Archive for ‘Digital’ Category

Posted on: June 8th, 2017 by Julie Bestry | No Comments

Remember the first time you ever saw someone rub a balloon on his head and then stick the balloon to the wall? You were perhaps four or five years old, and it probably seemed like magic. At some point you learned it was static electricity, but if you’re being honest, doesn’t it still seem like magic?

Well, Smead’s newest answer to solving paper clutter with vertical storage pretty much runs on balloon magic.

JUSTICK BY SMEAD ELECTRO BULLETIN BOARDS

Last year, at the NAPO2016 conference in Atlanta, we got a sneak preview of the Justick by Smead collection, but this year in Pittsburgh, we got our official introduction to their new display boards. We viewed a desktop copyholder, the kind of item you’d usually use for displaying documents to give you easy access while typing at your computer. But look more closely at the Justick — and take a moment to appreciate the adorable tot on the left, the daughter of Smead’s Associate Marketing Manager Leiann Thompson. (Paper Doll is sending a shout-out to Leiann, soon to welcome tot #2 into the world!)

Can you tell that there’s nothing holding the photos to the copyholder? The photos and doodads adhere to the Justick as if by magic. Rather than needing push-pins, glue, magnets, tape, or that sticky roly-poly stuff used to hang posters, Smead has developed an advanced type of bulletin board that allows you to organize things vertically — using nothing but the power of static electricity!

OK, officially, it’s electro-adhesion surface technology.

Justick’s technology keeps in place whatever you put on the board: photos, memorabilia, reminder notices, business cards, phone lists, illustrations, training material, etc., and does so vertically. And no, you don’t have to rub anything on your head to get it to stick.

The electrical energy behind the Justick boards is powered by four AA batteries, or you can use an optional AC adapter if you’d rather keep it plugged in. Justick products have modern aluminum frames and frameless styles, and there are a variety of display solutions within three main categories:

  • Electro Bulletin Boards
  • Dry-Erase Boards with Clear Overlays
  • Commercial Communication Solutions

Justick Frameless Wall Strip Display

Start by hanging this simple, black, unobtrusive, 48″ W x 8″ H strip on your wall.

Next, grab anything you’d like to keep in front of your face, but off of your desk. Your toddler’s newest artwork? Up it goes. The business cards for the people you need to call this week? Display them in columns or rows. Birthday cards? Motivational photos of yoga positions? Whatever you’d like to see on your wall, without having to find studs, poke holes, or make anything sticky.

The Justick Frameless Wall Strip Display retails for $79.99 on Amazon, myOrganized.life and Office Depot.

Justick Frameless Desktop Organizer/Copyholder

Ever since the days of the typing pool, there has been a need to stand papers vertically while doing your typing. Invariably someone gives you a printout or handwritten document when you’d prefer an email or link to Evernote, and it’s up to you to get the information into digital form. Arraying a document vertically makes it easier to move your eye from the paper to the screen and back again vs. having to keep looking down at your desk.

The neato-keen thing about the Justick version is that you can stick multiple items on at once — so you can keep multiple ad hoc (documents, contracts, to-do lists, etc.) items and more permanent ones (cheat sheets, department codes, etc.) on the same page. Paper Doll tested this out — things really do stick where you put them and, unlike balloon-style static electric power, they do not start sliding down to the floor or desk as time goes on.

The Frameless Desktop Organizer/Copyholder is black, measures 8″ W x 11″ H and is priced at $34.99 at Amazon, myOrganized.life, and Office Depot.

Justick Frameless Mini Electro Bulletin Board

The “mini” bulletin board measures 16″ W x 24″ H, so it isn’t all that small except in comparison to its siblings, but it’s perfect for vertically displaying essential papers in homes and small offices.

The mini runs $69.99 at myOrganized.life and Amazon.

Justick also has three versions of their framed full-sized electro bulletin boards. The boards for all have modern black styling, and both the standard and premium framed versions are three feet wide by two feet high, suitable for larger home offices and small businesses. The larger premium version, four feet wide by three feet high, is more suitable for larger businesses with ample display space.

JUSTICK ELECTRO DRY-ERASE BOARDS WITH CLEAR OVERLAY

As discussed above, Justick provides an innovative alternative to a fussy French board in your home or corkboard in your office. But what about when you want a dry-erase board? Do you have wall space enough for both? Happily, you don’t need it, as Justick has also developed a combination electro-board with a clear dry-erase overlay, to serve both purposes.

As with the electro boards above, just install four AA batteries into the board, and the Justick electro surface technology transforms the surface from “zero adhesion” (that is, like any old “dumb wall”) into a powerful force field able to attract photos, papers, business cards, calendars, and memorabilia.

Use either dry-erase or wet-erase markers on your board to “write, display, and interact” with three times the benefit of a traditional board. The durable plastic overlay provides a clear, brilliant surface that Smead says won’t ghost or stain, creating a dynamic whiteboard experience with the utility of a bulletin board. However, as they say on the infomercials…

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!

