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Introduction

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Until recently the options if you wanted to regularly digitise your handwriting or drawings would be to use a tablet PC, or a PDA although the screens are too small for comfort ~ or you could even scan your images.

You don’t always want to have a tablet PC or other obvious hardware with you at meetings or when you are out and about. Yet it’s useful to keep track of your notes without having to re enter them later onto your PC.

The choices available for selecting a handwriting device have now widened with a growing range of Digital Pens. The key components in the digital pen are a camera near the tip, the ink cartridge with a force sensor, a processor, the memory, battery and communications. All the pens feel bulky in the hand, which for some people will hinder their ability to write.

In this group test these components have been squeezed into three packages that vary widely in their appearance and functions. Two out of three have USB connections and charging bases and one of the trio doesn’t use Bluetooth.

Behind the three digital pens reviewed is the Swedish company Anoto that has developed elements of the pen technology. The pens share the same requirement to use digital paper covered in an invisible grid of dots that enable plotting of the image.

You need to do basic procedures such as mark the new book box, and the send box when complete. The pens have a vibrate function that gives you a brief buzz when ticking the boxes to acknowledge your actions.

Digital paper comes in a selection formats from A4 and A5 notebooks to Filofax pages and Post-it Notes. The cost for example of the Post-it Notes pad of 50 pages is £3.99 or almost 8p a page. Esselte produce a pad with a gatefold page at the back that allows you to change the colour and thickness of the text. Some digital pen enthusiasts believe with the right set up you can even print your own digital paper.

The Pens integrate with all your regular packages such as Outlook or Lotus Notes, Calendar and Word, enabling you to send your writing or sketches where needed. Handwriting sites based on Anoto technology are now appearing although the quality of the content has some way to go to catch up with the technology.

To briefly summarise the differing appeal of the individual pens reviewed, the Logitech io Pen is the most advanced for editing your handwriting once synced with your PC.

The Nokia SU-1B Digital Pen is the only one that has the ability to send images directly to Bluetooth phones (and PC via USB).

If you want to email directly from your digital pad without a PC involved then the choice must be the Sony Ericsson CHA-30 Chatpen.

Read on to see which pen matches your requirements and price range. Once you have regularly used a digital pen it is unlikely you will want to manage without one.

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