MobileInfocenter
Developer: The Price:
  • $100
The Pros:
  • Can be used with any pad of paper up to legal size
  • Can be used with any handheld with an infrared port
  • Images can be moved to a desktop and exported

The Cons:
  • Some lefties might have problems
  • Pad needs to be very non-flexible

PalmInfoCenter.com Ratings*:
Design:
 
Cost/benefit:
 
Coolness:
 
Overall:

*Maximum Rating is FIVE (5) InfoPalms



InkLink Review
By Ed Hardy
4/29/2002


Overview
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.

Hardware
The InkLink is made up of three main parts: the Data Clip, the Electronic Pen, and the IrDA Transceiver.

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.

Setting up is easy. Just clip the Data Clip to the piece of paper you want to write on then plug in the Transceiver and clip it over your IR port.

Software
The Palm app is called InkNote Manager 3.0. It handles displaying the images as they are entered and saving them.

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.

You can save your drawings and open them again later. If you want to pick where you left off adding things to a drawing, you can. Just open the drawing again, clip the hardware on, and start writing.

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.

Drawbacks
The InkLink doesn't work well if you are writing on a flexible surface, like a pad of paper in your lap. If you lean on the pad and it bends, the curve of the pad will change the distance between the pen and the data Clip. This means that lines won't be entered into the app exactly where you put them on the paper. This can really throw off a drawing or the spacing between your lines of text.

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.

Desktop
InkNote Manager has a conduit that copies your drawings onto your Windows computer. Sadly, there isn't a Mac client nor does Seiko have any plans to create on any time soon.

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.

Conclusion
The InkLink is a great way of entering non-text info into your Palm. Is it for everyone? Of course not. But if you need make drawings and save them to your handheld or desktop, it's a very useful tool. Plus, it's just fun to use.

You can't complain about the price, either. It's more flexible than the SmartPad 2 and, at $100, costs half as much.

Article Comments

 (57 comments)

The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. PalmInfocenter is not responsible for them in any way.
Please Login or register here to add your comments.

Comments Closed Comments Closed
This article is no longer accepting new comments.

Down View Full Comment Thread

Resolution

nategall @ 4/29/2002 4:01:31 PM #
Thanks for the review. One question though.

What type of resolution is available in the drawing? For instance, if you make 3 hash marks on college ruled paper, do they come across as three separate marks? How is the definition of the capturing?

I haven't used the other pad, so maybe these questions are obvious, but how smoothly the system works is important in mechanical drawings.

Thanks again!

nategall says "blah!"

RE: Resolution
Ed @ 4/29/2002 4:06:23 PM #
> For instance, if you make 3 hash marks on college ruled paper, do they come across as three separate marks?

Nate, if I made three marks on a page and the InkLink combined them into one, it would, to put it frankly, suck and I'd have ripped it a new one in the review. Images are saved at 100% of the size of your piece of paper. As long as marks are separate on the page, they are separate on the handheld.

---
News Editor

RE: Resolution
I.M. Anonymous @ 4/29/2002 4:33:46 PM #
>> 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.

Can you, or someone else, post some samples of a typical output... perhaps a page of drawings and one of written text... in several exported DPI settings?

I'd like to see the actual output.

Tx!

RE: Resolution
I.M. Anonymous @ 4/29/2002 11:19:19 PM #
I must say, this thing looks very nice. With bluetooth it would be perfect, but I'm really considering this one.
RE: Resolution
nategall @ 4/30/2002 11:59:28 AM #
Thanks Ed. That's the sort of thing you never find out until you plug it in. Mostly it's just that I use small text that I can barely read, so i didn't want to loose any more information.

(and that's why i stop here 2-4 times a day!)

nategall says "blah!"

