In Review

Write smart: The Moleskine Pen+ Ellipse review

Tech tailored for those who prefer writing to typing

Computers may have revolutionised modern life but for some people, there’s no substitute for putting pen to paper. 

But while the old-school approach has its advantages, there are some setbacks. For instance, if you handwrite notes from a work meeting but then need to share them, you may may end up having to type them out.   

That’s where the Italian stationary firm Moleskine and its Pen+ Ellipse comes in - a smart pen that the makers says will transfer your handwritten notes onto your smartphone or tablet in real time. We’ve been trialling the pen over the past few days to see if it really is as efficient as it sounds. 

Stefano Jesi Ferrari stefano.jesi@gmail.com

The pen connects to your device through Bluetooth and is a breeze to set up, using the free Moleskine Notes app, which is available on both Apple and Android products: simply turn on the Pen+ Ellipse and follow the steps on screen. The pen remembers the device when you turn it off, so you don’t need to set it up more than once. 

You will, however, need to pair it with your device whenever you want to use it. To do so, you switch on the pen and tap a small icon in the top right-hand corner of the screen in the Moleskine app. We found this a little unintuitive, as we expected the pen to sync automatically when we switched it back on.

To get writing, you’ll also need one of Moleskine’s smart notepads, which feature a special form of dotted paper called nCode that helps the sensor on the pen track your movements. The smart pen doesn’t work on standard paper, but you can print your own nCode paper by downloading a template from smart pen maker Neo

Once you start writing, the app immediately identifies what style of notebook you’re using and starts transferring your notes onto your device of choice. We found that the app replicated handwriting with excellent precision, even when forming long sentences in cursive. 

Equally as impressive is the app’s ability to transcribe your handwritten notes, which is particularly useful. 

The app can quickly transform your handwriting into a text format, which you can then copy into a document or email. You can also export the whole text document as a file or image using the share feature.

There are options to change the colour and thickness of your digital ink, making notes appear more vibrant. The system allows you to draw simple sketches, too, but a few more options - such as pressure-sensitive inputs - wouldn’t go amiss. 

Although we found the user interface took some time to get accustomed with, the Moleskine Pen+ Ellipse has proven to be a handy companion. Its ability to transcribe notes and convert them into an email is especially convenient, providing an instant digital backup of our work. 

Ultimately, for those who put paper cursive above typing, the Moleskine Pen+ Ellipse is a great bridge between the analog and digital world.

Moleskine Pen+ Ellipse, £179; https://gb.moleskine.com/en/

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