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Start-up hopes cartographers like digital ink

Seattle-based Adapx is yet another digital ink company, this one aimed at business note takers, particularly those who take their digital works into rugged environments.

It should be clear by now that I'm into digital pens.

Seattle-based Adapx is yet another company trying to make a go of it. Like many companies in the area, they use underlying digital pen and paper technology from Sweden's Anoto. Where Adapx is trying to make its mark is in creating software that takes those digital notes and integrates them back into one's digital workflow.

Its first product, Capturx built for Microsoft Office OneNote, is pretty garden variety note-taking, with the digital ink then going directly into Microsoft's OneNote. I got it up and running pretty quick and found it to be modestly useful, but not all that different than other digital pen technologies I've played with. Think of it as a tablet PC without the tablet.

The OneNote integration was well-done and the company's claim of zero training required seemed to be spot-on. The notes just dropped into Microsoft's note-taking application after clicking "yes" on a single dialog box.

Scribbles appear in OneNote just the way they do inside the hardbound notebook from Adapx. Ina Fried/CNET

Potentially more interesting is software that the company is working on for the mapping and computer-aided design markets. There, workers often create digital blueprints and maps, then have to take the printouts, go into the field, take notes, and then re-digitize those notes.

Tablet PCs have also been popular in these areas, though Adapx said it is aiming for places too inhospitable for even a rugged tablet computer.

One of the key technology pieces Adapx is touting is the ability to print blueprints and maps on special paper so that the documents can be annotated in the field. When people get back to their computer and dock their pen, the map or blueprint is then updated with the new notes. All that is needed is the company's software and a four-color PostScript printer, Adapx said.

"Basically, if you know how to use pen and paper or take notes on a map, you know how to use our solution," said Ken Schneider, a former Microsoft employee who is now CEO of Adapx. For now, the OneNote product requires a special $21 hardbound, rain-proof notebook, but Schneider said the company is also looking into letting people print their own OneNote paper.

Schneider said that the company has already shipped "hundreds of units" of its $299 pen/software combo for OneNote. Adapx has $10 million in funding from two venture capital firms--OVP Venture Partners and Paladin Capital Group.