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Logitech io2 Digital Writing System

Date: October 10, 2006
Author(s): K. Samwell

If you enjoy hand writing more than typing, then the io2 pen was made for you. Though this is a product that’s been out for a while, we are taking a fresh look at it today to see if it stands the test of time. In the end, it still proves to be a quality product worthy of your consideration.



Introduction


I’m a writer. No, not the ‘best selling’ kind (yet) but the kind where I write everything down. I go to a lot of game conferences and yes I’m the geek actually writing down as much as I can of what the speaker has to say. I even still write letters longhand to my friends and family, and I enjoy it thoroughly. There’s something about the cursive text and the tactile sensation of paper that enhances the experience, and gives it a sense of permanance. That, and a pen and paper weighs a lot less than a notebook computer.

Now when it comes to those conferences, meetings, and even short stories, after I write everything down, I then retype it all into a word processing file for easy editing and because my future self can’t always read my writing. And that is why I thought the Logitech io2 Digital Pen would be perfect for me to review. This is not a trivial toy to me, but a tool that I fully plan to utilize.

Lets learn a little more about the Logitech IO2 pen.

The Logitech io2 looks and feels like a luxury pen with its sleek and stylish design. But unlike a standard office pen, it digitally captures everything you write or draw on smart digital paper.

The Digital Pen works with “smart” paper equipped with Anoto technology.

The Digital Pen comes with Logitech io2 software, designed to help you find and use your handwritten information easily and quickly.

Do more with pen and paper than you’ve ever done before!

I had done a little research before this pen arrived and read that quite a few people found this to be an awkwardly large pen to write with. I disagree. This pen immediately felt natural in my hand, beefy, but not uncomfortably so, and it is very well balanced so there’s no top heavy feeling to it when you write, even if the cap is resting on top. In fact it is almost exactly the same weight and diameter of a Super Sharpie. Overall it is quite lightweight. And left handers rejoice, this is just as comfortable in the left hand as the right.

Specifications



ABCs and 123s


Now I knew that this wasn’t going to be a pick up and go device. Handwriting recognition software has come a long way since the Newton and I was actually surprised at how little I had to write in order for it to start picking up on my quirks. Software installation was quick and painless, though I was a little uneasy about the 8 separate requests for internet access by different components of the software.

Here is a screenshot of the handwriting analysis page. You are asked to PRINT the alphabet, numbers and symbols, then cursively write out the sentences. While it had some issues with one of my sentences I believe it was due to my writing too close to the right hand edge. You always have the opportunity to correct what it has assumed and thereby teach it your own personal style of writing.

I was pretty impressed that with my scrawl it had no problem validating my entries on the first try. I’m not the neatest writer, as you can see, and eventhough it gives you hints about spacing between words, height of uppercase letters and such, it took my chicken scratch and made something of it. Once you’ve completed this tutorial, go make coffee, because the software takes about 15 minutes to grind thru all your barely legible writing to make your profile. And thankfully, you can have as many profiles as you like so multiple users can take advantage of the pens use. As soon as you dock the pen, the software pops up, telling you your battery status, your memory status and how many documents you have ready to upload.

Sample Quote

And so the test. Here is one of my favourite quotes from Churchill, I can hear his voice when I read it.

Death and sorrow will be the companions of our journey; hardship our garment; constancy and valor our only shield. We must be united, we must be undaunted, we must be inflexible…Let us then brace ourselves to our duties and so bear ourselves that those desendants and their descendants a thousand years from now will say of us, "This was their finest hour." – Winston Churchill

Became…

Which then was translated to Microsoft word as the following.

Death and sorrow will be the companions of our journey,. hardship our garment, constancy and rotor our only shield. We must be united, we must be undaunted, we must be inflexible.

Let us then brace ourselves to our duties and so bear ourselves that those deadbeats and their descendents a thousand years from now will say of us, ”This was their finest hour." -Winston Churchill

Now to be honest with you, that was better than I had expected, only two errors and one of them incited much hilarity.

