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Old 06-26-2021, 07:30 PM   #1
Cootey
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Iíve been experimenting with the Notebooks on the new Kobo Elipsa. There are pluses and minuses, as you can imagine. Iíll share my thoughts here and invite you to ask questions or post your own observations.

For the record, I reserve the copyright on all my images. © 2021 Douglas Cootey

I donít want them showing up on another website without compensation.

Letís start with Basic Notebooks.

Youíre given the choice when you create a new notebook whether you want a basic or advancing version. There are upsides to both types.

The basic notebook allows you to draw all over the page. There is no distinction between text and graphics, just like in a pen & paper sketch pad. Hereís my test page:




The pen icon up top allows you to choose from ballpoint, fountain, calligraphy, brush, or highlighter. There are five preset sizes and five shades of black to gray. There is no white ink. (The snapshots are a bit dim because I was in the dark with half brightness)




There is an eraser icon, though I never use it. Iíve grown accustomed to shifting my finger to press the back button on the stylus when I want to erase. There are also undo and redo icons, which are very helpful.

The ellipses (Ö) icon acceses a set of operators where you can clear the page (erases everything), delete the page (removes it entirely from the notebook), refresh the page (useful to eliminate ghost images when youíve reworked an area), and export, which Iíll cover later.

There is also the option to change your background from a lined grid, ruled lines, a dotted grid, and a blank page.






For a sketchbook or for just jotting down ideas, this notebook is an excellent choice. The controls are responsive, the stylus lays down lines without glitches, and itís all around almost exactly like drawing with a pen and paper thanks to the Kobo stylus nib and the friction of the Elipsaís screen surface.

I experimented most with fountain pen. I thought I would enjoy the variety over ballpoint for simple writing, but I did not like its irregular thicks and thins. I suppose in time I will figure out the quirks of that nib, but it wasnít analogous to writing with a fountain pen IRL. Iíll probably use it for headlines when the calligraphy nib is too much. The brush nib flowed nicely. Iíll have to experiment with it more. I found that the highlighter worked just like highlighters IRL. Putting strokes or drawing over previous highlighted marks will cause an overlap stroke that is darker. However, unlike IRL, if you never lift the stylus off the surface of the Elipsa, you can spread an entire area like a paint brush with no overlapping marks. You can see its effect in my illustration.

As far as editing, I cannot, for instance, circle the word ďdemandsď and move it as I could in adobe illustrator. However, I canít do that IRL either. My only option would be to erase the word and rewrite it a little bit lower since I donít like the spacing between it and the line above it.

There are two ways to export the basic notebook. One is from the My Notebooks page. The other is from the Export menu item within the notebook. Exporting from within the notebook has the option of exporting a single page versus the entire notebook. Both methods offer the same output choices, however.






First we are asked if we want to export to internal storage for retrieval later through USB to a computer, or we can export to Dropbox. Then we are given the choice to export as PDF, PNG, or JPG. If the notebook has several pages, they are exported as separate images in a zip file. They appear in the Kobo folder in Dropboxís Apps folder under ďExported NotebooksĒ.





You can see how well the Elipsa exports the notebook images from my examples above.

And thatís my review of the Basic Notebook. Iím looking forward to utilizing them in my workflow.


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Last edited by Cootey; 06-28-2021 at 07:02 AM.
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Old 06-26-2021, 08:42 PM   #2
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The other notebook option is the Advanced Notebook. This notebook offers more powerful controls, graphics, and handwriting recognition.





I will say right up front that it is not yet ready for prime time. The power and potential is there, but the interface is buggy and exporting has serious flaws. Letís start at the beginning.

Drawing and writing in the advanced notebook is mostly the same as the standard simple notebook. You have the same pen nib choices, an eraser, and undo & redo buttons. You can refer to my previous post above for details on those tools. The one difference I noticed was that the erase button on the stylus did not work. Instead, I needed to scribble over whatever it was that I wanted to erase. If there was an entire sentence that I wanted to erase, and it was part of a text block, the only way to get rid of it was to scribble carefully over just that one sentence. This was not optimal. With the erase button, one only needs to stroke once over the area and all vector graphics disappear. I am hoping Kobo enables the erase stylus button in a future firmware update.