RE: Resolution
Dearman @ 4/30/2002 1:36:12 PM #
hey Ed does a using ruler (scale) cause any sorts of problems for it? and what about fills and the such?

fire pretty tree bad

Lefty Questions

I.M. Anonymous @ 4/29/2002 4:48:49 PM #
Couple of questions on the lefty issues you mention. From what you indicate, the IR port on the pen sits fairly low thus if you wrap your hand over the top (in relation to the page) it blocks the IR port, could you post a detailed picture of the pen to illustrate this? Along those lines of thinking, could one put the data clip on the bottom of the page to compensate for this issue?

Thanks
CTSLICK

RE: Lefty Questions
I.M. Anonymous @ 5/1/2002 9:02:18 PM #
I work for Seiko Support (I support the Ink Link, Smart Pads, and all of the Smart Label Printers).

The Ink Link clip has 2 Ultrasound receivers (the 2 black things on the end of the clip and as a result and of course line of sight is required for proper operation. The inklink will beep if it cannot triangulate the position of the pen (i.e. your finger is blocking it.) This way you can simply re-adjust your finger/hand and keep writing.

If you have any further questions, give us a call at 1-800-757-1011 or email us at us-support@seikosmart.com

Sounds great! Hope to be available in Germany soon!

T.W.G @ 4/29/2002 5:19:48 PM #
Yes,

that's the biggest wish :) In Germany we only get cool things like this far after US and Japan... very bad! We love this Gadgets, too!
Thank you for the good review and I think this tool does work very fine when you're at university or in meetings 'cause you can comfortalbe make your notes etc. and then beam it to your Palm!
Seiko: GREAT SOLUTION!!!!!


greetings

Thomas

VFS Support?

terrysalmi @ 4/29/2002 5:39:50 PM #
Does the program come with any built-in VFS support, so you can directly save/access your documents from a SD/MS/CF card?

RE: VFS Support?
Ed @ 4/29/2002 6:07:41 PM #
Sadly, no.

---
News Editor
RE: VFS Support?
I.M. Anonymous @ 5/1/2002 9:14:40 PM #
We have a received a lot of calls about VFS support. We've asked our developers about it but they have yet to give us an answer. I would suggest sending the request directly to our email address and we can forward them to the development team.

Seiko Support
1-800-757-1011 (Support)
1-800-688-0817 (Sales)
us-support@seikosmart.com (Email support)

RE: VFS Support?
I.M. Anonymous @ 5/1/2002 9:28:01 PM #
I forgot to mention that Ink Notes can be stored on flash cards, but only on the Pocket PC devices. On Palm OS devices you can store the Inknote manager software on a SD card (The HCTLib file HAS to be stored in main memory for this to work). The inknotes will stay stored in main memory

Seiko Support
1-800-757-1011 (Support)
1-800-688-0817 (Sales)
us-support@seikosmart.com (Email support)

Bluetooth?

I.M. Anonymous @ 4/29/2002 9:05:46 PM #
This is a great addition for someone that uses both paper and pixel based handwritten notes. It will be great if they can release a Bluetooth version. Clipping on paper and PDA is a bit of a hassle nonetheless, a great piece of hardware and very promising.

Maybe Seiko will release one for the notebook/desktop too. It will be like having an IBM TransNote notebook without the bulk.

RE: Bluetooth?
I.M. Anonymous @ 4/30/2002 12:29:09 AM #
Ummm...read the review again. I'm pretty sure the editor wrote close to the bottom that it comes with a USB cable as well for use on a laptop or desktop.

RE: Bluetooth?
I.M. Anonymous @ 5/1/2002 9:09:24 PM #
The package includes does include a USB cable for the pc. A serial cable can be purchased directly if needed.

Seiko Support
1-800-757-1011 (Support)
1-800-688-0817 (Sales)
us-support@seikosmart.com (Email support)

cool...but

Mathrocks314 @ 4/29/2002 10:35:25 PM #
Itís sounds great but I wish it had VFS and Bluetooth.