Smead has also developed Justick overlay board templates. Categories include:

  • Education (for teaching addition, alphabet tracing, telling time, cursive writing, and more)
  • Sports and Coaching (for teaching basketball, football, and hockey plays)
  • Family Activities (daily calendar for activities)
  • Home Management (grocery shopping planners, architectural design planning)
  • Scheduling and Management (Gantt charts, goal tracking, sales reporting, weekly/monthly/yearly and project planners, and more)
  • Medical Industry (hospital and clinic sign in/out, operating room schedules, patient information data for hospital rooms, etc.)
  • Restaurant Management Industry (layouts for the day’s specials)

Got papers? Stick them up!

Got something you want to write or draw? Doodle it freehand or use a template! Get thee to it!

Whether you’re doing a presentation for your biggest client or teaching your child that “M” is for “Mommy” by moving a photo of yourself next to where you’re practicing the alphabet together, Justick has an option.

Justick Frameless Mini Dry-Erase Board with Clear Overlay

The Frameless Mini Dry-Erase Board comes in two versions, black or white, with a clear overlay. Both measure 16″ W x 24″ H and sell for $79.99 at Amazon and myOrganized.life.

Premium Aluminum Frame Dry-Erase Boards with Clear Overlays

If you want something on a grander scale, for your home, school, business, or medical office, Justick has four full-sized dry-erase options, all with the same electro surface adhesion technology and erasable properties, in either black or white in each of two sizes, measuring 36″ W x 24″ H or  48″ W x 36″ H.

JUSTICK ELECTRO COMMERCIAL COMMUNICATION SOLUTIONS

In addition to home and office bulletin board and dry-erase solutions, Justick also has a line of commercial display products suitable for larger businesses, restaurants, hospitals, non-profits, and other locations.

3-Panel Table-Top Expo Display

Picture yourself at the fanciest, most grown-up version of a science fair and you have some sense of how this Justick 3-Panel Table-Top Expo display works. At 72″ W x 36″ H, it allows you to set up your displays for conferences, expos, and whatever corporate version of Show & Tell at which you need to make a big splash, without fear that breezes, un-sticky sticky tape or lost push-pins will cause trouble. It’s priced at $399.99 at myOrganized.life (or $391.67 at Amazon) and can be carried securely in its own 36″ W x 27″ H nylon carrying bag ($99.99).

Lobby and Promotional Stands

Justick also makes a wide variety of lobby and promotional stands. They are all black with aluminum frames and have electro surface technology, but you can choose from standard or dry-erase versions for the lobby stands, and choose among single- and double-sided for the promotional stands, as well as a dry-erase version.

Certainly, some of the higher-end Justick products are more than one would need in a home or small office, and I’d like to see some technology for making the wall-affixed products even easier to display. (Hmm, how about a partnership between Smead’s Justick and 3M’s Command brand of hooks and adhesives?) I’d also love to see some colorful options for the smaller items for use in dorm rooms.

So, why are these Justick products so intriguing?

First, it’s the balloon magic. The ability to make your papers and photos adhere to a vertical surface without having to rummage through your desk for thumbtacks or tape is an organizational advantage.

Second, for the dry-erase versions, it’s advantageous to be able to mix (temporary) storage and dynamic writing.

Third, it’s VERTICAL. As this blog has referenced previously, vertical storage is fabulous when your area is small, when your workspace is awkwardly laid out, and when you want to avoid building up clutter.

Of course, vertical clutter isn’t completely impossible — I’m sure you’ve seen refrigerator doors with long-forgotten appointment card reminders, overdue notices, and invitations to events that have long-since past — all layered over one another until the door is almost double its original thickness. So, it’s still important to cull and purge your papers on an ongoing basis, whether they’re lying down or standing up.

Don’t you just love balloon magic?

Photo of Bella+Balloon, courtesy of Pat David is licensed under Creative Commons 2.0

Posted on: July 15th, 2016 by Julie Bestry | No Comments

Do you hate your printer? OK, hate is a strong word, but let’s talk.

My first printer, a noisy dot-matrix Imagewriter II, was part of my first Mac purchase in December 1985. It had a sleek white housing, took continuous-form feed (or fan-fold) paper (which, at the time, we likened to paper towels), and took black ink only. It had a few simple lights and buttons that didn’t require reading a manual to understand. It was sleek, did what it was told, and aside from being incredibly heavy, fit well with my student life requirements.

ImageWriterII

I’ve had a few printers in the past three decades, but none as pleasing as that Imagewriter II. Epsons and Canons and HPs, oh my! They’ve frozen, their drivers have mysteriously failed, and they have crankily refused to print with black ink when the cyan (that’s yellow, y’know) was not tippy-top. My current printer, since it was about six months old, refuses to print unless I unplug it from the power supply and plug it in again before printing. Every. Darn. Time.

