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Digital pens write the next chapter

At DemoFall, Adapx announces products that tie a digital pen to Microsoft Excel spreadsheets. Meanwhile, Livescribe is getting a push for its product at Target.

Livescribe's Pulse can record notes from a meeting in ink and sound, as well as perform other tasks, such as translating a handwritten word from English to Spanish. Jared Kohler/CNET News

It's not my beat, but digital pens are a bit of a pet interest of mine, so I like to try and keep you up-to-date on them when I get a chance.

In that vein, I thought I would let you know that Adapx, which specializes in writing software that ties digital pens to other applications, announced its latest product--one that combines the digital pen with Excel. The result is that forms can be filled out in ink and paper, but the data is captured electronically. It made the announcement at this week's Demo show in San Diego.

Seattle-based Adapx already has a product that ties in with Microsoft's OneNote. The company is one of a host of firms that are trying to make a go of digital-pen products.

One that I have spent some time with firsthand is LiveScribe's Pulse digital pen. The big thing this start-up adds to the mix is the combination of audio and ink. That makes it particularly handy for note taking.

The audio notes can be played back on a PC, but they can also be played straight from the pen. By clicking various points in one's notes, you go straight to that part of the audio. That makes it especially handy for students or journalists.

I've been playing around with it for a while now. I've been meaning to get around to a full-on review. In lieu of that (at least for now), I will just say that I find it very useful. It should get even more useful later this year, when Livescribe launches a Mac version of its desktop software and enables users to print on the special "dot" paper at home, rather than having to buy notebooks from Livescribe.

After some initial sluggishness getting to market, Livescribe has been getting particularly good play at Target. I've spotted nice displays in the stores, and it's also been featured in several weekly circulars. Livescribe won't give sales figures, but it says it continues to exceed Target's weekly forecasts. The Pulse has also been available for sale on since July and is in several college bookstores.