There is another difference between the two notebooks. The Standard Notebook is paginated like an ebook. One can swipe back and forth through the notebook. The Advanced Notebook, on the other hand, is continually scrolling like a web page.

The Ö menu choices were different for the advanced notebook. They included insert drawing, insert diagram, insert math equation, and insert free-form section. I mostly experimented with the drawing block. Iíll need to go back and experiment with the other options later, though I did notice that with the diagram block, The Elipsa would smooth out the rough lines of the circles, rectangles, and arrows that I drew. It would also auto fill them with grays.




When any of those options are selected, a block is added at the bottom of the notebook. Here is an example of the drawing block:





This block acts just like a Standard Notebook has been inserted into your Advanced Notebook. Draw or write what you wish, then tap on it with your finger to access the resize controls. Once you enter this phase, it appears you can never edit the drawing again. However, once it is resized, you can drag it anywhere in the notebook and all previous elements will flow around it.

I made an abstract graphic and moved it to the top of my journal, and then later wanted diagonal text, which could only be input as a drawing.

Once youíve written something, double tapping on it with your finger will cause it to be converted to text. Once youíve converted it, you cannot return to the hand written version. Everything you write is considered a graphic element. It can be moved, but I canít be resized. As you can see from example, I mixed convert a text with handwritten text and placed it around a drawing. It was extremely silly and difficult to do that. The problem with this first version of the advanced notebook is that the bounding boxes are too large so if two items overlap, they cannot occupy the same space. Also, adjusting elements to be centered or right justified is impossible the way the advance Notebooks are coded now. I experimented with extra characters to try and space things properly, but it was just a lot of work. Re-editing text is extremely difficult to do from the left and easier to do from the right.

To be honest, I had more fun with the standard notebook than I did with the advanced notebook. The design controls are just not up to snuff yet. If youíre used to a typical word processor that allows you to add graphics and move things around, you will find the advanced notebook primitive in comparison. Also, all the elements seem to align on grid points that are widely spaced. If you like things to look just so, then you will be frustrated with the advanced notebook.

The question is, what can it do well? The handwriting recognition is fantastic! That in itself makes the advanced notebooks worth investing some time in. If I wanted to have one graphic with text flowing around it, the advanced notebook would handle that just fine. It also has the added benefit of exporting to text everything that Iíve written. My simple notebook layout wouldíve been perfect for the advanced notebook. I got myself into trouble because I wanted to see just how far I could push the layout controls. I think I have successfully created a notebook that is so far on the edge of what this advance notebook is capable of doing, that it initially caused failures when trying to export.




If exporting the text to email or another application is important, then the advanced notebook is the one you want to be working in. For example, I plan on creating an advanced notebook dedicated to my current WIP. That way I can export any ideas I jot down to be used in Scrivener.

Exporting is another area that is not quite there yet. For some reason, Kobo did not opt to allow PDF as an output option. That is likely because data is the focus of the Advanced Notebook whereas reproduction is the focus of the Simple Notebook. Export choices are text, Microsoft Word, and HTML.




Fortunately, the OCR abilities of the Elipsa are THE upside to exporting Advanced Notebooks. I do write neatly, but even my handwriting is unique to me and sometimes different from other standard letter forms, yet the Elipsa converted my text without errors.




Obviously, The text export will offer no graphics and no fancy letterforms. Everything is converted to text. Graphics are excluded. Since data is the purpose of the advanced Notebook, then this is as raw as it gets. If youíre taking notes in a meeting, all of your notes will be exported as text, and the stupid doodles will be left behind.

The Microsoft word export tries to reproduce the layout, though crudely, and also converts all letterforms to text. However, drawings are exported. Thatís an upside if you want to share your doodles.




The HTML export was both fascinating, thrilling, and woefully disappointing. Let me first show you what the code looks like.