You’d think there would have to be a better way! Well, one 27-year-old German industrial designer thought so, too.

PAPER

Ludwig Rensch had an idea. What if printers weren’t horrible, awful, frustrating pieces of technology that we depended upon for providing tangible representations of information, but were instead easy to use and nifty to gaze upon, and did what we needed?

His prototype? Paper: A Printer You Actually Want

PaperPrinter

In Rensch’s words:

Paper is a machine that can print, scan and copy in a pleasant way. It communicates its function, provides clear feedback and uses physical controls to operate the key functions with ease.

Seriously? No randomly blinking lights that are reminiscent of Morse Code but have no clear meaning?

No refusal to print in black and white unless three other color inks are full?

No ugly metal and plastic blob that makes your kitchen or living room feel industrial?

Well, that is a breath of fresh air.

THE BASICS

Instead of the black and grey boxes we’ve come to know, Rensch’s Paper is a brightly colored, lightweight, all-in-one printer/scanner/copier.

Imagine having a traditional flatbed printer or scanner but then turning it on its side. In lieu of a traditional stack of copy paper, Rensch’s Paper prints or copies to a continuous sheet (sans tractor-feed holes) on an upright paper roll with pages cut one slice at a time, much like Berg’s Little Printer, which I wrote about in Indulgences, Unitaskers and Paper Doll’s Take on the Little Printer.

78452333984286.56f00fcb22c5b

Instead of black or grey plastic and metal that’s suited for office space, Rensch designed something that adds some quirky color. (Although Paper Doll, herself, has a lifelong history detesting the color orange, this blog will not hold that against Paper.)

The revised design makes it more compact, space-saving and mobile. There’s just one switch to select “scan” or “copy,” the LEDs let you know the status of Paper’s ink levels, and there’s a handle on top so you can pick it up at a moment’s notice without feeling like you’re carrying all your worldly possessions like in the closing scene from Fiddler on the Roof.

PaperRenschInk

THE PRINCIPLES

As a professional organizer, I was delighted to see that Rensch developed the user interface to follow the Pareto Principle: 80% of your success comes from 20% of your effort. In organizing, we usually take that to mean that 80% of the time, we wear 20% of our clothes (wearing and washing, and storing them for easy access and wearing them again), while kids play with 20% of their toys, and so on. We focus on that to show how, when we discard some subset of the 80% were rarely use or touch, we regain space without regretting the loss of what we’ve donated or tossed.

Rensch says:

This is where the paradox of technology kicks in. Devices become incredibly complicated. Microwaves, Remote Controls, TVs, Cars, Ovens, Printers, Coffee Machines – they all have features that the majority of the owners never use. That is because they don’t know how or why, and they’re not willing to spend time and energy to learn how to use something. Especially in the days of streamlined services and apps, that make life so easy without instructions or efforts, it seems ridiculous that one has to read a user’s guide to heat up some food.

Rensch applied the Pareto Principle, considering the likelihood that 80% of the time, we only use 20% of the features of office appliances like printers, copiers, and scanners, so why create bulk and disarray with more than is needed? To achieve his goal, Rensch started at the beginning: he defined a printer’s key functions, analyzed the required procedures and simplified everything until he had created an easy-to-learn, simple-to-understand, aesthetically pleasing, and minimalistic product.

PaperRenschCloseup

THE INTERNET OF THINGS…USED BY REGULAR PEOPLE

Rensch designed his Paper printer/scanner/copier as part of his graduate thesis Interacting with Things, which looked at how machines can be used more intuitively, and he asked three basic questions:

  • Is it possible to transfer the quality of a digital user experience to an everyday object?
  • Can we use physical feel to improve digital experiences?
  • Are we able to make the information and the opportunities of the internet more tangible and experience them in physical things?

Then, he applied his concepts to three designs: Paper, PostPoster (an interactive graphical poster that uses a specialized conductive paint to generate sounds), and Musikbox 1188 and its app, a Bluetooth loudspeaker that lets you listen to music from your friend’s phone, tablet, or computer even if your friend (and her gadgets) are on the other side of the world.

The ever-expanding concept of the Internet of Things, upon which Rensch’s work is predicated, is key to understanding his designs. The Internet of Things, or IoT, is like where your Nest programmable thermostat or your “fridge of the future” can talk to your phone or computer and to one another to make your life more enjoyable. The thermostat can increase the A/C on a hot day so it’s just perfect when you walk in the door, but also send you an alert if your furnace is acting weird and the pipes might burst in winter. Meanwhile, your fridge can detect when you’re low on milk, your ingredients are about to expire, or you’re lacking what you need for the recipe you programmed in for Saturday — and then auto-order more groceries!

