02 August 2012

Guest Post - Chris - Three Things I Really Want Filofax to Produce: (1) Digital Paper

Thank you to Chris Partridge for submitting the first of three guest posts about what he would like to see Filofax produce. 

I know, I know - Filofax produced digital paper when digital pens first arrived ten years ago, but nobody bought it. So why should they try again now? 

The Livescribe pen, that's why.

When digital pens were introduced a decade ago it was confidently predicted that we would all use them to write documents and translate them into computer format using handwriting recognition software.

Writing is much more intuitive than typing, they said, and everyone would just love to ditch the keyboard and use good old pen and paper. But they didn't. The software for translating handwriting into computer typeface could not handle the average scribble, so digital pen users found they had to spend as much time correcting the final document as they did writing the thing in the first place. So digital pens bombed, except in specialist form-filling applications.

However, the Livescribe pen finally cracked it, with a digital pen that is genuinely useful for lots of regular people. Anyone who takes notes at meetings, lectures or briefings finds the Livescribe totally brilliant.

It is a digital pen with a dictaphone inside. At the lecture (say) you switch it on and it records the spoken words. As you listen, you make notes. Afterwards, the pen links the audio with the written words, so you can listen to any part of the lecture simply by pressing the nib onto the paper where your note is. No more 'fast-forwarding' looking for that particular quote - just select the written note and it is played out to you.

For journalists like me it changes the way we work. Students, lawyers, insurance assessors and many others are adopting it with speed.

The only drawback is that the Livescribe pen needs special paper printed with a background of barely-visible dots to work - so you have to buy your notebooks from them. They are good, and not particularly expensive, but they are all that is on offer. And Filofax's digital paper only works with the old Nokia and Logitech pens.

So I want Filofax to produce Livescribe-enabled paper so I can have a choice of really nice binders that reflect my personal needs and tastes.

And if Filofax were to make pen-holders large enough to accommodate the rather chunky Livescribe pen, that would be an added bonus.

What do others think? Have you ever tried out a digital pen?

You can find more about Chris and his past-times and interests on a couple of his blogs: Rowing For Pleasure and Ornamental Passions


  1. Wow wow that sounds like a Dyslexic's dream! I think it would have been ace for me at uni, being Dyslexic I find it hard to continue listening while I am writing or I forget what I was writing down in the first place. I am better than I was but a Livescribe would have made my notes make more sense!

    I think I would actually make use of one now as well... Shall put it on my wish list!

  2. This is something that I have been looking for as well. However, for the notes to work, do they not need to be in bound form so that the software can locate it and sync with the audio portion of the notes? Perhaps a filofax flex notebook printed with the dots might be the answer. Come to think on it, doesn't livescribe have documents that you can print at home on your own paper? Maybe a template of that in filofax size might be the answer. Could be time for the template wizards to take a look. :)

    1. The pen has to be linked with each notebook as you start using it, to ensure that the pen knows where it is on the page, but I don't think you have to use the pages in order necessarily, though it might make the way the pages are stored in your computer somewhat random.
      As you say, a Livescribe-enabled Flex notebook would be brilliant, and they could also do a Livescribe-sized penholder to go with it. I WANT IT NOW!

  3. Would it be feasible to hack their notebooks to take the a5 bound,unbind it and punch to place into a filfax binder and then cut off the part of the cover with the identifying sticker on and put that in a pocket? I have never seen these things but it seems that then, as long as you put a footnote on the pages as to which archived book the notes were from, and as long as you kept all the stickers, you could use a filofax to carry a selection of pages from a varaiety of notebooks and still have access to the notes via the pen without carrying all the old notebooks.

  4. Great post, and a great suggestion. I bought a livescribe pen one year ago, prior to starting interviews for a PhD thesis, knowing I would want to record audio and written notes. The benefit was immense. During the interviews, I just wrote signposting sentences, and when transcribing later, you can just tap on any word and the recording automatically jumps to 5 seconds before that word. Having something akin to the Filofax Notepads in A5 and Personal would be ideal. You can print your own, and the website gives you the template for free, but I haven't tried as I don't have a decent printer yet.

    @Jarfm, there is a brilliant case study on the Livescribe US website, of a Father who bought one for his dyslexic daughter. They had to have meetings with the University, to discuss the legal position of Lecturers being recorded in every class his daughter went to, but they all agreed in the end, and he said it made the difference in her getting a degree and not, as her dyslexia was so bad, she couldn't have coped otherwise. There's an additional service where you pay annually, and you email the recordings and someone transcribes them and mails you back a WORD doc. Its what he used for his daughter and said it was the only way she could get useful notes. Ibought a refurbished one from Amazon US, for less than half the price of the UK model, and paid about $8 for shipping. The notebooks cost about the same as similar non-Livescribe A% notebooks in Paperchase.

    I'd love to see Filofax bring out Livescribe paper. Looking forward to Chris's next two wish lists!

    1. Paul, wow amazing story! It is great to hear someone has been able to persevere through uni because not only have they had some assistive technology but because the have had helpful, supportive staff as well.

      Being an ICT teacher with a strong interest in learning needs, it is great to hear about such innovations - something that can help students think about technology in an assistive way rather than them just seeing it as everyday and fun.

    2. Jarfm, check out these links. One from Yale on how a Livescribe is used with dyslexia: http://dyslexia.yale.edu/TECH_livescribe.html . And this one: http://digitalsmartpenreviews.com/uses/digital-smartpen-aids-for-teaching-children-with-dyslexia/

      Can't seem to find the report I read, but if I find it, I'll post you a link.

    3. And this one too: http://dyslexia.yale.edu/EDU_DylanSpeech.html

  5. This seems like an excellent product! If I had any lectures left in my degree I would probably invest, but my future work won't really require the voice recording facility. I have a dictaphone which was excellent for recording things said in lectures that I wouldn't otherwise be able to write down fast enough. But unfortunately, typing up these lectures took 2-3 times as long as the actual lectures!! If I did invest in this device, I would definitely print my own paper using the template on the website, and then punch it into my A5 uni work filofax- but I love using fountain pens and other types of pens too much, and colour-coding, so I don't think this would work for me in the long-run.

  6. The Livescribe pen is amazing - I'm just very disappointed that in my job I really have no need for one :-(

    If I did, I would definitely be putting the paper in my filo :o)

  7. A variation that would be interesting to have a Filofax version of is Evernote paper – they've just teamed up with Moleskine (http://blog.evernote.com/2012/08/24/the-new-evernote-smart-notebook-by-moleskine/), so it's not out of the question. The new Page Camera functionality helps with Filofax as well, but the auto line-up etc to improve handwriting recognition would be nice!