtle feature that ties to the digital relationship. A thumbs-up from us!
The Pen+ is a sleek, slim, aluminium pen that comes with a cap and a hidden camera within a concave that faces the paper when writing. It has a ballpoint tip and a triangular grip that feels comfortable in the hand. The cap can be posted or left off depending on your writing preference. We prefer to keep the pen posted. Let’s get started!
HOW DOES THE SET-UP WORK?
Step 1: Charge the Pen+ by connecting the USB cable to a USB port. We recommend charging for two hours prior to use.
The blue light at the top of the pen (near the white band) will illuminate when it’s ready to go. We found that the Pen+ wasn't charged upon opening so it is always a good idea to factor in time for charging.
Step 2: Once the Pen+ has charged, download the free "Moleskine Notes" app available on iOS and "Neo Notes" app for Android.
We found this app really easily in the App Store and it only took a few minutes to download.
Step 3: Using Bluetooth, pair your mobile phone with the pen. The app will take you through a step-by-step process to set up your phone with a password.
We tested this on the iOS platform and again found it very user friendly and straightforward.
Step 4: Sync the Paper Tablet notebook to the app. A tab on the left-hand side of the app allows you to search through the content and select your notebook.
We went through each different tab to really familiarise ourselves with the options available to us.
Step 5: Once your Paper Tablet notebook is set up, a prompt will appear that outlines the editing modes available. There are many different ways of editing your work in the app. They range from colour editing, cropping, inserting voice memos, tags and a replay function. You can even send your work as an image, pdf. or text attachment, right away, through the app - we found this convenience thoroughly impressive.
It's a good idea to play around and get a feel for the different functions available as we did, because we found it made the actual editing process a lot easier.
NOW THE FUN BIT: WRITING WITH THE MOLESKINE SMART WRITING SET
The Pen+ is relatively light to hold and feels sturdy without ever coming across as clunky. The triangular shape allows your fingers to fall into a comfortable, ergonomic grip.
The ink draws out smoothly from the ballpoint pen tip. It writes nicely with the Paper Tablet notebook, which consists of a dot grid format and 100 gsm stock.
The Pen+ captures your movement with a small camera that’s hidden in the barrel (see image below), whilst the invisible NCodeTM technology (by NeoLAB Convergence) in the dot grid paper tracks and relays your positioning on the page back to the app.
THE DETAILS: WRITING AND TAKING NOTES
So what happens as you write?
Your handwriting is captured live on the screen - it's a little bit magic! You can then convert it to a few different file types when you're done by selecting one of the editing icons shown in colour below.
Once you've selected 'share' you can nominate the type of file you'd like to convert to – image, pdf, or text. We selected the text file conversion for this trial as we think this is when the Smart Writing Set really shines.
Below you can see the options available for how you want to use the file – text message or email it to someone and copy or print it.
We were also pleasantly surprised with the app's ability to transcribe hand writing to a text file and it's ability to recognise written English – no matter who is writing. (Previous smart pens we'd used needed you to 'train' them to recognise your writing - but you didn't need to do that with this smart pen).
If you look closely, you’ll notice the tiny little dots within each of the grids. This is pretty special as it means if you write on one page and switch to another at another time, the writing will automatically be entered as a new/separate file.
However, if you are writing lot of text at the same time, the Pen+ and Paper Table notebook recognise it as the same file and keep it together – no matter how many pages your write through.
SEND ANY WORK, ANYTIME
Another pretty incredible feature is the small envelope icon at the top of each page — which does everything you’d dream it could do and does it fluently!
Simply tap the Pen+ on the envelope icon and your page will be turned into a PDF, image, vector or text file that can be emailed to yourself or others.
THE DETAILS: DRAWING
So what happens as you draw? Your drawing is captured in much the same way as you write which is why the Moleskine Smart Writing Set is so much fun to use – we weren't limited by wanting to draw and/or write.
Once you're done editing you can select 'share' and can nominate the type of file you'd like to convert to – image, pdf, or text. We did a test run of a pdf. conversion and found the pdf. to be of a high quality.
A FEW IDEAS - HOW TO USE THE MOLESKINE SMART WRITING SET
- Take notes during a meeting or a class in your notebook and email them straight to your team or yourself as a PDF.
- Running late for a meeting? Get your ideas and action points to the boardroom while on your commute, pronto.
- Sketch out your vision for a project on paper and turn it into a digital presentation or share it in real-time with your co-workers.
- Can't seem to get the words right? Sketch out your idea to visually represent your creative intention or idea.
As mentioned, we used the Moleskine Notes app for this review. After a few tutorial screens you’re good to go and ready to write, sketch, draft and create straight away. We see the Moleskine Smart Writing Set in the hand’s of today’s professionals and students who want to keep on developing their ideas on paper first — wherever they may strike — and still remain digitally connected.
We were pleasantly surprised by the user-friendly nature of the Moleskine Smart Writing Set. The App was easy to download, the pen was easy set up and allowed us to get to work right away. The app recognised two sets of handwriting - and converted to text - accurately each time.
Once in use, it was almost magic, the way the text appeared instantaneously on the screen – no lag, just wonder and amusement on our part. It was amazing to see a product that not only goes back to writing roots, the pen and paper approach, but also champions it.
We enjoyed the tactile nature of writing combined with the convenience of technology at our fingertips. For a product that crosses between traditional pen on paper and the digital world it does an excellent job at bridging the gap. Moleskine deliver on success and intrigue with an array of digital and analogue products and continue to push boundaries with their innovations.
• Instantaneous transfer of handwritten notes and drawings in a digital form – eliminates the middle man of having to use the printer/fax/scanner to digitise.
• Converts handwriting to text - really accurately! We think this is the best feature.
• Triangular barrel shape allows for easy grip and correct open triangle position for right- and left-handers alike
• Good level of dexterity and range of motion — barrel near grip allows for maximum visibility whilst writing
• Relies on Bluetooth connectivity between devices, not Wi-Fi for digitising of notes
• Looks Moleskine cool!
• Price – at $399, it isn’t cheap. (But it is comparable to other smart pens - and looks a whole lot cooler!)
• Needing to charge the smart Pen+ could be cumbersome if required for immediate use and isn’t charged
• The smart Pen+ only works on the Paper Tablet notebook, meaning repurchasing the Moleskine Paper Tablets once filled.
• You can only buy refills direct from Neo Smart Pen website.