While most designers are eager for this Rise of the Machines and are welcoming our new programmable toaster overlords, the rare detractors are usually concerned with the security of IoT. Rensch, however, is more concerned about the humanity of it (per his thesis):

It’s the age of the smartphones. Like no other technology in the recent decades, they become part of our lives. Services offered in the internet allow us to do really complex stuff in no time, with no effort and in pleasant ways, for instant [sic] sell a bike to someone, find directions in foreign places and do business on the go. Static information that was bound in books and maps is now fluid and accessible from everywhere at everytime.

But these developments also must be viewed critically.

Even these miracle-machines have their down-sides. We all know people who are sunken into their Smartphone screens, absorbed by virtual worlds. And from time to time, we’ve been that person. All the Apps and Services are good and useful on their own, but to take care of everything only with our phones is distracting us from the outside world and our environment. Interactions with screens demand an enormous amount of concentration and leave the human motor functions and haptics unused.

Paper looks a lot like a throw-back to the days of mechanical buttons and dials, making use of the user’s fine motor skills to tune in the desired solution with basic physical controls and verify them with simple light signals. In that way, it reminded me of an old radio, where you turned the dial and when you hit upon an AM or FM station clearly, the tiny light would shine brightly.

PaperRenschScanner

Paper could work manually, only, but Rensch designed it to operate as an Internet of Things device — but better. According to Rensch, the device is meant to be seen as more of an “aesthetically pleasing creative tool that brings together the analog and digital worlds for transferring content from one to the other.”

Paper hasn’t left the virtual world behind. It can be operated via its own app on your mobile device or at a website in your computer’s browser.

To really appreciate the experience of using Paper, which to me, harkens back to my first experience with the design of Apple products, check out the video.

 

IN THE REAL WORLD

Of course, and I’m sure you expected this, there is sad news for those of us eager to try Paper out. You see, Paper is not-ready-for-prime-time because of the economics of the Office Supply Industrial Complex. Your frustrating HP or Epson is frustrating because it’s cheap, and it’s cheap because the companies know they can hook you with the low-price printer and weigh you down with printer ink made only for your style of printer, forcing you to come back time and again for a cyan you don’t really want or need.

Without Big Ink money to subsidize the development, manufacturing, and distribution of Rensch’s Paper, this pretty little thing won’t be on desks (or kitchen counters) anytime soon. We can only hope that the big guys will take Rensch’s approach under advisement, and give us a printer/scanner/copier we’d actually enjoy using.

Posted on: May 11th, 2015 by Julie Bestry | 1 Comment

We professional organizers are pretty easy to intrigue, but hard to impress. We like novelty, and you can hear our oooohs and aahhhs across the ballroom floor at the NAPO Organizing Conference and Expo when a vendor lengthens a folder tab, come out with a poly version of a product formerly only available in paper, or builds a better hanging folder.

But as much as we appreciate novelty, we’re quick to note shortcomings as well. We’re dismissive of features we can’t see our clients actually needing, and we’re dubious of also-rans — the third or fourth or fifth practically identical copy of a product or app that doesn’t improve upon the original.

One of the products that caught Paper Doll‘s eye, and kept it focused, at this year’s Expo is a hybrid, bringing two separate but related processes together. In the past, we’ve focused on paper hybrid office products:

In the above cases, we’ve looked at notebooks and notepads that work two ways. But what about a writing implement that can do double-duty?

Magically Organize Your Writing

Equil® SMARTPEN 2

Friend of the blog, Smead, is known primarily for paper-related office products (e.g., folders, organizers, dividers, folios, etc.), and we’ll get to the newest of them in an upcoming post. But recently, Smead has been acquiring interesting and useful tech and tech-ish products, like the MOS: Magnetic Organization System for cable and cord organizing, Stick N Find bluetooth trackers, and MOS Spring Cables for strong, tangle-free syncing, charging and playing audio.

The Equil® SMARTPEN 2 is the latest innovative acquisition, and it’s a doozy. What does it do? The SMARTPEN 2 lets you:

  • Create handwritten notes, sketches and diagrams on real paper (whether that’s a fancy Moleskine or a cocktail napkin). But it can also be used as a stylus to write and draw on your iPad, which the company claims it does with superior accuracy. (Paper Doll‘s drawing skills would be a poor test of this acuity, I assure you.)
  • Capture writing and doodlings and digitally transfer them to Windows, Mac, iOS and Android devices without scanning or snapping photos.
  • Save, modify and share the digital version of your notes (so you’ve got the original paper version, suitable for framing on your wall or locking in your safe deposit box, and the digital — even modified — version in the cloud or on your devices.
  • Oh, and that modification? It includes the ability to convert your handwriting into readable, searchable, editable printed text.
  • Share via email, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media, or upload to the cloud for saving and sharing to Evernote, Dropbox and iCloud.
  • Whatever you create with the Equil® SMARTPEN 2 syncs across all of your devices, so wherever you are, you’ll be able to create anew or access what you’ve already written.

