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Ask Slashdot: Digital Pens On Linux? 74

New submitter Gonzalez_S writes "There are many digital pens out there, but none of them seem to work on Linux; unless you combine them with a tablet. I have contacted many vendors (Lifetrons, Dane-Elec, ApenUSA, IntelliPen..) and only Intellipen responded that there is very limited support for Linux. Do any of you know of a digital pen that works fine using Linux on normal paper? Some options to explore: can the pen work in real time on my PC screen? Can it function as a mouse? Can the pen work offline? Do I need a tablet (preferably not)? I would be happy if anyone shares a success story here, as they seem a great tool."
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Ask Slashdot: Digital Pens On Linux?

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  • Pen's (Score:2, Insightful)

    To make...
    Easy joke...
    I have an analogue pen with ink. It can write 0010010010110100101110101 without a problem...
    Sorry, it was to easy, couldn't resist...
    • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

      by TeknoHog ( 164938 )
      The penis, mightier than the sword.
      • Hm. Your penis might be able to work on the screen. Yet.... using it as a mouse ? I am bit skeptical there.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        i listened to your song. It's corny.
      • This [] is made even funnier by the fact that Connery was Zed in Zardoz [], which had the catechism :

        The gun is good. The penis is evil. The penis shoots seeds, and makes new life to poison the Earth with a plague of men, as once it was, but the gun shoots death, and purifies the Earth of the filth of brutals. Go forth ... and kill!

  • Wacom Inkling (Score:4, Informative)

    by nightgeometry ( 661444 ) on Thursday November 01, 2012 @09:57AM (#41841541) Journal
    The Wacom Inkling should work fine, I think - it just dumps out vector files.
    • So, here's my story: There was once I installed Ubuntu 8.10 on an Acer tablet laptop with a wacom digital pen. In order to make the digital pen work (fully functional, e.g. with the ability to detect pen tip force), I installed a driver provided by the Linux Wacom Project ( It seemed to work very well. Although one can use it as a mouse, it provided a much higher resolution. In addition, it was pressure sensitive. It can detect the force applied on the pen tip.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 01, 2012 @10:02AM (#41841583)

    I don't know so much about digital pen or digipen on linux, but you can get some info in here:

  • Here in Austria there is a saying: "You are looking for a woolly egg-laying milk sow". You actually might be.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 01, 2012 @10:08AM (#41841635)

      The linux Wacom driver project is maintained by a Wacom employee and has positive feedback

      • When the OP says he doesn't want a tablet, does he mean he doesn't want a device like an iPad etc, or is he saying he doesn't want a graphics tablet? If the latter, isn't the Wacom project primarily for use of Wacom graphics tablets?

    • by IndustrialComplex ( 975015 ) on Thursday November 01, 2012 @10:54AM (#41842101)

      In standard Slashdot fashion, I'm going to suggest something that ISN'T what the author requested, but it is something I found very useful.

      In our office, we have an HP digital 'sender'. It is little more than a glorified sheet feed scanner, but it is VERY useful for me. I take a lot of handwritten notes in meetings, and I'm never using the same notepad or pen. The result is that while I'd love to automatically digitize my notes on the fly, there would be many times in which I would forget the digital pen and be stuck with 2-3 sheets of paper that required extra effort to digitize (if it was possible).

      Relying on the scanner station is actually VERY simple. I just grab my notes, drop them into the sheet feeder, and press the button (preset for me). in about 2s/page, the machine scans my notes, converts it to a PDF, and either emails it to me or stores in my LAN receiving folder. I'm not sure if the station can do OCR on the fly (I'm sure some do), but a simple script can kick off an OCR job whenever a file is received from the document scanner.

      The entire process can be unattended, and for me, I just grab my notes and drop them right into the shredder. (It took me about a month of notes before I trusted the machine not to mess up).

      However, it works pretty well once you get it going. My notes get stored as a PDF, and I don't have to worry about compatability with a pen/tablet or batteries, or losing the pen, or buying special paper.

      It's not a perfect solution, but I've found it very useful, and if you don't find a compatible digitizing pen, this might be a fallback option, albeit a non-portable option.

      • There are also whiteboards that automatically scan and optionally print copies of what is on the whiteboard. Everyone gets consistent, persistent notes.

        I don't know if there's a generic name, but Panaboard [] is the brand I've used.

        It's nice to have proof of what was and wasn't mentioned during meetings.

      • Yes, i agree partially as i am already using this solution from time to time, just using a scanner voor my notes (without a good OCR available unfortunately) The added value of having a digital pen would be to make screencast while using the pen. Maybe i should have added this in the post.
    • Nip over the border and get a Mangalica. 3 out of 4 ain't bad.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 01, 2012 @10:06AM (#41841613)

    What is it with Slashdot and pens today?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Detachable pens.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 01, 2012 @10:12AM (#41841673)

    I fail to see how a "digital pen" is useful to enter commands in a bash prompt, or how it could really help you edit your apache config files or smb.conf.

