Moleskine Pen+ the latest challenge to pen and paper

Lightweight device is impressive, user friendly and feels more like like a regular pen

A button in the app tells you how much space you have on the pen for notes, and what the battery level is.

Product name: Moleskine Smart Writing Set

Price: €229.0

Where to buy: ie.moleskine.com

Website: ie.moleskine.com

Thu, Mar 1, 2018, 06:20

   

We have laptops, tablets and all sorts of technology, but you still can’t beat the humble pen and paper when it comes to jotting down notes. Or can you?

The Moleskine Pen+ smart writing set is aiming to supplant the traditional pen and notebook. If you have deep enough pockets, that is.

The smart writing set has three elements: the pen, which is a Moleskine branded Neo smartpen, which is bluetooth connected and also works as a regular pen; the “paper tablet”, which is essentially a Moleskine notebook of special paper with tiny dots all over it; and the free app, Moleskine Notes, for your smartphone. Take notes on the paper notebook and you can digitise them either in real time if you have the app open, or later on if you don’t have your phone with you.

Getting it set up is simple. You download the app and when prompted, press the button on the underside of the pen for three seconds. When you get some blue flashing lights, you place the pen next to your device with the app open on it, and follow the prompts. A few seconds later, you should be connected and ready to go. Then all you need to to do is set up your new notebook and you are ready to go.

If you have your smartphone on you and open on the app, you’ll see the notes appear on the digital notebook as you jot them down on the page. Then you can convert them to text, edit them or share to other apps.

It also makes your notes searchable, which is a handy thing to have if you are taking a lot of notes.

Unlike previous smartpens, the pen included with the Moleskin Pen+ writing set feels more like a regular pen than anything else. It’s lightweight, and aside from a small indicator light on the front, there’s no real indicator that this is a smart pen. A button in the app tells you how much space you have on the pen for notes, and what the battery level is.

If it sounds simple and straightforward, it’s because it is. Yes, you can make things a little fancier, by adding voice memos – perfect for meetings and lectures, for example – or tagging chunks of text to make it easier to find .

So will we all be ditching our regular notebooks for this new set up? Unlikely. This isn’t the first smartpen that has hit the market. Livescribe has been doing this for some time and it hasn’t quite managed to kill off the humble paper just yet.

Specialist shop

There’s a few reasons for this. First of all, you have to use special paper. If you scribble a few notes on regular paper, the app won’t pick it up. It’s not as simple as walking into your local newsagent and picking up a notebook that will magically work with your pen.

It has to be either ordered specially from Moleskine’s website, or bought from a specialist stationery store. While that might be okay for the average user who doesn’t have much call for a new notebook more than once every couple of months, I go through notebooks at the rate of about one a week. Even consciously trying to stretch it out would mean going through a €30+ notebook every two weeks. Financially, it would be a bit of a strain. There are cheaper notebooks you can get, ordered online, that have the correct Ncoding on the pages.

Secondly, the transcription will only work accurately if your handwriting is reasonably clear. If you are frantically scribbling in a lecture, the chances are your notes will come out a bit garbled – or “there is ujuvd (Lace gut Mitts will cue at bk this”, according to my app’s transcription.

And of course, you’ll have to remember to charge this pen. That’s another thing to charge along with your phone and possibly your smartwatch.

The good:

If you take a lot of notes, the ability to search them can make your life a lot easier. Plus you can convert them to text and share them to different apps, cutting out a lot of tedious transcription.

The not so good:

The cost of replacement notebooks. If you want to use the pen to digitise your notes, you need the special paper, and the Moleskine paper tablets are twice the price of the company’s regular notebooks.

The good news? You can print your own. The bad news? I haven’t been able to do it yet, because the link provided on Neo’s website is broken. Plus it can only be done on a Windows PC apparently, which seems a little shortsighted.

The rest:

You get a decent few hours of use out of the pen, but it also charges resonably quickly. And if you don’t have your phone handy, you can store notes on the pen for syncing with your app later on.

It’s not just text that the notebook, pen and app will reproduced digitally. Anything you write on the page - doodles, drawings - will be digitised on the app. That has a certain fun element to it; Moleskine, Huawei and Vodafone recently joined forces to show what Pen+ could do by drawing caricatures of people in a Dublin store. 

The verdict:

A nice solution to the potential paper mountain and it takes some of the strain out of note taking, but it’s still more aspirational for those of us with less than perfect handwriting.