SMARTPENinAction

THE BASIC ELEMENTS

The Equil® SMARTPEN 2 looks like an Apple product. It’s all white-on-white, and comes packaged in a streamlined charging cradle, a triangular base into which the two operational parts snap, and the case comes with a grey “wrap” (called a convenience case) similar to the iPad Smart Cover.

SmartpenSet

The Pen — This is a technology-“enabled” pen. That means it’s a real pen, on its own, and uses regular ballpoint ink cartridges. It’s pressure-sensitive, so it can capture every nuance of what you draw, and if you press heavily (and perhaps repeatedly), with insistence, the pen knows you’re doing the equivalent of bolding your text and SHOUTING with intensity.

SMARTPENfull_size_pen

In order to save the battery life, the pen goes to sleep if you don’t write for a while. One press of the small button atop the pen wakes it up, and that same button functions to alert the receiver to a “new page” (creating page breaks) and to let you go back and forth between saved pages of notes.

The charging cable includes one replacement ink cartridge.

The Receiver — At first glance, the 3″ W x 1/2″ H receiver device looks like a clip for a clipboard, and it fastens to the top of your notepad or paper in a similar manner. The pen and the receiver connect via magic (OK, infrared and radio frequency communication). The receiver determines the boundaries of the page and flashes a small red light to alert you when you’re getting too close to the top or the bottom edge of what it can detect.

As you write with the pen, the receiver device saves your notes in the built-in memory.

SMARTPENfull_size_receiver

The receiver holds 10,000 pages of notes. When you reconnect your pen to your digital device, you automatically receive an alert about any new notes, which are ready to be imported.

You can digitize your notes in real time, but it doesn’t matter if you’re not connected to your phone or other device when you’re in creation mode. When you are ready, at the touch of the button on the top of the receiver, whatever you’ve created can be uploaded from the device and imported to your computer, phone, or tablet. (Not your fancy watch, though. At least, not yet.)

The pen and receiver are rechargeable, and the specs claim you can write or draw for eight hours between charges. Just pop both the pen and receiver into the USB-compatible charging cradle. (The receiver has a battery life indicator and a charging indicator, so you shouldn’t have any surprises.)

equil-smartpen-Triangle

The SMARTPEN works with two free apps:

Equil Note — This app lets you save and organize any of the written notes you take with the SMARTPEN 2. Edit, enhance, and share them with friends and colleagues. Convert your handwriting to text for easy editing and sharing.

EquilSmartpenSketch

Equil Note has apps for iPhone, iPad, and Android mobile devices, as well as Mac and Windows for desktop use. It’s available in English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Chinese (Simplified and Traditional), Japanese, and Korean.

Equil Sketch — The sketch app lets you draw with a finer degree of control, and includes digital options like multiple brush styles and layering. You can start a picture on paper, and finesse it on the screen.

SMARTPENSketchapp

Through the apps, you can digitally choose from a variety of colors and pen tips, and up to 600 levels of pressure sensitivity, and then add more text and/or photos, digitally. You can also tag your notes so you can search and locate your content quickly.

The Equil Sketch app is only available for iPhone, iPad and Android digital devices (not desktop), and is compatible with all of the same languages as Equil Note, except for Korean, Portuguese, and Russian.

PRICE

The Equil® SMARTPEN 2 retails for $169.95 from the Equil shop, or for about $149 from Amazon, Apple and Best Buy. Access to the apps is free with a purchase of the pen.

THE FINE PRINT

There’s glossy marketing, and then there’s the occasional factual balloon pop.

Although the press materials reference doodling on a napkin, and the pen can capture notes on paper as small as a sticky note, the official specs say that the recommended paper size is 250mm x 330mm (9.85″ x 13″) or smaller — that’s anything below Letter size (US standard) or A4 (UK standard) — and notes that things “may not work properly if the paper is too small for the receiver to clip on and may have writing recognition issues if the paper surface is rough. (i.e., cardboard). So, don’t plan to write on something the size of a postage stamp or your next summer camp care package.

Next, the Equil® SMARTPEN 2 communicates to your digital devices through bluetooth pairing — if you’ve ever used a bluetooth headset for your phone or a keyboard for your iPad, you know to prepare for some set-up time before you can get started. One note I found in the FAQ caused a slight pause: “Make sure to go through bluetooth pairing process each time you switch the devices you are using with Equil JOT.” It’s not entirely clear whether this means you have to pair the pen each time you switch from your tablet to your phone, or just the first time for each. FYI.

Finally, the SMARTPEN 2 measures 1/2″ around the thickest part of its triangular shape, slightly thicker than a traditional Sharpie. It tapers down as you get closer to the pressure-sensitive pen-tip. Still, if you’re used to a slender, rounded pen, the grip of this might take some practice for creating fine detail.

Take a look at the Equil® SMARTPEN 2 in action.

