Ditch the paper with the help of Boogie Board Sync

Jack Wallen introduces you to a piece of hardware that can help you become a note-taking machine.

Boogie Board Sync 9.7

I've often thought the Android platform needed an easier way to take hand-written notes. When you're in meetings or classes, tapping out on tiny keys just isn't very efficient. Sure some of the devices allow you to write out notes with the help of a stylus... but even then, they often lack in efficiency or ease of use.

And then I gave the Boogie Board Sync 9.7 a try. Imagine those silly toys from the 80s that allowed you to draw and then, when finished, peel a sheet of plastic up to erase your picture -- that is what the Boogie Board Sync 9.7 is like, but with an Android sync component. With this tool, you can take notes or draw images and then, with a push of a button, sync the file to your Android device (in either an image or PDF format) or erase what you've done. Think about it: A class or meetings worth of notes all saved to your Android device and ready to use. It's that simple.

Let's walk through the setup of the Boogie Board Sync and how to make use of it.

Initial setup

Once you've unboxed the device, you'll find the board, a stylus, a micro-USB cable, and a Quick Start Guide. The first thing you must do is charge the Boogie Board to full. This takes a surprisingly short amount of time. Next, you want to make sure the firmware is updated on the board. Here's how:

  1. Turn the device off (press and hold the silver button on the bottom right edge of the device)
  2. Plug the device into your desktop PC
  3. Point your desktop browser to download the .bin file for the firmware update
  4. Copy the .bin file from your desktop the the root directory of the Boogie Board (it will show up as SYNCSD)
  5. Eject the device
  6. Keep the board connected
  7. Turn the board over and, using the stylus, press the reset button just above the micro-USB port

That's it. You're now ready to start using your Boogie Board.

Pairing your Boogie Board

The next step is to pair your Boogie Board with your Android device. This is simple:

  1. Make sure the Boogie Board is off (no lights will show)
  2. Press and hold the Save button
  3. While holding down the Save button, turn on the Boogie Board
  4. When the Bluetooth light turns blue, release both buttons
  5. On your Android device, go to Settings | Bluetooth
  6. Make sure Bluetooth is turned on
  7. Tap Scan for devices (Figure A)
  8. When the device Sync appears, tap it to connect

Figure A

Figure A
Connecting the Boogie Board to a Verizon-branded HTC M8.

Using the Boogie Board

I was quite pleased with how easy the Boogie Board was to use (see the video below). Outside of my horrendous handwriting, this tools makes taking notes for meetings, classes, etc. a thing of ease.

Before you actually start using the Boogie Board, you'll need to install the Boogie Board Sync app. To do this, follow these steps:

  1. Open up the Google Play Store on your Android device
  2. Search for Boogie Board Sync
  3. Locate and tap the entry by Improv Electronics
  4. Tap Install
  5. Read through the permissions listing
  6. If the permissions are acceptable, tap Accept
  7. Allow the installation to complete

Once you have your board and your Android device paired, all you do is pull out the stylus, take your notes, and click the Save button when you've filled up a page. When the page has been saved (the green light will flash and then go solid when the saving is complete), you can then click the erase button for a clean slate. Each page is saved as a single image or PDF document.

You can save the files as an image or PDF. To change the default file format, follow these steps:

  1. From within the Boogie Board Sync app (on the Android device), tap the menu button
  2. Tap Settings
  3. Tap File type
  4. Select either Image or PDF (Figure B)

That's it. Now when you save a file from your Boogie Board, it'll be saved in the new format.

Figure B

Figure B
You can select either Image or PDF as the default file type.

After you've collected your notes or drawings on your Boogie Board Sync app, how do you get them from the app to your desired location? Simple -- you share them. Here's how:

  1. Open the Boogie Board Sync app on your Android device
  2. Tap New Files
  3. Locate and tap the file you want to share from the listing (Figure C)
  4. Tap the Share icon and select how you want to share them (from the standard Android share options)

Figure C

Figure C
All of your files that belong to Boogie Board Sync.

If, while viewing a file, you tap the menu button, you can either rename the file or change the label. If you haven't already created labels, you can create them from the Change label window (Figure D).

Figure D

Figure D
Working with file labels.

The Boogie Board is quite an impressive tool for taking notes and even simple drawings. Will you be drafting or creating works of art? Probably not. But if you're looking to completely replace paper and have the means of easily syncing your notes to your Android device, this device will store thousands of pages of notes and drawings.

What do you think? Is such a device a worthwhile investment -- or do you find the smaller Android screen and an app like S-Note to be perfectly capable? Let us know your opinion in the discussion thread below.

By Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic, The New Stack, and Linux New Media. He's covered a variety of topics for over twenty years and is an avid promoter of open source. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen....