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By Ed Hardy
The InkLink from Seiko Instruments transfers handwritten notes or drawings from paper to a handheld. It is the next generation of the SmartPad but doesn't require that the notes be made on a special notepad. The InkLink works with any piece paper up to legal size.
The Data Clip looks like what George Jetson would use to hold closed a bag of Space Potato Chips. It is about six inches long and gets clipped to the top of the pad of paper you want to write on. Built into it are sensors that monitor the location of the Electronic Pen.
Of course, you don't have to use a pad of paper; you can use with almost anything. The InkLink could be a godsend to all those people who do their best work on napkins in cocktail bars. This flexibility makes it much more useful than the SmartPad.
The Electronic Pen constantly broadcasts to the Data Clip its position and whether it is writing or not. On one end is a ball point pen. On the other is a stylus point that can be used with a handheld. The Data Clip can only detect the location of the Pen if the ball point pen end is being used. It is powered by three watch batteries.
IrDA Transceiver is on a wire about 12 inches long that plugs into the Data Clip. There is a AAA battery inside that also powers the Data Clip. The Data Clip doesn't have a power switch. It is activated when the Transceiver is plugged in and will turn itself off if it isn't used for a few minutes.
The Transceiver is a couple of inches long. It has a plastic clip that lets it be attached over the infrared port on any handheld. This is how the InkLink communicates with the handheld.
The InkLink comes with a plastic case that keeps all its parts together in one package.
Really, using the InkLink for its basic use isn't complicated. You just write or draw and it gets transferred into a file on your handheld. It's just that simple.
When you are writing or drawing, InkNote Manager shows the full page on the handheld's screen. That doesn't give you any detail but is enough to let you know basically what you are doing. Later you can enlarge your drawing to full size on the screen to pick out the details.
I'd suggest you make a few small marks at the top of the page where the Data Clip is attached. This will help you get it lined up if you need to attach it to the same page again. This is important if you want the drawing on your handheld to look exactly like the one on your paper.
Of course, there are a lot of options you can make use of that add a lot of functionality. The pen itself has only one color ink but you can change the color that is saved in your handheld. You can also use different line thicknesses. You can even automatically straighten your lines.
The first time you use it, you have to set your paper size. InkNote Manager has the standard ones built-in, like Letter, Legal, etc. But if you can still use a non-standard pad. You can quickly show it how big the paper is and save that size. If you always use the same size paper, you only have to do this once.
You can make changes to drawings directly on your handheld, too. You can add or remove lines or text and highlight things, too.
Of course, InkNote Manager has a screen that lets you choose which file to edit. It will display you files as a list or as tiny versions of your drawings.
InkNote Manager tries hard to help you find your drawings later. You can categorize them, of course, but you can also assign them keywords. Of course, this means you have to be a bit organized yourself and enter some keywords, especially if you are going to save a lot of files.
Space is always at a premium on a handheld and I don't think InkLink's documents are especially large.. A single InkLink page with just a few lines on it is 2 KB. A fairly complicated one is over 13 KB. Each file can have up to 50 pages so it is possible for you to fill your handheld's memory but you'd have to do a lot of writing.
If you are left handed and wrap your fingers around the top of your pen, you won't be able to use the InkLink. It depends on there being an unobstructed line-of-sight between the pen and the Data Clip at the top of the paper. This won't work if your fingers are in the way.
Once the drawing are on your PC, you can work with them there, print them, and export them. Files can be exported as BMP, JPG, or PNG. The user can also specify the number of dots per inch, with 72 being the default, though you can have higher than that.
If you want to, you don't even have to use this with your handheld at all. It comes with a USB cable that also powers the Data Clip and you can make your drawings directly into your desktop or laptop.
You can't complain about the price, either. It's more flexible than the SmartPad 2 and, at $100, costs half as much.
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