Livescribe Sky smartpen and the starter notebook
Livescribe Sky and the starter notebook

From a journalist’s point of view LiveScribe’s original Pulse smartpen was one of the greatest inventions of the last decade.

Pulse was a large ball-point pen that can record sound as you write in a special notebook. It syncs to a computer and downloads the audio along with an image of the pen-written notes. Point the pen at the notes, or your cursor at the on-screen notes and the audio track picks up from that point. There was also an add-on handwriting recognition app.

For my work it was nothing short of brilliant. I could find a quite spot at an event like NetHui, go back over the highlights of a session and write a great, accurate story in minutes.

The day my Livescribe Sky smartpen died

Sadly my Pulse smartpen died. I replaced it with a newer model, the Wi-Fi Sky smartpen. And that’s where my problems begin.

I’ve used the Livescribe Sky smartpen at other events, but NetHui crams more sessions into a day than conventional conferences. The original pen was good for a whole week on a single battery charge, the Sky barely makes it through a working day. In fact, the battery ran out of juice before Monday was over.

That’s not the only problem. Although there’s a solid wi-fi network at NetHui, it was congested at times. I set the pen to sync when I close a file – that’s normally at the end of a session. Syncing rarely takes long, it can take less than a minute, but at NetHui I was often ten minutes into the next session before syncing finished. Not good.

The other change between the Pulse and the Sky was switching from a stand-alone LiveScribe app to syncing with Evernote. Evernote is fine, but being able to turn my handwritten notes into text was a great productivity helper, the new software doesn’t seem to do this.

Between batteries draining too fast and time lost through syncing, I missed some great quotes, I still have handwritten notes, but that’s not as useful as being able to pluck quotes out of the air.