I truly believe that every one of us (yes, that includes YOU!) has cool tools that we use on an everyday basis and stories about how we use these tools and how we came to find and use them. I'd like to hear about yours. Meanwhile, here's another one of mine:
This tool is one of those great examples where the very best attributes of the past can be updated with the advantages of today's technology. In this case, it's by combining good old pen and paper with digital technology.
I use Logitech's io2 and have been using it for over 5 years, pretty much nonstop. It does require that you use special "digital paper" but it comes in a good variety of sizes, pads, sticky notes etc., and they don't cost much more than regular paper and last a long time. The paper itself is very interesting and uses technology licensed from Anoto, one of the first companies to really break through with this type of digital paper, and is licensed by many makers of digital pen and paper. The Anoto-based paper works by having a very fine almost invisible set of little "dots" on each page. Each of these dots has a unique identifier and so as you write on the paper with the pen, a sensor in the top of the pen keeps track of which dots you are passing over, so it knows exactly what your pen movement and motions have been and stores this digitally. Then every time you insert the pen in its small pen holder base that hooks to your computer via USB, the software creates a full digital image of everything you've written or drawn on the paper. Think of it as digital carbon paper (if you're old enough to remember!)
Sounds complex, but the beauty is that you just have a very plain looking "regular" note pad and a slightly larger than normal pen that you use exactly as you would any other pen and pad. However, now you get a complete digital copy and backup of every page, which is not only handy, but also enables you to send your pages of notes and diagrams to others.
You also have the option of converting your handwriting to digital text by doing some "training" to recognize your personal style of writing, and this is working better with each release. I don't tend to use this feature too often, since my purpose is to have a visual archive and I'm the only one who needs to read it. Good thing, since I'm often the only one who can!
The Logitech/Anoto paper I use also has a bit of "smarts" to it, so you can use areas on each page set aside to automatically create, for example, a calendar item or an e-mail. Or you can take other specific actions based on the notes you take. This is extremely handy, and it can be setup to take these actions automatically every time you put the pen into its cradle and upload the contents to your PC.
This same technology has also been used to create some other fun and interesting devices such as the "Fly" pen from Leapfrog. This cool tool let's you do things like write a word in one language, and then hear it translated into another language through the speaker inside the pen. You can also literally draw a small calculator on the paper, and then start using it as a fully functional calculator!
Of course, what I'm really waiting for is truly digital paper and paint, where we have surfaces that are digital displays with resolution at the molecular level, but I'll save that for another posting and hopefully it will be a Cool Tool I'm using in the next year or two! In the meantime, consider trying out the currently available digital pen and paper to help you preserve and share your notes and diagrams.
Have "Cool Tools" you use and want to share? Send me your favorites with the following information:
- Name of the tool and source for getting one.
- What does it do?
- How did you come to discover this?
- How do you use it?
- Why is it on your top ten "Cool Tools I Use" list?