A smart notebook is 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 reusable, 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.
Boogie Board Basics Writing Tablet
Our first smart notebook doesn’t actually transmit any notes to an app or the cloud for safekeeping — instead, it’s an eco-friendly way to take notes or sketches on the go. The Boogie Board Basics is a reusable writing pad with an LCD screen and included stylus. Just write on the screen with the included stylus — or use a pen, or your finger — then, when you’re ready to erase your notes, just push the button and the board clears. There’s no need to use a special eraser or wipe the screen. The Boogie Board Basics is incredibly slim and light, making it ideal for taking to the office or for note-taking at college. It also has a replaceable battery, so there are no cables to carry with you and you don’t need to remember to charge it.
The Evo Planner is something a bit different. It’s a personalized 90-day planner and journal that’s tailored to your unique brain type. Take the Brain Type Assessment and find out if you’re an Oracle, Alchemist, Explorer, or Architect, then pick up the right journal for you. With daily, weekly, and monthly pages, including a full-color agenda, you can increase your self-awareness, productivity, and gratitude by journaling and managing your schedule in the EVO Planner. Scan your notes and daily and weekly agenda pages with the EVO app for Android or iOS. The app can help identify patterns, such as whether you’re more productive and happier when you exercise, allowing you to gain key insights into your personality and productivity, and forge better habits over time. The EVO Planner is made from eco-friendly materials, and it looks great too, with copper-gilded pages.
Moleskine Dropbox Smart Notebook
If you’re looking for something a bit more durable, you’ll love this 5-inch-by-8.25-inch hardcover notebook from Moleskine, with traditionally-ruled pages and Ncoded technology that allows the Moleskine Pen+ and Moleskine Notes app to detect exactly where the pen is, so it can transfer notes in real time while you work. The notebook is specifically designed to encourage uploading pages to Dropbox, although this isn’t necessary, and the Notes app still supports all kinds of cloud storage options if you prefer to use a different service. Moleskine also do a — slightly smaller — Evernote Smart Notebook if you prefer to use Evernote to Dropbox.
The catch is that the notebook doesn’t actually come with the Moleskine Pen+, which means you will either have to purchase it separately or use the notebook as a replacement for an earlier version that you’ve already filled up.
Wacom Bamboo Folio Smartpad
This notebook is perfect for those who like the idea of the Wacom Smartpad but prefer something a bit more protected and professional. The beautiful Folio helps protect your work and gives you extra space to store cards, notes, and other items. Like the other Bamboo pad on our list, you simply jot down your ideas on a paper pad while the Smartpad is connected to Bluetooth, then press the button to automatically port all the information over to the Inkspace app for viewing and exporting (including DOC exports). The Folio will need to be recharged between uses to keep it working.
While the design is excellent for those who want to professionally save their sketches or notes without hassle, it is expensive, so make sure your budget is a good match for investing in long-term smart note technology.
Boogie Board Blackboard
Are you more of a clipboard note-taker or artist? The Boogie Board seeks to replicate the feel of an 8.5-inch-by-11-inch clipboard and comes with four template pages for specific kinds of work (ruled, dotted, free-form, etc.). You instantly can erase anything you write with the touch of a button, and when you are ready, capture content with the Blackboard app.
The process is a little more cumbersome than some of our options — there’s no pen tracking here. However, there is the added benefit of uploading digital images to the back of the Blackboard, like a sketching template, map, outline you found online, and so on, which gives this notebook a lot of additional usability, especially when it comes to creative options. It runs on a five-year battery that will eventually need to be replaced.
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 Rocketbook app for iOS and Android to transmit your scribbles to cloud services like Google Drive, Dropbox, Evernote, Box, OneNote, Slack, and iCloud. The 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‘s 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 lets you transform your handwritten notes and drawings into shareable digital files. With digital sharing and storage, you can collaborate and refine your ideas. Start by writing or drawing on your favorite paper. Then, by pressing a button, you can transform each page into a digital copy to save it to your device and 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. You can, for example, transform your handwritten notes into text to share with colleagues. You can also search for and find specific entries easily. Converting files to various formats like PNG, JPG, PDF, SVG, and WILL is straightforward, and further editing in other software or apps becomes simpler.
Rocketbook Wave Cloud-Connected Reusable Smart Notebook
If you’re looking for a larger size notebook, the 80-page spiral-bound Rocketbook Wave Notebook is an excellent option. It comes in a generous standard size of 9.5 x 8.5 inches. Like other smart notebooks, it sends your handwritten notes to the cloud. Rocketbook does require a subscription, which you must purchase separately before you can use the cloud-based storage. As for its overall function, the soft-cover Rocketbook Wave Notebook has some intriguing smart tech. To clear the pages of any previous notes, you just pop the notebook into the microwave. Pages are reusable up to five times.
Meanwhile, your handwritten notes get sent to the cloud for preservation. You can transfer notes to digital form in the Rocketbook Wave app, then save them via the cloud services. Smart tagging makes it easy to track pages — there’s a QR code at the bottom of each page. The package comes with a Pilot Frixion pen made for the Rocketbook. This innovative writing utensil uses temperature-sensitive compound ink that you can see as you’re writing but will turn clear when exposed to heat. In this case, that heat comes when you microwave the Rocketbook to “erase” the page and start again.