When Flynn was scanned to hangout with Tron, he probably looked a little like this. Itís amazing to me, but there are no attached graphics with the HTML export. All graphics and letter forms were converted to mathematical representations. Thatís amazing. However, my notebooks layout was still too much for the HTML converter, though HTML did the best job of reproducing the layout. Whatís impressive to me is that each handwritten word is converted into a data block so that they reflow properly when you view it in a different browser.







Overall, I really do appreciate the technology behind the Advanced Notebooks. I think kobo is onto something here that is going to be very exciting as they work out the bugs.

Hopefully, this review has shown you the strengths and weaknesses of the current notebooks. Iím still excited about them even with their flaws. A lot of people were down on the Elipsa because it wasnít the brand new color eReader they were hoping for, or the Forma killer that they were planning on. I feel your frustration. The Elipsa is definitely a different product than a standard ereader. Itís targeting a different group of peopleóthe creative & business professionals who donít want the distractions of an iPad or laptop with them when theyíre working are going to enjoy products like the reMarkable and the Kobo Elipsa. Iím looking forward to running it through its paces in the next few weeks.

Any questions? Thoughts? What do you think of the Elipsa notebooks?

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Old 06-27-2021, 06:58 PM   #3
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Wow. There were 21 colossal images in the two posts above, which frankly is far more than I’m willing to resize; hence, they’ve been deleted. As cautioned in another thread, there is a limit of 600X600 pixels per image. Please read the guidelines. As Tapatalk is the culprit, perhaps you could use another client to post or else just authomatically thumbnail any image you upload.

I’m sorry. I know a lot of effort went into these posts, but there are limits!
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Old 06-27-2021, 07:05 PM   #4
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Wow. There were 21 colossal images in the two posts above, which frankly is far more than Iím willing to resize; hence, theyíve been deleted. As cautioned in another thread, there is a limit of 600X600 pixels per image. Please read the guidelines. As Tapatalk is the culprit, perhaps you could use another client to post or else just authomatically thumbnail any image you upload.

Iím sorry. I know a lot of effort went into these posts, but there are limits!

As mentioned on that other post, Tapatalk is the culprit. Iíve been using the medium setting. Would you mind if I edited the posts to insert smaller photos?


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Old 06-27-2021, 07:08 PM   #5
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As mentioned on that other post, Tapatalk is the culprit. Iíve been using the medium setting. Would you mind if I edited the posts to insert smaller photos?


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Of course not; have at it.
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Old 06-28-2021, 07:14 AM   #6
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Iíve updated the graphics to be smaller.

A word of warning, if you factory reset your Elipsa, the notebooks are not uploaded to the Kobo servers as the annotations are. Instead, the notebooks are erased. Youíll want to export regularly, or youíll potentially lose them.


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Old 06-28-2021, 08:15 AM   #7
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Cootey,
Thanks for taking the time to sort out the image issue. This is a very timely review as my Elipsa arrives today. Thanks for clarifying the benefits and the export options of the two notebook types. However I am skeptical that the OCR will be able to convert my scrawling (that only a Doctor could read!).
Thanks,
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Old 06-28-2021, 01:32 PM   #8
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Iíve updated the graphics to be smaller.

A word of warning, if you factory reset your Elipsa, the notebooks are not uploaded to the Kobo servers as the annotations are. Instead, the notebooks are erased. Youíll want to export regularly, or youíll potentially lose them.


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Thanks for taking the time to post this most helpful information!
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Old 06-28-2021, 02:03 PM   #9
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Even though it's not something that I'd probably ever use I think its notebook capabilities are impressive. Can anyone compare this with what the other ereaders with a pen offer?
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Old 06-28-2021, 02:17 PM   #10
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Even though it's not something that I'd probably ever use I think its notebook capabilities are impressive. Can anyone compare this with what the other ereaders with a pen offer?
I've played with it a little bit. For comparison, I also have an IPad Pro/Apple Pencil combo. I think that Kobo got it MOSTLY right. With the Apple combo, notes can be taken in the Notes app, which immediately synchronizes over iCloud to both your iCloud account and any Apple devices connected to it. As Cootey points out, export is not automagic on the Kobo. Obviously, on an iPad, I can doodle/take notes in color, where the Elipsa is only greyscale. However, the biggest glitch so far for me is the stylus lag. there's just barely enough stylus lag to make you notice it. Once I started noticing it, it got more and more annoying even though the lag itself wasn't increasing. This in comparison to an Apple Pencil/iPad combo, where there is zero lag at all.

