Moleskine Smart Writing Set bridges analog and digital notes

Even in this digital age, the pen is still mightier than the sword. Case in point are devices like the Samsung Galaxy Note, the Microsoft Surface, and the Apple iPad Pro that offer styluses for both drawing and writing. For avid note takers and scribblers, however, that's still a compromise that doesn't offer the unique qualities and feeling of putting physical pen on physical paper. Moleskine, whose entire empire depends on such physical products, is presenting a compromise from the other side of the fence: a Smart Writing Set that duplicates handwritten or handdrawn work on screen.

Moleskine is hardly the first to offer such a solution. In fact, it's just the latest in a long line of companies that try to offer the advantages of digital files and backups to analog pen and paper. There's Livescribe and Neo Smartpen for one. Even Wacom, who specializes in drawing tablets and digitizers, is getting into the game as well. The difference with Moleskine's offer is that it is offering a somewhat complete set that covers both the digital and physical sides of the equation.

Actually, the Smart Writing Set is more of a mashup of three different products, hence the "set" moniker. Moleskine naturally provides the physical notebook in the trio, a product that it amusingly calls the Paper Tablet. Because it's a paper notebook designed to somewhat mimic the look of a tablet, with rounded edges, for example. Like similar products for Lightscribe, the paper isn't your regular cut. It has a grid of nearly invisible dots that are used by the pen to determine its location on the page.

Which brings us to the pen, called the Moleskine Pen+. Actually, the pen is "powered by" the Neo smartpen, which is, in the long run, is actually a competing product. The odd-looking pen has a camera that it uses to see those dots to orient itself and see where the user is drawing or writing. This data is then relayed to the paired app in order to duplicate the inked sketch or text. It's like the wireless and digital equivalent of a pantograph.

And then there's the app. On the iPhone, users can pair the Pen+ with Moleskine's own Notes App. Android users, on the other hand, will have to make do with Neo's Notes app instead.

The Moleskine Smart Writing Set is available from Moleskine's online store and select retailers worldwide. The whole set goes for $199 while extra Paper Tablet notebooks cost $29.95 each