• United States

Testing the Logitech IO pen

Jan 06, 20033 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsLogitech

Cool concept, but don’t throw away your ballpoint just yet

I’m generally an optimist about new technology. When a new tool comes along I start with the assumption that it might improve our lives. But that predisposition makes it more painful if the device doesn’t live up to expectations. That’s what happened when I tried Logitech’s new IO Personal Digital Pen.

The pen, which launched at last year’s Demo Mobile conference, is designed to convert a user’s handwriting to digital output. For example, by placing the pen in a cradle connected to a PC, digital content can be moved into an e-mail message or into Outlook as a calendar appointment or a “to do” item. This enchanted me – finally I could just handwrite my appointments into a notebook (or paper) calendar and this information would be transferred electronically into my Outlook calendar. No more extra typing!

The pen works with special paper that helps the pen record information. In one notebook I used, the top part of each page is reserved for regular notes. Anything written here is converted to a JPEG “art” file when it transfers to the PC. The bottom part of the page is used to convert handwriting into digital text.You can write each letter of an e-mail address, for example, into a box. The pen records the strokes and converts each letter into its digital equivalent. When you synchronize the pen, that part is converted to text and shows up in the “To:” field of the e-mail message.

This text-conversion process is where the pen disappoints. Despite repeated attempts to train the pen to learn my handwriting, the conversion process was not very accurate. In one case, the words “WRITE REVIEW OF IO PEN” turned into “WRITE R?IL=WO F10 PEN.” And I have above-average penmanship. Each notebook gives you two chances to “train” the pen – the training consists of writing uppercase letters into little boxes.

Perhaps with additional training, the pen’s accuracy would improve, but there were no extra areas to do this, unless I rewrote the letters in the notebook’s training area, which I felt would only decrease the accuracy. (Try writing with a pen over letters you’ve already written; it becomes an exercise in tracing.)

The part of the notebook where the pen recorded my writing and drawing and converted it to a digital image worked wonderfully. Write or draw anything and it converts it to a JPEG image that can be attached to an e-mail or placed into a Word file. A full page of notes became a 119K-byte file attachment. Users who want to send along handwritten notes or even drawings (such as charts and schematics) definitely would benefit from a pen like this.

The pen also comes with specialized Post-It Notes paper, which records your notes and then transfers them to a digital Post-It Note that opens on your desktop. The writing on the Post-It Note also appears as a digital image that you can attach to an e-mail or import into Outlook.

The text-to-image portion of the pen works well – but until the text-conversion process improves (whether that means extra training or better recognition technology), I can’t recommend this as a Cool Tool just yet. So until then I’m still writing my appointments by hand and typing them into Outlook.

Shaw is the senior reviews editor at Network World. He can be reached at