Photo courtesy of Livescribee
Livescribe's pens allow users to record written and verbal notes and synch them directly to a computer or device via WiFi.

Whenever ENR editors find a tool we want for ourselves that also has crossover appeal for architects, engineers or construction managers, we like to show it off. Livescribe's Smartpen is one of those tools. At first glance, it just looks like a stocky pen, but the technology inside allows users to record audio and, at the same time, turn any written notes into digital files that users can save or upload to cloud computers.

One user, Donna Ou, senior engineering project manager at Epocrates Inc., San Mateo, Calif., reports that she uses the pen to deal with managing the hundreds of deliverables in software development. She says this is where the Livescribe pen comes in really handy.

The pen operates on a printed-dot paper. An infrared camera inside the tip reads Livescribe's unique 3-sq-mm-dot pattern 70 times a second, says Bryan Rodrigues, senior director of marketing for the Oakland, Calif.-based Livescribe. Anything written with the pen or recorded with the pen's microphone can be transferred to a computer or to an application called Evernote via WiFi or the micro-USB port on the back of the pen. Evernote is an app that lets users save notes to its cloud system. It's free and offers 500 GB of extended storage space to any Livescribe user.

When ENR's editors uploaded notes to Evernote, handwritten text appeared black and text that was written during an audio recording appeared green and linked to the recording.

Livescribe offers users four different versions of 25-page printable dot-paper notebooks. We printed the paper and had to update the pen's software to get it to read our paper. Livescribe offers various pre-printed notebooks. The Sky Smartpen comes in three versions with 2, 4 or 8Gb of storage at $169 to $249.