THE COMPETITION

The Equil® SMARTPEN 2 isn’t the first to combine writing on paper with writing on a digital device and making it all interactive. (Even the SMARTPEN 1, the first iteration, wasn’t exactly first.) The Livescribe Smart Pen series (including the newest Livescribe 3, the Sky WiFi, and Echo, and older iterations) was the first to break out in this area, and for many years, I would gush when techie colleagues would show off their Livescribes. The Livescribe pens also had an embedded audio recorder, so you could tap a portion of your notes to hear what was being said contemporaneously with whatever you wrote. Pretty grand!

But the SMARTPEN 2 continues to have one advantage over the various Livescribe versions that can’t be overlooked. You can use the Equil® SMARTPEN 2 with pretty much any type of paper or notebook, so you can stick to your preferred notebook style, but after all these years, the Livescribe options still require that you buy special digital paper notepads to work. Paper Doll doesn’t know about you, but while I’m occasionally willing to shell out for a truly exceptional gadget, having to buy pricey notepads just so the pen can work is a deal-breaker for me.

WHO IS IT FOR?

Obviously, not everyone needs a smart pen. If you’re fine with keeping handwritten notes and rarely need information in digital form, you can pass. If you spend your time sitting at a desk, fully Wi-Fi-enabled, or are good with the “thumby” thing, typing without a real keyboard, even when standing or walking, it may not be for you. The SMARTPEN 2 is ideal, however, for those who are on-the-go, often standing, or in rough-and-tumble surroundings. I’m thinking of my client who is usually up in a bucket truck, using his iPad to take notes but risking damage to his expensive gadget. Or camp counselors checking kids in for the summer and taking notes of parents’ special requests. Engineers and architects, working on-site. Community physicians and nurses who don’t have immediate access to electronic medical records and are taking notes on-the-fly.

With the handwriting recognition feature, particularly the ability to turn handwriting into text, and the ability to use regular paper, the Equil® SMARTPEN 2 is worth some attention.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Posted on: July 11th, 2014 by Julie Bestry | 1 Comment

Whether your goal is to go paperless or you just want to make sure you have access to your information no matter where you are, scanning is an obvious solution. We’ve previously covered the basics of scanning as part of a paper-reduction policy, and there’s a whole section on scanning in my 57 Secrets for Organizing Your Small Business.

At the 2014 NAPO Conference and Expo, two long-time stars of the scanning world, Neat and Fujitsu, displayed their newest wares.

FUJITSU

Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500 Desktop Scanner

ScansnapiX500

The ScanSnap iX500 is a desktop scanner (but, as the photo above indicates, not a flatbed scanner) compatible with Macs and PCs as well as mobile devices. (It replaces the Scansnap X1500, a Windows-only scanner.) Suitable for personal or small business use, the big selling point of this model is the ability to scan wirelessly, but the iX500 has myriad interesting features, including:

  • scanning to a wide variety of formats, including searchable PDFs, JPEGs, editable Microsoft Word and Excel documents, and others with the press of just one button
  • scanning to the cloud, including to Dropbox, Google Drive, Salesforce, and SugarSync, as well as SharePoint, but only for Windows-based PCs. (ScanSnap Folder, also compatible only with Windows-based PCs, allows for wider cloud-centric applications.)
  • Wi-Fi connectivity — sure, you can connect your scanner to your computer via a USB cable, but you can also scan directly from the iX500 to your computer via your Wi-Fi connection, cable-free!
  • direct scanning to mobile devices — scan a PDF or JPEG from the iX500 to your iOS or Android mobile phone or tablet directly via WiFi
  • fast double-sided scanning of color pages at 25 pages/minute at 300 dpi. The iX500 scans both side of a page simultaneously, and images are automatically straightened and cropped, with blank sides removed from the resulting scan. (Although the stated speed is 25 pages/minute, reviews have reported speeds as high as 33 pages/minute. Check out this tweeted Vine of a sheet zooming through the iX500!)

The ScanSnap Quick Menu gives you an idea of the variety of destination options at your disposal:

ScanSnapQuick Menu

You can stack up to 50 sheets of paper at a time in the automatic document feeder, and Fujitsu promises that by borrowing “Separation Roller” technology and an “ultrasonic multi-feed sensor” from their professional-grade scanners, they’ve minimized jams and that annoying situation where more than one page gets grabbed at a time (and then never gets scanned at all).

The ScanSnap iX500 comes with productivity software. For both Macs and PCs, there’s Cardminder, a business card program. For PCs, there’s ScanSnap Organizer, which lets users manage PDFs and JPEGs scanned on a Windows platform, including converting scanned PDF files into searchable content. The ABBYY FineReader Express Edition is the similar PDF-to-searchable-PDF conversion software for the Mac.

Review posts have generally been positive, as have social mentions:

ScanSnap iX500 won this year’s NAPO Organizers’ Choice Award for Best Solution for Organizing Information at Work.