(deadbeats instead of descendants..but then again…)

Chances are this is about as accurate a sample as if I had written 10 pages of text, and in the long run, this would probably force me to practice better penmanship, which is never a bad thing. Sadly when a speaker is talking, pointing to slides and I’m trying to get it all down before he moves on to the next slide, my penmanship is not at its finest. Overall, it beats typing the entire lecture out again, trying to read that hurried scrawl hours or days later.

Now one handy feature that I only played with a little was their ioTags. What these are, are symbols you use to notate what you are writing based on what it is intended for. ioTags are basically an uppercase letter enclosed in a circle. It tells the Logitech io2 Software that you want an action to be carried out on the associated pen strokes. There are some default ioTags: E for Email message, C for Calendar appointment, T for To Do item, S for io document, and W for Word document. You can modify these and add new ioTags. Then beside that Tag is the header line, this is the ‘title’ of the item.

For example, for an email-creating ioTag, the header line may contain the email subject and the email address. There’s the content line, which is drawn down the left of the page; this line defines the pen strokes in your item’s content. This selection bar needs to be vertical, directly below the tag itself, and adjacent to the content. If you use the W tag to create a Word document and don’t draw this vertical line, then the entire page is sent to conversion. And finally the content. The actual pen strokes that form the content of the item you are creating (for example, email, To Do entry, and so on).

Sounds complicated but it’s really not, here’s a pic:

A picture paints a thousand words. Dammit Jim I’m a writer not an artist. I drew quite a few scribbles that would pass for flow charts, and similar images based on primitives, however I really wanted to see how it would perform on a more complicated image.

Now I’m not saying this is overly complicated, but it incorporates different line weights, which are crucial to any type of freeform sketch, so here are the results.

As you can see, line weights were not taken into account. The lines within the wings of the dragonfly were much fainter while its body was much more pronounced. All in all, this isn’t for creating your next gallery masterpiece, but for simple diagrams, outlines, and primitives, it works wonderfully, as shown below.



Paper, Final Thoughts

Now, a bit about the paper.

First thought would be to take a look at how much the paper can cost online. Now granted, if you purchase it from Logitech itself, a standard A4 notepad costs approximately $12 for a pack of three spiral bound notepads. But look around a little deeper, I found quite a few of the Cambridge brand digital notebooks on ebay, a stack of 12 for $10 plus s&h, and was surprised when I walked into my local BigLots store and found an entire box of spiral bound Cambridge digital notebooks for $2 each (I bought 12 lol).

So while purchasing the Logitech IO branded paper is more expensive, you can easily find very affordable alternatives. The only concern I have is that BigLots is a clearance store and I stocked up knowing that they may never appear in the store again. Mead, the company that publishes Cambridge, does have the notepads and books on their website, but again, for quite a bit more than one would normally be willing to pay for a pad of paper. ($10 for a 5×11 pad). My tips on the paper, buy it when you see a deal and hang onto it.

A bit about the recharger.

This little ‘puck’ of a recharging/docking station is very, very well designed. I folds up for travel, it opens up to support the pen both in download mode and just in resting mode. It has both an attached, short USB cord where, in my case, it plugs neatly into my monitor without having reams of wires to deal with, yet also comes with an extension so that you can plug it into the USB ports in the back of your computer and still reach the recharger. Sleek and well thought out.

Summary

I honestly had high hopes for this pen, and I do give it high praise, but with a reviewers caveat. Improve the software, perhaps with more tutorials for the software to recognize that your handwriting changes based on your mood, your medium and sometimes the content, expand to include customized shorthand commands (beyond the IO tags) and work a little on recognizing line weight.

While I can see how some people may not see this as a useful tool, it is to those of us who still write longhand, take notes at conferences and meetings, and don’t want to lug around a laptop. This is much more ‘on the go’ than any laptop and still gives you a hard copy of your notes, should a file be corrupted, overwritten or just plain lost.

Can’t wait for the next game conference, and who knows maybe the next best seller you see from me will be written with the Logitech io2 Digital Pen!

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