I'm a little perturbed at having to sign up for a DropBox account (as opposed to, say, copying a PDF over my LAN to my NAS server).

I'm going to continue to experiment with mine and see if I can minimize some of the irritating factors. If nothing else, the good news is that the hardware seems to be performing remarkably well so far. All of the minor complaints I have could probably be fixed in firmware updates if Kobo wants to do so.

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Old 06-28-2021, 02:40 PM   #11
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ÖOnce I started noticing it, it got more and more annoying even though the lag itself wasn't increasing. This in comparison to an Apple Pencil/iPad combo, where there is zero lag at all.

I'm a little perturbed at having to sign up for a DropBox account (as opposed to, say, copying a PDF over my LAN to my NAS server).

I, too, have an Apple Pencil/iPad combo. I see what you mean about the lag. Comparatively, the Apple combo is superior with copious amounts of art and note taking apps to take advantage of the pencil. However, one can get used to the lag on the Elipsa. I eventually stopped noticing it and compensated for it. Also, the Elipsa does not have notifications and other distractions, so I found the notetaking experience superior, especially since I can scrawl notes on almost any book that Iím reading. Apple does not have pencil support built into the OS that way. You need specific apps to take advantage of a pencil.

As for dropbox, I already had an account, so it wasnít a bother to me, but Kobo does offer the option to just export to the internal storage. Then you can access by connecting your Elipsa to a computer through a USB cable.

It wouldíve been nice to have more robust file sharing support built into the Elipsa. Even having an email option wouldíve been appreciated. The Kobo runs on Linux, so the ability to have email is already there.


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Old 06-28-2021, 03:30 PM   #12
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I've played with it a little bit. For comparison, I also have an IPad Pro/Apple Pencil combo.
Comparing a tablet to an e-ink ereader to me is comparing apples and oranges. I would expect a tablet to be clearly superior, which is why I restricted my question to ereaders; I'm curious about how the kobo compares to other ereaders with a pen.

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Old 06-28-2021, 04:10 PM   #13
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I appreciate the comprehensive write-up with pictures! Very interesting. It seems like there are some terrific functionalities in place.
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Old 06-28-2021, 04:20 PM   #14
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Comparing a tablet to an e-ink ereader to me is comparing apples and oranges. I would expect a tablet to be clearly superior, which is why I restricted my question to ereaders; I'm curious about how the kobo compares to other ereaders with a pen.
Boox devices have about 40ms latency I think? It's very comparable to old PC Wacom EMR tablets like the Surface Pro 1 which makes sense since its the same tech. You get pressure sensitivity but no tilt.

The Boox devices have more note taking features, there is for example layers, you can set a PDF file to use a template instead of just lined paper, or grid or whatever. You can add shapes, select things to copy and paste or resize or move something, it's possible to insert text boxes and add text with either a touch or a bluetooth or USB keyboard. You can reorganize pages, insert images from the clip board, resize them, etc. It does have handwriting to text but I find it doesn't work all the time with my handwriting so I don't bother. You can also search handwriting. It only exports to PDF and you can automatically sync to dropbox. Overall it's pretty well featured.

Unfortunately because it's eInk you can't just use any old Android app that supports pen as it has to use Boox's API, otherwise there is tremendous lag using the pen.
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Old 06-28-2021, 05:41 PM   #15
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Comparing a tablet to an e-ink ereader to me is comparing apples and oranges. I would expect a tablet to be clearly superior, which is why I restricted my question to ereaders; I'm curious about how the kobo compares to other ereaders with a pen.
I apologize. For me, when I see "ereader", I think of any device that can be used to read electronic books in any format, and usually only exclude tablets when I see "eInk" instead.

Having said that, I was surprised in some ways that the Elipsa does as well as it does. For most, the lag won't be an issue, and I probably will get used to it after a while.
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