    Now a VT220, I can see plenty of use for that, as well as a line printer, to print log files as such. You should get that stuff instead.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The VT220 was an awesome terminal. It was *the* interface for the visionary DoD electronic health record system (CHCS) for decades. While it did take about three years to learn, it was wicked fast and you could be very efficient.

      Along comes AHLTA, a Windows (VisualBasic client, none the less) GUI and suddenly things crawled to a standstill. Docs are leaving the military to get away from it. While CHCS was "ugly" and seemed ancient ("DOS" is what people said, even if it was really VMX/MUMPS--character int

    • Well, you simply haven't watched enough Hollywood movies then.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    So, here's my story:

    There was once I installed Ubuntu 8.10 on an Acer tablet laptop with a wacom digital pen. In order to make the digital pen work (fully functional, e.g. with the ability to detect pen tip force), I installed a driver provided by the Linux Wacom Project ( It seemed to work very well. Although one can use it as a mouse, it provided a much higher resolution. In addition, it was pressure sensitive. It can detect the force applied on the pen tip. Th

  • LiveScribe has the best pen, but you need to use a Windows VM through VirtualBox to make it work.

    LiveScribe uses Anoto paper. This is because the pen has a difficult time determining where exactly it is on a big, white sheet of paper. Think like being a sailor on the ocean with a star-free sky, no sun, no landmarks, no compass. You're fucked. The pen uses the dot pattern on Anoto paper to position itself on the sheet, to determine what page it's on, what book it's in, everything. The pattern is unique

  • by ( 760528 ) on Thursday November 01, 2012 @05:02PM (#41846695)

    I have a CHEAP digital pen (cost me 25$) called the "greenpoint mobile notetaker" (which i think is a pegasus notetaker rebadged).... its ultra simple. it works under linux and what the linux software gives you is a simple svg map of what you drew on a piece of paper. Its just a normal pen with a little tracking unit that somehow tracks everything you write... I dont use it too much, but the times i have its not failed me so far. [] will pull svg's from the pens tracking device thing

    but it looks very much like this []

    I find it works ok, but i've not really used any other digital pens, so i have no point of comparison - but at 25$ (which was on sale at the time) i just went "sure why not" and later found out it supported linux (which was a nice surprise).

    I had previously looked at things like livescribe and went "no linux support, wont bother". There are one or two i can see on aliexpress [] but i dont know if they're based on the same thing (and they're twice the price i paid) and hence will still support linux

    • by ( 760528 )

      Oh, two other things (and i would test it if i could, but my better half has stolen it). It doesnt require special paper and im pretty sure when the tracking device is plugged in it comes up as a mouse and operates as such (in relative mode)... but dont quote me on that.

      • If it would work like a mouse.., then this would hopefully also answer my question to make screencasts with it.. (math stuff); tnx
  • Try Staedler USB pen that records the real pen on real paper and sends the drawing to the comp. You might be able to run their software in Wine, becasue it looked very easy and simple in the shop. I also claims to run on every Windows version, so you have high chances to get it to work in Wine. []
  • Just picked one of these up: [] from Amazon Prime for $25. Don't know if it'll actually work under Linux or not, but the description is certainly promising: "This Viewer software runs on virtually all recent operating systems, from Windows 2000 onward, Mac OS and even most versions of Linux." Even if all you get is a flash drive that stores SVG/JPG/GIF/PNG, seems like you could write a udev handler that
    • Yes, i also came across this one, but realtime interaction (aka mouse alike) didn't seem possible, i also contacted this vendor, with a negative answer to my requirements (linux, mouse, ..)
      • Wanted to follow up and let you know where I'm at so far. I ended up ordering the Dane-Elec pen as well as a Yi Fang mobile notetaker from eBay: []. I found the Yi Fang pen by going out to the "Products" page of the Pegasus website: []. I received the Yi Fang (eBay) pen and reader today, and it is indeed a Pegasus Mobile Notetaker under the hood. I used m210, and was able to convert my note sample from the usb reader into an SVG file relatively easi
  • Good lord, what is my life coming to? I read the title as something about a "digital penis on Linux."
  • and I bought Fujitsu mobile notetaker plus. It does not need any special paper. According to forums/internet, it works with linux and there is a project for exporting notes from the pen to computer: []. It can be used as a mouse as well (so they say). But I did not have time to test this pen neither with Windows (to check if it works at all) nor with linux (which I use exclusively) Maybe this weekend I'll have some time for it. Maybe later. But definitely before Christmas ))
    • by kusmin ( 1247272 )
      P.S. and it is cheap (I payed 30 euro incl. delivery)
    • If u test it, plz let the readers (or just me) know if it worked and possible how u setted it up. tnx
      • by kusmin ( 1247272 )
        well, I tested a bit. uploading of notes to pc does not work either in Windows Vista or linux (slackware 13.37-64 bit). in connected mode, on Windows, the pen works both as a mouse and as a note taker. I will do some more testing. may be it is bad luck and device is broken. I will write an update later
      • by kusmin ( 1247272 )
        Update-1 Tested again; could not make uploading of notes to work. I am going to send the device to the online shop where I bought it. I hope I will get a reimbursement or another device which functions properly. in the second case I'll post some more info on testing.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a rigged demo.