The 9 Best Smart Notebooks

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This wiki has been updated 24 times since it was first published in January of 2018. Wouldn't it be great to have digital access to every note taken, picture drawn, and idea jotted down, while never having to worry about losing a piece of paper or running out of space on which to write? These smart notebooks are compatible with mobile apps designed to scan and transfer your content to some of the most popular online cloud storage services, and many of them have reusable pages. When users buy our independently chosen editorial selections, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.

1. Rocketbook Everlast

2. Oxford Activebook

3. Newyes Planner

Editor's Notes

November 01, 2020:

Since the Rocketbook Color is no longer available, we'd like to recommended the Guyucom Reusable in its place. It has several sheets of dotted pages, so it's useful for artists who want to save their hand-drawn sketches in the cloud. However, be careful if you use it outdoors, since the ink can disappear when placed in direct sunlight.

While the Moleskine Evernote is still a part of our list, we've actually replaced the previously suggested model with a smaller size, since the former is currently unavailable. It may not be the best for taking extensive lecture notes, but it's compact enough to fit in your pocket, so it'll come in handy for quickly jotting down reminders while you're on the go.

Since the Newyes Reusable and the Dexter Professional are both no longer available, we've found that the Newyes Planner and Rocketbook Fusion are suitable alternatives. Both notebooks are specifically made for digitally organizing and backing up your busy schedule. The Rocketbook Fusion particularly stands out, as it's an all-in-one notebook that includes dedicated pages for jotting down ideas, filling out your calendar, and tracking long-term goals.

The final new addition to our list is the Oxford Activebook. It's a sleek and durable journal that's ideal for students, since you can instantly scan and organize your homework and lecture notes using an easy-to-navigate smartphone app.

June 27, 2019:

Uploading, organizing, and sharing is almost completely automated with the Rocketbook Everlast. At the bottom of each page are seven symbols that tell the app where to send your notes. You can configure the symbols to correspond with a variety online services, including Dropbox, Google Drive, Evernote, and Slack, and marking one means your page will automatically be sent there when you scan it. The Elifinbook Mini and Elfinbook 2.0 are also compatible with many cloud-based services, but the process isn't quite as seamless. Scanned notes are stored as PDF files in the Elfinbook app, where you can organize them into folders, but you have to send and share them manually.

As its name suggests, the Moleskine Evernote is specifically designed to work with your Evernote account. Once scanned, notes can be accessed across all your devices, and the included Smart Stickers allow you to create searchable tags for easy organization. The notebook also comes with three months of Evernote Premium.

The Dexter Professional is a planner/notebook hybrid that breaks each day down into 30-minute and one-hour increments to help you manage your time. It works with the CamScanner app, which allows you to edit, share, make markups, and download your files as PDFs. The Evo Planner takes a more creative approach to scheduling. Each day, you write down what is most important to get done, both personally and professionally. At the end of the day, you give yourself a score, then scan the page. The app aggregates your scores over time, and provides insights into what factors contribute to or detract from your productivity. While it is well-designed and can be helpful when used consistently, filling it out takes serious commitment and can be rather time-consuming, and it's pretty pricey considering it only has enough pages for 90 days.

4. Rocketbook Fusion

5. Elfinbook Mini

6. Moleskine Evernote

7. Rocketbook Wave

8. Evo Planner

9. Guyucom Reusable

Why A Smart Notebook Is A Smart Investment

A smart notebook effectively bridges the gap between the notebooks I grew up writing in and the technology we’ve come to depend on for all our writing and record keeping.

I have terrible handwriting. Whether we’re talking print or cursive, it seems I’m cursed. The continued progress of the technological revolution has been a godsend, primarily because it’s rendered everything typewritten, and the illegible chicken scratch that once plagued my sense of professionalism is all but a thing of the past.

But I grew up without a laptop in my backpack, or a smartphone in my pocket, or even a cell phone until I was 17 or so. And through all that time I loved writing, so I wrote where anyone would have in those days: in my notebook.

Having ugly scribble for handwriting had its advantages in those days. If any of my private poetry or musings fell into the wrong hands, the eyes associated with those hands probably wouldn’t have been able to read it. I ran into a problem when it came time to transcribing these poems into my home computer, however. I couldn’t read them either.

