SmartPen on the Livescribe Notebook

Digital pens are highly advanced and compact pieces of assistive technology that perform a wide variety of diverse functions from scanning, to converting written text into digital, to acting like a mouse. It’s easy to get confused by these seemingly similar products, so let’s look at the three major categories of digital pens on the market right now, and delve deeper into the different tasks which they were designed to accomplish.

Reading/Scanning Pens

Reading pens, sometimes called “pen scanners” do exactly that; they are designed to scan text which can then be imported onto a PC through a USB or Bluetooth connection. These devices are ideal for digitally converting text-based documents so that they can be enlarged, read out loud, translated, or simply converted into a digital format.


  • Convert print based text into digital text, or into an audio recording for immediate playback
  • Translate text

Ideal for: Print Disabilities

Examples: IRISPen Executive 7 (new window), Wizcom ReadingPen TS (new window)

close up of an IRISPen

Digital Notetaking Pens

Digital pens are writing pens designed specifically for capturing what you write or draw on any surface and transferring it to your computer, tablet or phone, eliminating the need for keeping the paper. They also transcribe written notes by converting handwritten notes into on-screen text, saving the user from re-typing their notes and making them easy to edit, save or share.


  • Write or draw on paper and transfer automatically to digital format.
  • Transcribes handwritten notes

Ideal for: Executive Functioning and Organization Challenges

Examples: IRISNotes 2 (new window)


closeup of an IRISNotes 2

Recording Pens

These pens, often known as SmartPens allow users to record and playback audio in addition to their primary task. Recordings can then be uploaded, shared, and stored. Some recording pens feature built in speakers, while others require the user to sync or upload audio files via desktop/laptop, iOS, or Android. They also often have the added feature of capturing written content and transferring them to digital formats and even transcribing handwriting into text. These pens do, however, require special paper to perform their magic.


  • Capture notes from meetings, classes, and other interactions via audio and/or paper.
  • Create visual and auditory instructions that can be repeated

Ideal for: Notetaking Challenges

Examples: Livescribe 3 (new window), Echo Livescribe (new window)

echo Smartpen

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