The iX500 ranges from about $430 to $485 via Amazon, office supply stores like Staples and Office Depot, and other big box and online electronics stores.

NEAT

NeatConnect is the newest addition to the NeatDesk and NeatReceipts family. NeatConnec NeatConnect has taken the concepts of “less is more” to new heights, focusing on how this scanner not only helps you be paperless, but also wireless and computer-less. You can:

  • Wirelessly scan documents directly to the cloud, including to Dropbox, Evernote, OneDrive, Box, Google Drive, email and even FTP. However, in this instance, the “cloud” isn’t necessarily the random cloud solutions you already use, but also NeatCloud, a subscription-based storage service accessible from your NeatConnect, computer or Neat mobile app. (You get three months of free NeatCloud service with your NeatConnect purchase.)
  • Skip the computer altogether. As long as your Wi-Fi can reach it, the NeatConnect doesn’t need to interface with a computer. Just pop in the items to be scanned (in any or all of three size formats), use the intuitive touchscreen to swipe through the destination options, and tap “Scan” when you’re ready.
  • Wi-Fi down? NeatConnect isn’t so wedded to the wireless option that you’re stuck. There’s a USB port for connecting to a Windows PC or Mac.
  • Scan to email, even without the computer. Once you scan an item, you can send it via email as an attachment.
  • Gain a cordless storage option via one SD card slot for saving scanned images up to a maximum of 32 GB.
  • Opt for one-sided or duplex scanning, and then save pages separately or combine them.

The stated upper-limit scanning speed of the NeatConnect is 24 pages per minute for color, black-and-white or grayscale, 300 dpi, slightly less than iX500’s stated speed, though I’ve seen reports that real-time NeatConnect usage yields a somewhat lower speed. (Both Neat and Fujitsu have a maximum scanning resolution of 600 dpi.) While the iX500 allows you to stack all of your documents to process through one feeder, the NeatConnect has three separate feeding slots, with a maximum capacity of 15 business cards, 15 receipts or small scraps, and 15 letter-size documents. (Without the paper tray, the capacity is the same 50 sheets as the iX500.)

If you’re interested in the NeatCloud, be prepared to pony up $6, $15 or $25 per month, depending on whether you want a personal, home and office, or business plan. (Annual plans at $60, $120 and $240 lower the per month price considerably.)

In the past, the main complaint I’ve heard about the Neat scanning platform was that its software was pretty insular — that you had to scan to what amounted to a Neat “inbox” and only later could you move items onward; NeatConnect seems to circumvent that complaint with more widespread integration options. And it certainly has its fans.

The Neat mobile app is available for iOS and Android devices, and supports functions including image capturing, editing, sorting, searching, sharing, expense reporting and reading of U.S. and Canadian receipts and business cards. The optional Neat Verify service (for an additional monthly fee) sends your mobile-scanned image to a team of Neat specialists who review the scan and ensure that the “key information is accurately read and extracted.” You could think of this as a really inexpensive virtual assistant who double-checks your numbers or a creepy NSA dude who helpfully lets you know your scan misread a restaurant tip.

NeatConnect runs about $499.95 and is sold directly through Neat, and is available at Amazon and various office supply and electronics stores.

PAPER DOLL’S THOUGHTS

This post should not be construed as a review, but merely a recap, of what I learned at this year’s Expo, plus some research. Although I may be an expert on organizing paper and digital files, my scanning experience is limited. Rather, I direct you to some recent reviews of the ScanSnap iX500 and NeatConnect that seemed particularly helpful at pointing out the merits and shortcomings of both.

My gut instinct is that Windows users, businesses and speed-scanners will love the iX500; for novices at scanning, home/personal users, those who care about their hardware aesthetics, and heavier users of a wider array of cloud options, I suspect the NeatConnect will hold more sway. As  a thirty-year Mac user, my cursory experience is that NeatConnect is slightly more intuitive, but I’ve read the opposite claim in multiple reviews. Your mileage may vary.

My suggestion? Poll your local buddies and visit the homes and offices of those who are using both to get a real-world tutorial. I know the ScanSnap vs. Neat fans are as loyal (read: partisan) as Mac vs. Windows or Yankees vs. Red Sox folks, so please feel free to weigh in with what you love (or don’t) about either option.

Posted on: February 3rd, 2014 by Julie Bestry | 1 Comment

For a while, Paper Doll kept getting asked the same question: Paper or Digital? Nowadays, that’s the wrong question. More and more, it’s not a question at all, because the answer is paper and digital. Hybrid solutions are becoming more common because people need to organize their information in multiple ways.

Last year, we looked at the Evernote Smart Notebook by Moleskine. On the outside, it was a cool paper notebook, designed for writing or sketching and helping you look like a hipster, but on the inside, it was magically connected to cyberspace. With the Smart Notebook, you added little stickers next to whatever you created, used your digital device to align and snap a photo, and the picture landed safely in your preferred Evernote folder, tagged appropriately because of each sticker’s flavor of magic fairy dust.