A smart notebook effectively bridges the gap between the notebooks I grew up writing in and the technology we’ve come to depend on for all our writing and record keeping. They make it so that people like me don’t have to squint and wonder what the heck we wrote down two days ago by automatically transcribing that text for us. That also means we aren’t forced to go back and transcribe anything, or to adapt to a new form of note taking, so we won’t look like the Millennials around us who are furiously thumbing their lectures into their phones.

Different smart notebooks achieve this effect in different ways. Some utilize special pens with built-in cameras that document each stroke you make. Others rely on paper that responds to the pressure of whatever writing instrument you choose to use.

Which Smart Notebook Is Right For You?

Choosing from among the available smart notebooks on the market might be a little intimidating at first. There are a lot of options that all seem kind of similar, and none is terribly clear about what makes their system tick. With a little help from us, you ought to be able to make the right decision for you, and you can rest assured that we’ve only included the market’s best options on our list.

The main choice you need to make is between a paper-based notebook and a pen-based notebook. The differences between the two are slight, but depending on your personality type, they may make your decision for you.

That may sound nice, especially if you’re like me and you have a tendency to lose your pens, but there’s a catch.

Pen-based units rely on cameras built into their tips. That might lead you to believe that you can write on any surface with it, and it’ll be able to identify what you’ve scribbled down. Unfortunately, the technology can’t quite handle that. Its the marriage between this kind of camera pen and a special kind of paper designed specifically for its company’s software that allows the tech to perform. That paper used to cost an arm and a leg for use with so-called digital pens, but manufacturers found that it was better for their brand to develop reusable paper and to fill their pens with ink that could be wiped away with a damp cloth after each use.

Paper-based notebooks are pressure sensitive, and they transcribe your writing out of any instrument you choose. That may sound nice, especially if you’re like me and you have a tendency to lose your pens, but there’s a catch. If you want to be able to reuse the paper in these notebooks, you still have to use a pen or marker from a specific line, so that it will come with that cleanable ink we mentioned above.

One thing to look for in the software suite of whatever model catches your eye is something called OCR, or optical character recognition. This is a good way of knowing that a given unit will probably give you reliable results, especially if your handwriting isn’t that great.

Beyond that, there are some other features that might not be deal breakers, but that might sway your purchase in one way or another. Some notebooks boast waterproof pages, for example, so you can take your notebook out into the wilderness (or a tightly packed coffee shop with a clumsy wait staff) and not worry too much about it getting damaged. You can also scrutinize our selection by available styles. The look of a notebook can be as important to a writer as what eventually goes inside, so try to find something that suits you.

A Short Path To The Top Of The Class

If you’re looking into smart notebooks to help you with your studies — whether you’re a high school student, college student, or recreational student — you’ll find that these tools are rather helpful. There are some additional things you can invest in to make sure you rise to the top of the class, however.

A dedicated recorder can give you higher quality audio, and it can allow you to sit back and really listen to the lecture as its being given.

For starters, if you have a professor who goes way too fast for you to capture everything he or she says in a given lecture with pen and paper alone, it might be worth your time to invest in some kind of digital audio recorder. Sure, you could use your phone, but then you’d be sacrificing both battery power and valuable storage space to do so. A dedicated recorder can give you higher quality audio, and it can allow you to sit back and really listen to the lecture as its being given.

For college students, money is always tight, and stress over money is going to take up space you need in your body to be stressing about other things like exams or dating. One of the best ways to save a little money on your college costs is to rent your textbooks from a reliable service, rather than buying them.

Finally, your smart notebook, textbooks, and digital recorder won’t simply fit in your hands as you meander across campus. You’re going to need a good bag to keep all your materials organized, and to make sure that you don’t leave that all-important purchase behind in your dorm room.

Gabrielle Taylor
Last updated by Gabrielle Taylor

Originally from a tiny town in Virginia, Gabrielle moved to Los Angeles for a marketing internship at a well-known Hollywood public relations firm and was shocked to find that she loves the West Coast. She spent two years as a writer and editor for a large DIY/tutorial startup, where she wrote extensively about technology, security, lifestyle, and home improvement. A self-professed skincare nerd, she’s well-versed in numerous ingredients and methods, including both Western and Asian products. She is an avid home cook who has whiled away thousands of hours cooking and obsessively researching all things related to food and food science. Her time in the kitchen has also had the curious side effect of making her an expert at fending off attempted food thievery by her lazy boxer dog.

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