updated 10:00 am EDT, Fri March 13, 2009
First Look: Livescribe Mac
Taking notes can be a real chore. While writing down an important point or copying a diagram, it can be easy to miss a speaker's next topic. Livescribe's Pulse Smartpen is designed to solve these problems, by recording both a user's notes and the corresponding audio. Previously available only for Windows users, Livescribe has just released its Desktop software for the Mac, giving users the ability to view, share and search their handwritten notes, drawings and audio recordings.
The Pulse Smartpen uses special microdot paper, which allows the device to keep track of its stylus on a particular sheet. Audio is recorded by the pen itself, or by using the "3D" microphone embedded in the included headset. Control panels printed on the paper allow the user to record and playback audio or access special applications directly from the pen.
Data is transferred from the Smartpen using a supplied USB cable; Livescribe Desktop then makes it available for viewing, sharing and printing purposes. The software has a simple interface, which displays each note in list or icon format. Users can pan or zoom through close-up views, or hunt for individual words within documents using a Spotlight-style search box. Users can also change the ink color within notes, and archive notes for long-term storage.
Recorded audio is linked to each document automatically -- clicking on a particular portion of a document plays back the audio recorded at the same time the note was taken. AAC audio files can be exported to share with others, or to play in iTunes.
One of the most interesting features is the ability to pass along notes and drawings via Livescribe's online community. Users can upload notes in PDF format to share with colleagues or classmates, or browse through thousands of uploads from other users. Shared items can also be posted on Facebook.
There is a growing library content available from Livescribe Online, including cartoons, artistic sketches and how-to demonstrations to classroom notes. Some Livescribe users create their own "pencasts," a kind of analog PowerPoint presentation with narration accompanied by handwritten notes.
Livescribe Desktop for Mac 1.0 is available as a free download for Pulse Smartpen owners, and requires an Intel Mac with OS X 10.5.5 or higher. The Pulse Smartpen is available in two versions: a 1GB model for $150, and a 2GB version for $200. Windows users have the option of purchasing character recognition software to convert handwritten notes into digital text, but a Mac version of that is not yet available.