The Canson Papershow
Have you ever found yourself in a meeting and wishing you could just draw a concept so everyone could understand it? Or be giving a presentation and want to add text and other information but can’t? With the introduction of their Papershow™ Bluetooth digital pen and its Papershow™ interactive paper, Paper maker Canson and Arches is hoping to change this. One company statement sates that “Papershow is a revolutionary Plug&Play solution which makes it possible to project one’s handwritten notes on the screen directly during a meeting.” So what makes Papershow unique?
Start with the fact that the Papershow is the first wireless product that allows you to capture your handwriting and see it in real time on a computer monitor or projector. Being wireless allows the Papershow to avoid issues that come with graphics tables or other digital pen capture devices that need to be physically connected to the computer (usually by USB ) and that also require specific software already installed on the computer. Other digital capture pens also don’t provide for real-time display of your writing, requiring you to download the information from the pen after you’ve finished. Buying a Papershow kit is also much less expensive than purchasing a Tablet PC for its pen interface and avoids the need to connect to a projector or larger screen at your destination since you’re connecting to a computer that is already connected.
At $199 (MSRP), the Papershow kit is not inexpensive, although you can find it for around $170 on the Internet. The Papershow kits includes everything you need to display and capture text, create images, and markup pictures and PowerPoint presentations. The kit includes the Papershow Bluetooth digital pen, Papershow interactive paper, and the Papershow USB key. The USB key serves as the pen’s Bluetooth receiver, serves up the Papershow software, and provides storage for Papershow files. You also get a plastic carrying case for the pen, a spare battery and USB key, as well as a plastic portfolio to hold pages you print on the special Papershow paper. With the Papershow kit, you can go anywhere there is a Windows-based computer (sorry: it isn’t Mac compatible) and use the Plug & Play Papershow pen and paper to capture your handwriting and project it on a screen or a display without the need to take your own computer. The pen is a bit large, and some may find it a bit uncomfortable or awkward to use.
Installation is straightforward: plug in the USB key to download the Papershow software from the Internet, then install the USB drivers and prepare to pair with the Papershow digital pen. The installation process is easy and requires you to insert the USB key and download the latest version of the Papershow software to the USB key.
Once the USB key has been inserted in an open USB port, Windows will open a selection window, and you select Papershow from the list of available actions. If you last used the Papershow on a different PC, you will receive an instruction to pair the Papershow pen with the USB key. Pairing is a simple process, done by removing the cap of the Papershow pen. Once paired, the main Paper application window will open, and you are ready to start. There have been some reports about the pen failing to pair correctly if other Bluetooth adapters are in use on the computer, but this seems to be an a limited problem on a few systems.
From the main application, you can select a new whiteboard, Import from a PowerPoint, or Open a file. When you select a new whiteboard, you have to select the size of the paper you will be using: the Papershow kit comes with a pad of A4 size paper that is used for on the fly input when using the whiteboard and A3 (letter) size for printing out PowerPoint slides and images. And this is another important point with Papershow (and many other similar voice and image capture devices): you must use the specialized paper for the Papershow to work.
The Papershow pen uses technology from Anoto ( http://www.anoto.com), which holds the patent on the special pattern used by the Papershow and other digital devices such as the Pulse audio recording pen. Anoto Paper has thousands of tiny black dots printed on it in a unique pattern that allows the digital camera in the Papershow pen to recognize its location when drawing. Although you can erase what’s drawn on the screen, since the Papershow uses actual ink on the paper, after a certain amount of use, the paper must be discarded and a new sheet used, and the paper is anything but inexpensive. A 48-page A4 size pad of Papershow paper is $12.99, while a 200-sheet package of Letter size Papershow printer paper is $19.99. Luckily, when printing PowerPoint presentations, you can print 1, 4, or 9 slides to a page, so the amount of Papershow Paper required is somewhat reduced.
Once the pen has been paired, everything you write on the Papershow paper is projected onto the screen or monitor. You control attributes such as selecting colors, line thickness, and perfect shapes including lines, arrows, squares, or circles using either the controls on the top of the main application screen or by using the preprinted toolbar on the right side of the paper. For normal use, you will use the toolbar icons pretty much exclusively.
Selecting which drawing tool you want to use such as a pen, line, sticky note, etc., is as easy as tapping the appropriate toolbar icon with the pen. You combine multiple taps to achieve different results such as a red arrow by clicking on the red color icon and then one of the two arrow icons —it’s that simple. You can even add sticky notes that have a yellow background on which you can write. You can erase what you’ve drawn (although it doesn’t erase what’s been written or drawn on the paper) using the eraser tool or using the undo last stroke or undo all strokes icons. You can also add new pages, delete pages, and navigate between pages using icons in the toolbar.
When you have finished using Papershow, you can save the whiteboard contents into a Papershow file that can be reopened at a later time. Papershow files are stored on the USB key until its memory is full, and then you can archive your files to your computer. You can export your Papershow files in Adobe PDF or MS PowerPoint format and can also email them from within the Papershow application.
If you want to work with existing images, drawings, or PowerPoint slides, you need to first import them into Papershow and then print them on the Papershow printer paper. You must use a color printer (inkjet or color laser are fine) that prints your image onto the paper in blue. Once the image has been printed on the paper, you can then open the Papershow file and draw or comment on the image or slide. These files can also be saved for further changes at a later time as well as for exporting to PowerPoint or Adobe PDF format. This is where the some of my excitement for this product started to wear off: unless you are able to import and print off your image or slides in advance, you can’t manipulate your drawings or slides but are limited to the application’s whiteboard capabilities only. Calibration of the pen to the actual image can be affected if the paper is properly aligned in the printer’s paper tray or if a newer version of the file is reimported into Papershow. For the former, you can easily recalibrate the pen, but for the latter, you can only reprint the images or slides.
Papershow might be considered a niche product in the legal marketplace when you weigh the cost of the Papershow kit, the need to use expensive special paper, and a color printer for working with existing images and the limitations for working with preexisting files. However, when you consider its mobility and feature set as well as not having to worry about having a whiteboard available, its value might just be priceless.
Nerino J. Petro, Jr., is a practicing attorney, as well as CEO/Senior Legal Technologist for CenCom, which he founded in 1994. He is a member of the Illinois State Bar Association's Committee on Legal Technology, the ABA GP Solo and Small Firm Division Technology Committee, and served on the ABA TECHSHOW Advisory Board – Tech University Track for 2005. He is a regular contributor to local, state and national publications.
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