Livescribe's new desktop software updates the existing pens and adds a lot of great new features. It costs nothing for owners of the 4GB and 8GB Echo smartpens and adds some very worthwhile features.
Great automation for sending pen documents via email, free, easy to use, PDFs now have audio embedded
Updates download slowly, we'd like automatic transcription included for free
£ Free or £10 for Echo 2GB users
Version 2.7 of Livescribe software, adds Evernote, iPhone and iPad support, Google Docs upload, Facebook sharing, access to 500MB storage on MyLivescribe.com
We've looked at the Livescribe Echo pen before. It's a pretty amazing tool for people who attend meetings and want a modern way to keep track of what was said and what they agreed to do, and to have a record that you can refer back to when you switch to a new notebook.
We've been using an Echo now for a few weeks since the company came in to demonstrate its new desktop software. While the interface is similar to the previous version, there are a lot of new things here that are worthy of mentioning.
Livescribe has just announced new pens too, with a simple 2GB version that's going to be sold for just £99. That's around half the price of the 8GB model we're using. There are some trade offs though, with the advanced features of the software requiring an additional upgrade. It is not, however, expensive at £10 for a lifetime upgrade.
New software, new PenCasts
The old Livescribe Desktop was really just a way to synchronise your notes and keep them backed up, although you could search your notes for keywords, which is a very handy feature.
The new software totally updates the way PDFs of your notes operate. Now, as well as the normal document containing your writing, you get the ability to click on text and hear the audio from the meeting. There are player controls embedded in the PDF too, so you can play the whole recording, or just sections.
Even more interesting, though, selecting a piece of text moves the audio on to the point in the meeting where you made that note. This really speeds up finding specific parts of what was discussed and, when you get used to the system, allows you to cut notetaking down to almost a series of headings which bookmark audio.
The inclusion of the audio and text in these PDF documents really make sharing meeting minutes much easier. This feature basically replicates what's possible with the pen and original notebook, which was previously much harder to share with others. In the old software it was possible to share your notes, but without audio they were no more advanced than just scanning what you had written.
Connectors add sharing to other online sites
As good as PDFs are for sharing, they still lack the immediacy and flexibility of being able to keep your notes in the cloud. So the new Livescribe system also has the option to move stuff to online sharing and collaboration sites.
Connectors work as plug-ins to add functionality to the Livescribe desktop software. At launch, there are connectors that communicate with Evernote, Facebook and Google Docs. You can also publish to a Pencast PDF (which is a PDF with Flash playback for the audio portion) as well as back up your recordings to Google Docs and the MyLivescribe service that's included.
Evernote integration is good to see, and very useful for those already using the service. It's much the same as the Google Apps connector and essentially just uploads your pencast PDF. We like this for backup purposes, but we'd be more likely to choose Google over Evernote as it's more widespread and just as easy to share with other users.