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What are Digital Pens?

S. Gonzales
S. Gonzales

A digital pen is writing tool that allows users to digitally record handwritten notes or drawings. Some digital pens may also be able to record sound while a user is writing. As such, though digital pens may resemble regular pens in form, their functions are much more complex.

Usually, digital pens come equipped with a Universal Serial Bus (USB). This is intended to make the uploading of notes and audio to a personal computer easy. Some higher-end models of pens may not require USB ports at all, however, instead relying on Bluetooth technology to wirelessly download the notes onto a personal computer or cell phone.

Digital pens often use a USB cord to connect to a computer.
Digital pens often use a USB cord to connect to a computer.

The features of a digital pen may depend on the specific model purchased. Some manufacturers may require that special digital paper be used in conjunction with the pen for it to function. Digital paper can come in standard or sticky note size, and it may be dotted with special receptors to let the pen perceive what has been written on the paper. Some pens may be able to function without the need for special pads or receivers, however.

A digital pen may be used to store handwritten notes.
A digital pen may be used to store handwritten notes.

Modern digital pens contain memory chips that can save at least 40 pages of paper. The pages may be converted into GIF or JPEG image files or proprietary images files created by the manufacturer. Connecting the digital pen to a USB port or using Bluetooth can allow the pen to transfer the image files onto a computer or Bluetooh-enabled device. Manufacturers may include software with their digital pens that allows users to edit the images and modify preferences, such as selecting which folder into which files are saved.

Some digital pens may boast special features. For example, a digital pen may be able to help correct notes. If a user comes across an illegible part of his notes, he may be able to click on the illegible part so that audio of the lecture plays and helps him determine what he intended to write. In addition, some pens may be able to translate a user's handwriting into digital text.

Digital pens are becoming popular amongst students, who are typically expected to take accurate, detailed notes and reference them later. Depending on the type of digital pen purchased, a student may be able to take notes, record lectures, and then download both to his computer. The pens may then help the student to save paper and double-check his notes against the lecture's audio component.

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Discussion Comments


@golf07 - I know they have made some improvements in the recent models of digital pens. I have recently purchased an IO2 digital pen and have been quite pleased with the results.

The pen I used previously didn't do a good job when my handwriting was sloppy. If you want to continue using a digital pen, you might have better results with a new model.

Even though I like using a digital pen, there is still room for improvement. I haven't found one yet that feels really comfortable in my hand. After using it long enough, I get used to it, but I can't hold it and use it as long as a regular pen without my hand feeling tired and overworked.

I know this issue of feeling comfortable in your hand is something the newer pens advertise as doing. Wile they have made improvements in this area, they still have a ways to go.


I am a student and was given a Logitech digital pen as a Christmas present. I thought this was a cool gift and was looking forward to using it in class.

I don't what I am doing wrong, but I have had a hard time getting the pen to recognize my handwriting. Even after following the instructions and making sure it is calibrated correctly, I can't seem to make much progress with it.

If I write very clear and legibly, it works pretty good. It's when the instructor is talking fast and I am writing fast and furious that I have problems. My handwriting is too sloppy for the pen to recognize it.

Most of my notes are not in very legible handwriting. I have found myself resorting back to the traditional pen and paper to make sure I capture the notes I need to remember.


The biggest thing I love about using a digital pen is they are much easier to carry around than a laptop or tablet.

I am involved with many different charitable organizations. When I go to meetings I need to take good notes, but don't want to take my computer with me everywhere I go.

I don't have to worry about having enough battery on my computer or looking for a place to sit where I can use an electrical outlet.

The only downside to using a digital pen and paper on a regular basis is the cost of the paper. The pen I have requires a special kind of paper, and depending on how much you use, this can get kind of expensive.


I work in the office of a medical clinic. Digital pens have made my job a little bit easier. I now have time to do my other tasks without feeling so rushed.

It used to be that the doctor would write down notes on a patient's chart by hand. As soon as the patient left, I received the chart, and I had to type up his scribbled notes and put them in the patient's digital file. It was pretty hard to read what he had written.

Now, he uses a digital pen to write the notes on special paper, separate from their chart. He knows that he has to write a bit more legibly for the computer to be able to translate his words. This shaves a significant amount of time off of what I have to do.


@OeKc05 – Digital pens come with refillable ink that lets you see what you are writing. This is what makes it all so easy.

The ink is totally for your convenience. The pen and the computer you upload your notes to can't see the ink at all.

I had my doubts about digital pens, but once I found out that I would be able to read what I was writing as I was writing it, I was sold. I have to take a ton of notes in my history class, and this pen has made my life so much easier.

When I get home from class, I upload my notes and print them out. They are converted to typed words, and reading them is just like reading words from a textbook.


Wow, digital pens sound awesome! This would be the ideal way for me to store my journal.

I love writing with pens, but I have a nosy family who will read my journal if it is in physical form. They have no idea how to use a computer, though, so if I used a digital pen, my private thoughts would remain that way.

I can just imagine the frustrated look on my sister's face when she will see me writing invisible words down. She will be so furious!

Does anyone know if words written with a digital pen are fairly easy to read? I have neat handwriting, but it may be kind of hard to write when I can't see what I'm scribing.


I had never heard of digital pens and paper before reading this article. Growing technology never ceases to amaze me.

I am currently taking a few college classes that require me to take lots of notes. Some kids in the class type their notes on their laptops, but I prefer the old-fashioned way of writing them down with a pen.

The thing about notes on a computer, or notes taken down with a digital pen, is that there is always the chance of a malfunction. If something went electronically wrong, you would lose everything, and then you would be in trouble.

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    • Digital pens often use a USB cord to connect to a computer.
      By: michaklootwijk
      Digital pens often use a USB cord to connect to a computer.
    • A digital pen may be used to store handwritten notes.
      By: Igor Mojzes
      A digital pen may be used to store handwritten notes.