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The best smart notebooks for 2020

Smart notebooks are a hybrid product — part digital, part analog — designed for people who like to put pen to paper the old fashioned way but seek to save their writings, jottings, scribblings, doodlings, and notes in a decidedly newfangled way to the cloud. There’s something about writing notes that delivers ideas and concepts indelibly into the brain in a way that’s even better than voice memos or typing. And for those people, smart notebooks are the perfect combination of old and new.

The best smart notebooks come in a variety of sizes, flavors, and technologies so there’s bound to be a perfect one to suit your needs. Many require special pens or paper with built-in tracking, while others are lower on the tech scale. Special notebook paper can be re-usable while accompanying smart pens combine with the paper to transmit your notes for safekeeping. Many smart notebooks also sync up with mobile apps on your tablet or phone. There are just a few companies out there that specialize in intelligent notebooks. Here are a few appealing ones that are available now.

If you’re just jumping into the handwriting arena, be sure to check out our favorite smart pens, notetaking apps for iOS and Android, and styluses.

Rocketbook Smart Reusable Notebook

With all their fine attributes, let’s not forget that smart notebooks can also save paper and trees while letting you write in style. The Rocketbook’s 8.5 x 11-inch, 42-page notebook offers seven different page styles for notes, sketches, plans, lists, goals, and sharing ideas via dot-grid and lined pages. When you’re ready to share, you can use the free app for iOS and Android to transmit your scribbles to cloud services like Google Drive, Dropbox, Evernote, Box, OneNote, Slack, and iCloud. Rocketbook works with any Pilot Frixion pen, marker, or highlighter and pages must be dry so the ink can bond to specialized pages – just add a drop of water and wipe clean with a damp cloth to start over. It comes in eight bright colors and two sizes.

Moleskine Pen+ Ellipse Smart Writing Set

This updated version of the complete Moleskine writing set promises to be a treat for anyone who loves writing by hand. It comes with a paper notebook and digital smart pen, USB recharging cable, one pen-tip ink refill, and a manual. The paper tablet features encoded paper in a dotted layout to work with the pen and allow the pen to capture each stroke and recognize exactly where it is in the Paper Tablet. The Moleskine Notes app transfers words and drawings from page to screen in real time, so you can digitize text, edit, organize, and share content. Its companion app for iOS and Android digitizes your notes and transfers them to your device, allowing you to notate, share, search, edit, and organize notes. But unlike Moleskine’s previous smart writing set, your pen doesn’t need to be connected to the app at all times; you can simply jot down notes and sync your pen with the app at a later time — great for those times you can’t connect to your phone, like in a meeting.

You can use the app to record audio to sync with your notes. You can save all output in PDF, or upload to Google or Evernote. The app recognizes 15 languages and lets you organize, archive, search, and use tags to sort your notes. Save your notes in PDF, image, vector, or text file format.

Wacom Bamboo Slate Smartpad Digital Notebook

The Bamboo Slate lets you transform your handwritten notes and drawings into shareable digital files, letting you collaborate and refine your ideas. You can write or draw on your favorite paper, and by pressing a button, you can transform each page into a digital copy to save to your device and to the cloud. You can save up to 100 pages at a time on the pad and transfer them to your iOS or Android device by touching the same single button. Wacom’s Inkspace app lets you capture your ideas with pen and paper and then export in the digital format of your choice. Transform your handwritten notes into text to share with colleagues and easily search for and find specific entries. You can convert files to various formats like PNG, JPG, PDF, SVG, and WILL for further editing in other software or apps.

Rocketbook Wave Cloud-Connected Reusable Smart Notebook

For those looking for a larger size notebook, the 80-page spiral-bound Rocketbook Wave Notebook comes in a generous standard size of 9.5 x 8.5 inches and sends your handwritten notes to the cloud via a subscription that you must purchase separately. The soft-cover Rocketbook Wave Notebook is paired with some intriguing smart tech. To clear the pages of any previous notes, you just pop the notebook into the microwave. Pages can be reused up to five times. Meanwhile, your handwritten notes get sent to the Cloud and transferred to digital form to the Rocketbook Wave app and its cloud services. Smart tagging makes it easy to keep track of pages with a QR code at that bottom of each page. The Rocketbook works with the included Pilot Frixion pen that uses a temperature-sensitive compound ink that goes clear when the smart notebook is microwaved.

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