-Mathrocks314
RE: cool...but
I.M. Anonymous @ 4/29/2002 11:28:09 PM #
Personally I'd like mine to be greenteeth
RE: cool...but
I.M. Anonymous @ 5/1/2002 9:28:47 PM #
Read the post called "VFS Support"

Seiko Support
1-800-757-1011 (Support)
1-800-688-0817 (Sales)
us-support@seikosmart.com (Email support)

App size

DiegoMS @ 4/30/2002 8:47:03 AM #
What is the size of the application?

RE: App size
Ed @ 4/30/2002 6:26:16 PM #
About 200 KB.

---
News Editor

Document Archival

I.M. Anonymous @ 4/30/2002 9:44:30 AM #
Great review!

My main interest in this product would be for archiving my tons of notes on my desktop computer. Besides the conduit, does the inklink come with any desktop applications for organizing files and searching by keyword?

Thanks,
--Charlie

RE: Document Archival
Ed @ 4/30/2002 6:24:09 PM #
The desktop app has all the same functions as the handheld one, and more.

---
News Editor
RE: Document Archival
I.M. Anonymous @ 5/23/2002 1:57:12 PM #
I think Charlie's question had to do with searching within a file for a given keyword, not merely searching for the file name. I couldn't tell from the review whether Inknote Manager allows you to do that. My assumption is that since the files that are created are image files, that's not possible. Does anyone know?
- David
RE: Document Archival
Ed @ 5/23/2002 2:02:50 PM #
David, as you said, an InkLink file is an image. You can't search for a word in one of these any more than you could if it were a JPG on your PC. However, you can manually assign keywords to your images, which you can search for later on either your PC or Palm.

---
News Editor
RE: Document Archival
I.M. Anonymous @ 5/23/2002 2:52:51 PM #
Is there any good OCR software that would convert the words in an image file into text that a word processing program could handle?
(and thanks for the prompt reply)
-- David
RE: Document Archival
I.M. Anonymous @ 5/29/2002 3:59:35 PM #
I would second the need for an OCR option. Getting the documents in image will be great, but moving them to an OCR format would be optimal.

Any options?

Regards,

Paul

Hmm

I.M. Anonymous @ 4/30/2002 10:56:23 AM #
Heh, I bet Sharp will say something to Macromedia's Shockwavem about their InkLink game :)

I'll consider it when they produce a developers kit

I.M. Anonymous @ 4/30/2002 12:56:44 PM #
I have a SmartPad that gathers dust. If ever a piece of hardware was looking for a developers kit this is it.
RE: I'll consider it when they produce a developers kit
I.M. Anonymous @ 5/1/2002 9:11:51 PM #
The Inknote manager software (version 3.0) that comes with the Ink Link does support the all of the Smartpads. I'm not sure if we will release it as a free upgrade... Check with us in about 3-4 weeks

Seiko Support
1-800-757-1011 (Support)
1-800-688-0817 (Sales)
us-support@seikosmart.com (Email support)

flash storage

I.M. Anonymous @ 4/30/2002 7:39:56 PM #
This would be a much better device if it just stored the ink on flash cards (CF, SM, MMC/SD, etc.), instead of that Rube Goldberg contraption.
RE: flash storage
I.M. Anonymous @ 5/1/2002 9:23:45 PM #
Ink Notes can be stored on flash cards, but only on the Pocket PC devices. On Palm OS devices you can store the Inknote manager software on a SD card (The HCTLib file HAS to be stored in main memory for this to work). The inknotes will stay stored in main memory.

Seiko Support
1-800-757-1011 (Support)
1-800-688-0817 (Sales)
us-support@seikosmart.com (Email support)

Seiko Instruments

I.M. Anonymous @ 5/2/2002 5:49:43 AM #
Be careful with dealing with Seiko Instruments. I am an ex-owner of the SmartPad2 to my great regret. Having purchased it, I found later that my colour Palm m505 cannot display same size resolution of what I wrote on paper - only max of half resolution. This means that you just can't read what you wrote! Apparently this applies to any colour Palm (and compatibles).

