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I was very excited the first time I saw the original Seiko SmartPad which was made for the Palm III. Since then, Seiko released the SmartPad2 than can accommodate other Palm Pilots, Sony Clies, Handspring Visors, and PDAs from HandEra. Now I’m happy to report that Seiko has a SmartPad for the Pocket PC! SMART STUFF Imagine a nice, common leather portfolio with a regular 5 inch by 8 inch ruled paper pad on the inside. Now imagine that whatever you wrote on that pad — words, drawings, whatever — was immediately transferred to your Pocket PC so that you could e-mail the note or incorporate your drawing into a Word document. It’s all possible with the SmartPad. I’ll admit right off the bat that the SmartPad is just one of those really techie “cool” products that you can use to wow your friends and family. The ability to immediately convert your written words, drawings, scribbles and doodles into digital format is just a very impressive thing to see. Of course, you can use the stylus on your Pocket PC and scribble on the screen, but there is an extra ounce of satisfaction in having your writings on paper and in your PDA at the same time. THE MAGIC REVEALED Anything this cool has to have batteries. And, indeed, the SmartPad requires two AAA batteries to be installed into the inner spine of the portfolio for the magic to work. In addition, the SmartPad comes with it’s own ballpoint pen/PDA stylus (I’ll explain that in just a second) that needs a AAAA (that’s four A’s) battery to be placed inside it’s body. (Fortunately, and generously, all batteries are included.) The SmartPad comes with it’s own special pen/stylus which is actually very handy. The cap on one end pops off to reveal a ballpoint pen. The pen is actually made by Cross, and five ink refills are provided — mainly because this pen is completely customized for use with the SmartPad and you won’t find refills in your local Office Max. When you set the pen cap on the other end, a small tip pops out to be used as a stylus for your Pocket PC. This pen/stylus combo works great and is very convenient when you need to quickly switch from writing in ink to poking your PDA. The right side of the SmartPad holds the 5 inch by 8 inch pad of paper on a bed of stiff plastic. There are sensors under the plastic that interact with the pen to interpret your scribbles into digital form. Your Pocket PC lies on the left side of the SmartPad. Seiko provided Velcro strips to hold your PDA in place, although I never felt comfortable enough to put the strips on the back of my Pocket PC. The most important part of the SmartPad’s ability to communicate with your Pocket PC is the small infrared transmitter at the top. Your pen-and-ink scribbles are transmitted instantaneously to your Pocket PC via infrared signals. Since the SmartPad’s infrared port is at the top, the only Pocket PC models that will work properly are the Compaq iPAQs and the HP Jornadas. I did get the SmartPad to work with my Casio EM-500, but since my IR port is on the side, I had to turn my Casio 90 degrees. A SCRIBBLE IN TIME OF NEED Seiko provided “InkNote Manager” software with the SmartPad. You’ll need to install this software on your PC and your Pocket PC (via ActiveSync) before you can write your notes. Installation was a breeze. Once installed on your Pocket PC, you’ll need to open the InkNote Manager and make sure the IR port on your Pocket PC is lined up with the IR transmitter on the SmartPad. Once you click “File” and “New” on your Pocket PC, a lined notepad page will appear on your PDA screen which looks just like the paper pad on the right side of the SmartPad. Whatever you draw or write on the paper notepad, a digital mirror image will immediately appear on your Pocket PC. I really liked this InkNote software. Once I finished scribbling and saved my note on my Pocket PC, I was able to use the stylus end of my pen to add highlights to my note, select portions of my drawings to move around, or add squiggles and/or writing to the note. You can even change the width and color of the lines that you add. After you finish composing a note on your SmartPad and Pocket PC, you have several options. You can export the note as a Bitmap or a JPEG file. You can also choose to send the note attached to an e-mail. Lastly, you can “register the note as action item” which basically creates an Outlook task that links to the graphical note. That’s handy for when I’m sitting in a meeting and have to jot down an “action item” for my current project. I didn’t find much use for the PC version of the InkNote Manager. It’s possible to move a “note” file from your Pocket PC to work on it in InkNote Manager on your regular PC, but I never saw the need to do this. This could, however, come in handy if you’re having a hard time seeing everything on your Pocket PC screen. FROM PAPER TO DIGITAL BITS It’s possible that the coolness of the SmartPad could wear off after a while if you don’t find a good fit for it in your tech toolbox. There were times when I could just have easily and quickly entered my information directly into my Pocket PC rather than writing it down on the SmartPad and having it transferred. But I can see where the SmartPad can really help someone that has been struggling with scribbling in the small and restricted space of a PDA screen. The best praise I can give the SmartPad is that it was so easy to set up. I successfully converted my first note in a matter of minutes after opening the box. The accompanying Quick Guide was helpful and the instructions for installing the batteries are on the plastic under the notepad. The SmartPad is also a great tech-toy for professional environments — it looks just like any other portfolio that you would take with you into a meeting. I sometimes take my handwritten notes from a meeting and type them up afterwards so I can throw away the paper. With the SmartPad, I don’t have to go through this extra step anymore. I can simply go back to my desk and export those notes from my Pocket PC to my laptop. The SmartPad is great at what it does; it’s just that the radius of its actual use could be small. If you’re looking for another bridge to convert paper to digital bits, then the SmartPad is one cool tool. Product: SmartPad for Pocket PC, http://www.seikosmart.com/products/sp580p.html Company: Seiko Instruments Inc., www.seikosmart.com Dimensions: 7.5 inches high, 10.5 inches wide, 1.5 inches deep Requirements: Windows 95/98/Me/NT 4.0/2000/XP Price: $169.99 Brett Burney is the Legal Practice Support Coordinator at Thompson Hine (www.thompsonhine.com) in Cleveland. He also reviews products for Law Office Computing magazine (http://www.lawofficecomputing.com) and writes a monthly legal tech column for LLRX.com. He can be reached at [email protected].

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