Esselte

 

 

Today’s entry into the paper/cloud hybrid notebook arena, Esselte’s Ampad Shot Note, with the motto “From Handwritten to Handheld,” is a little less hipster than Moleskine and a little more corporate/classroom.

The Basics: Shot Note comes in seven varieties. Four are band-bound at the top, like a typical legal pad. The 5″ x 8″ writing pads are available in wide rule and dot graph formats (suitable for to-do lists and quick thoughts); the 8 1/2″ x 11 3/4″ writing pads also come in wide rule and dot graph (appropriate for class and meeting notes). All pads have a rigid 60 pt chipboard backing and 40 micro-perforated 22 lb. paper sheets. (The pages are not lined or dot-gridded on the reverse sides, unlike with traditional notepads.)

Two of the Shot Notes are spiral-bound for easy flipping of pages, but are also micro-perforated. The 9″ x 12″ blank sketch pad has an extra-sturdy 80 pt chipboard backing so the artist in you can be nimble. Each pad has 40 sheets of 50 lb. paper. The 9 1/2″ x 7 3/4″ writing notebook is medium ruled, with 40 sheets of 22 lb. paper and a rigid 60 pt chipboard backing. The sketch pad has the spiral at the top; the notebook is spiral-bound on the left side.

For a larger canvas to display your brilliance, there’s a 23 1/4″ x by 31″ blank easel pad with 25 perforated, self-adhesive, repositionable sheets of bleed-free 20 lb. paper.

All of the Shot Note varieties have corner markers to help you align the pages (of which, more later). Note, the corner markers are only on the “front” pages, so if you write on the reverse of the sheets, it’s no different from writing on a standard notepad. 

ShotNoteCorner

Each of the writing pads has markings in the upper right corner so that you can date your notes. (The sketch pads are undated.)

ShotNoteDate

How Shot Note Works:

  • Download the free Ampad Shot Note app for iOS or Android.
  • Use the notebooks. Write notes, letters, sonnets. Doodle your name and your sweetie’s, or sketch the next architectural wonder.
  • Snap a photo of your creation using the Ampad Shot Note app, aligning the four corners of the page with the app’s doohickey for recognizing the corners. This uploads your page to the app.
  • ShotNoteCornerAppName your file. Add a description and tags. The app will create a date- and time-stamp for you.
  • Access and view the items you’ve captured. Search by name, tag or date/time-stamp.
  • ShotNoteListShare your items via email, Evernote, Dropbox, Twitter or message from your camera roll.

Why You Might Use the Shot Note Pads and App

You, like Paper Doll, may have a really shaky hand when it comes to snapping documents and pictures with a tablet. While an increasing number of digital devices have grid lines built into the camera apps to make it easier to shoot “straight,” some are easier to manage than others.

Your creativity only bursts forth when you set pen (or pencil) to paper. Maybe you get tongue-tied (finger-tied?) when you type, but really need to have a digital copy of what you create so can share with collaborators or clients.

Maybe you want to share a personal message for a love note or “good luck” blurb, and don’t want to sacrifice handwriting and personal doodles just to be able to have it received immediately.

What other things could you do with the Shot Note?

  • Archive your children’s school projects and drawings.
  • Share notes from class with your study group.
  • Snap your grocery list and share it with your family so two (or more) of you can divide up zones of the supermarket and finish faster.
  • Keep your originals safe at home (or at the office) when you’re traveling.

For more on how the Shot Note works, check out the spiffy little video.

Paper Doll‘s Thoughts: I was intrigued by the Shot Note when it debuted at the 2013 NAPO Conference last spring. I still think it’s neato, in the abstract, but there are some practical concerns. First, price. Available at Amazon, Staples and other office supply stores, the Shot Note regular pads lists between $6 and $10, which is pretty pricey for so few pages per pad, though Amazon carries them at a significant discount (a more reasonable $2-$4). The easel pad, listing from $70-$90 (yes, really!) and discounted at about half of that, is pretty darned expensive for 25 monster-sized sticky notes.

Beyond price, it’s not clear what the Shot Note can do that’s really special. Right now, it’s a camera app that nicely lines up the pages of utilitarian-looking notepads, and it’s decently integrated with the major productivity tools. But it strikes me that Evernote seems to have gotten much farther with integrating its camera app, and can even search handwriting as if it were text. Then again, Ampad is in the business of paper, not digital manipulation, so maybe it’s not fair to hold the two to the same standards.

I had one other thought. The Shot Note focuses on the written and the visually artistic, but Ampad could create a Shot Note side-spiral notebook of blank sheet music. I suspect that there are suitable apps for taking the uploaded, snapped, handwritten notes and allowing the paper and apps to make beautiful music together. (No charge for the idea, Ampad. Enjoy!)