After several email communications, Customer Service said they didn't intend to support the development of the SmartPad software anymore to show same-size display on the Palm as the "Palm OS resources were not sufficient" but Pocket PC's OS were.

And that they would only be too happy to refund the money. Difficult if, as I am, based in Asia and the product purchased through a Palm accessory shop in yet another Asian country. Seiko Instrument's web site clearly tries to hide the fact that both the SmartPad and SmartPad 2 can't display same size resolution on any colour Palm powered device. What's the point of buying a writing device that does not enable you to read your own handwriting?! Basic function of a "SmartPad" wouldn't you say?!

So, please check that this SmartPen InkLink can display in colour Palms at same size resolution before you purchase it and don't expect the software to be developed too much in the future if Seiko Instruments' historical actions holds true.

Disgrunted ex-SmartPad2/m505 user.
F.L.Kin
fe@spm.com

RE: Seiko Instruments
I.M. Anonymous @ 5/2/2002 7:49:41 AM #
The problems with the 4x zoom not working on color Palm OS based devices have been resolved with Inknote manager v3.0 (This ships with the Inklink and is backwards compatible with the Smartpad products).

Seiko Support
1-800-757-1011 (Support)
1-800-688-0817 (Sales)
us-support@seikosmart.com (Email support)

RE: Seiko Instruments
I.M. Anonymous @ 5/3/2002 2:35:34 AM #
Good to hear that the software now exists for same size imaging for colour Palms. Bit too late for me as I sold my SP2 cheap after receiving this letter from Seiko:

"Due to incompatibilities with the imaging software and Palms (including other PDAs using the Palm OS) that have color displays, 4x Zoom (read lifesize) will not be available for these models. We were recently told by our developers that due of the system resource limitations of color Palms there will not be a 4x patch forthcoming for the SmartPAD software. We apologize for any confusion regarding this matter.

If you have further questions please feel free to call us at 1-800-757-1011 between the hours of 6 am to 8 pm PST Monday through Friday, excluding holidays.

Thank you,
Seiko Technical Support Team"

Try and find this information on the Seiko web site.

F.L.Kin

Kudos to Seiko

I.M. Anonymous @ 5/2/2002 3:32:54 PM #
Just want to throw in my $.02 that I think it's great that someone from Seiko support is posting responses to comments here.

Ed, given that corporate people do seem to read these boards when their products are mentioned, have you ever encouraged them to do what this Seiko guy is doing and directly participate in addressing people's concerns, etc? It'd be even better if they used "official" support logins to do it, so the info isn't provided by "anonymous." I remember someone from (maybe?) ababall doing that here a while back.


CLIE support?

I.M. Anonymous @ 5/13/2002 8:51:09 PM #
I would like to know if the viewer will eventually run in 320x320 resolution on the CLIE. (and in light of the new CLIE, 320x480 :)

Gary

Battery life?

I.M. Anonymous @ 6/11/2002 2:43:26 AM #
How long does the 3 button cells and the AAA last?

Thanks.

InkLink with Netmeeting whiteboard

I.M. Anonymous @ 6/11/2002 8:27:29 PM #
Does anybody know if this could be used to transfer notes to whiteboard in Netmeeting? Thanks.

M. Church

Output file organization

I.M. Anonymous @ 6/14/2002 11:01:38 AM #
My daughter, who is disabled, has difficulty keeping her class notes organized. Keeping paper in order is a major task. If she used InkLink when she took notes in class or when studying, would she be able to by a file naming scheme or by folders organize her notes? Can an output file represent more than one page of notes? This product could be a huge boon to students, who could take handwritten notes, digitize them as they are created, then transfer them to a desktop and keep them organized by class and if named appropriately, in order by date. Am I "blue-skying" or is this possible using the product as it currently exists?
Top View Full Comment Thread
Achtung! Only the first 50 comments are displayed within the article.
    Click here for the full story discussion page...

Account

Register Register | Login Log in
user:
pass: