What could be easier than putting pen to paper?

Anoto technology empowers this universally understood process by turning traditional handwritten information into modern digital data with the stroke of a pen.

As you write, the Anoto Live Digital Pen’s built-in camera automatically takes digital snapshots of the Anoto Microdot Patterned surface, enabling the pen’s image microprocessor to determine the exact position of the digital pen, and thereby accurately record what it writes or draws in real time.

Additionally, pressure and absolute time for each position is available. This signature information can be combined with world-class handwriting recognition capabilities to deliver editable digital text.

The captured digital data can be sent in real time via Bluetooth to different devices, such as computers and mobile phones, or it can be retained in the pen's memory and synchronized via USB once you are back at a computer.

Sent data can either be handled by an application locally, or routed to an application server for further processing. The application receiving the data extracts all information using an Application Programming Interface (API). Data may be exported in any preferred format to suit the recipient system requirements.

There are 4 components behind Anoto digital writing technology:  

  • The Digital Pen
  • The Pattern
  • Print
  • Transfer of Data

Download an illustration of how the entire Anoto digital writing system works.


The Anoto Live digital pen: Familiar, yet far more functional.

While the Anoto Live Digital Pen looks, feels and writes like a normal ballpoint pen, it contains an integrated digital camera, an advanced image microprocessor and a mobile communications device for wireless connection.

It’s a pen with power.

Using the digital pen you can capture, store and then securely send handwritten information from any surface, enabling you to easily convert ink to digital data…instantly. A picture is worth thousands of words, and a whole lot of time and money. Digitally capture every pen stroke, ensuring speed, accuracy and savings. In combination with an Anoto Microdot patterned surface, the digital pen starts digitizing handwritten text the moment you put pen to paper. The pen reads and records pen strokes in relation to the barely visible Anoto Microdot Pattern for precision data capture in real time.

It’s fast. It’s accurate. It’s amazingly efficient...and that saves you money.

As you write, the built-in optic lens automatically takes digital snapshots of the microdot pattern at a rate of between 50 and 100 images per second. Every snapshot contains enough data to enable the pen’s image microprocessor to determine the exact position of the digital pen, and to capture everything it writes or draws…like magic. No scanning, copying or rekeying handwritten information ever again.

Accurate and accountable.

Every bit of data captured has a unique identity. In addition to capturing the coordinates that enable the accurate capture of handwriting, the digital pen encodes key data about the handwriting context. This includes the exact time it was written and the identity of the writer, as every digital pen has a unique pen ID, which is included every time data is sent from the pen. The pen data also includes details on the specific paper form and page. All captured data is retained in the pen’s memory. The digital pen can store up to 50 full A4/Letter size pages of handwritten data. With the handwritten form or document completed, and pen data captured and stored, the user is ready to transfer data from the pen via Bluetooth or USB.


Anoto software modules convert virtually any surface into a "digital surface" by covering it with the Anoto Microdot Pattern.

Do you see what the pen sees? Probably not.

Almost invisible to the naked eye, the patented Anoto Microdot Pattern consists of numerous intelligent black microdots that can be read by the “eye” of the Anoto Live Digital Pen. When captured through the pen’s built-in optic lens, the pattern indicates the exact position of the digital pen as it moves across the surface. These snapshots are taken up to 100 times per second and ensure fast and accurate data capture every time.

Almost any surface can be easily digitized with the Anoto Microdot Pattern. This pattern ensures the pen accurately captures any written information as digital data that can be transmitted, processed and accessed instantly. That is writing live.

The magic of microdots… the pattern indicates precise position.

Each tiny area of the microdot pattern has a unique combination of microdots with different reference positions. When the user writes on the surface, the digital pen captures information about what the user writes and where, by registering the pattern near the pen tip. The information is saved in the pen electronically and is immediately ready to be sent or downloaded as digital data.

Digital paper becomes on-site reference.

Anoto Live Digital Pen technology allows information to be simultaneously recorded in both written and electronic form. For example, once a paper has fulfilled its role in digitizing handwritten text, it becomes a conventional paper copy, and it can be left at the job site for reference or as a receipt, when required. Using Anoto Live Digital Pen technology also eliminates the possibility of losing important written information in the time lag between writing on site and manually inputting the data on a system back at the office.


Put the pattern to work for you: Make any surface digital with the patented Anoto Microdot Pattern.

Anoto works together with its partners to enable quality printing of the Anoto Microdot Pattern for a variety of business setups. Anoto always recommends the use of Anoto Qualified Printers and Anoto Certified Printing, but in certain cases this might not be possible or even necessary. In these cases, Anoto Tested Printers offer an alternative.

Anoto Qualified Printers
Anoto works with printer manufacturers in qualifying printing equipment, such as standard office color laser printers, to ensure top-quality printing and printing products. Qualified printers are always recommended, especially when the quality of the printed microdot pattern is of critical importance to the performance of the complete system. The qualification includes extensive tests and requirements specified by Anoto. The following printer manufactures offers Anoto Qualified Printers:

Fuji Xerox

Anoto Tested Printers
Anoto has compiled a list containing both qualified printers as well as the results of printers tested by Anoto, Anoto partners and printer manufacturers.The Tested Printers support basic Anoto functionality and allow faster and less extensive tests compared to qualified printing. Tested printers are (ideally) suited for PC-centric solutions and solutions/products that may not require the same quality level as the qualified printers offer. With tested printers customers also have a broader range of printers to choose from. The list with qualified and tested printers can be found here.

General printer requirements

  • Color laser printer (600/1200/2400 dpi).
  • Postscript support is preferred.
  • 128 Mb RAM (minimum).

Creating digital paper is computationally intensive. Nearly 700 000 impressions of the Anoto dot pattern are laid out on a letter or A4 page. This, with the small size of individual dots, means that your printer needs to be capable of high-density printing, typically 600 dots per inch (DPI) or greater. It also means the printer will need more memory to process the large temporary files used for the dot pattern background and the content you wish to print in the foreground. What’s more, since the pen reads the infrared signature of carbon in black ink, only printers with black, carbon-based Ink can be used for printing Anoto pattern. Laser toner typically has the characteristics, but not all Inkjets used carbon-based inks; therefore printing on inkjets depends on a) the ink provided with your printer and b) the DPI density of your printer.

To handle this also other printer characteristics are important:

  • Printer memory/RAM.
    - 128Mb RAM min, 256Mb or more preferred.

  • Fast printer CPU.
    - Dictates how quickly the pages are processed and therefore printed.

  • Ability to disable image colour enhancements.
    - The CMY to K conversion is especially critical.This conversion is quite common, but will corrupt the pens ability to read the printed dots correctly (since K in the layout will be mixed with the pattern).

  • Printer language.
    - Ask your chosen pen solution platform provider which printer language their solution support. Where possible use a Postscript/PCL printer. Some solutions, for example LivePDF, will work fine with just PCL.

In other words, just because the general printer requirements are fulfilled, it doesn’t mean that the printer is capable of printing the pattern in a satisfying way. Consider both speed and quality, so select a printer with care.

Other surfaces
Apart from printing on paper, custom print technologies are also supported, such as printing microdot patterns on plastic tablets, whiteboards, transparent glass surfaces or LCD screens.


From anywhere to anywhere, anytime: Transmit and access your digital data instantly.

  1. The digital pen user transfers data in one of two ways:
    Wirelessly, by ticking a box on the paper (or other patterned surface), interpreted by the pen as a “send” command, the pen will use Bluetooth to instantly send data via a mobile phone.
  2. Or via a USB port, by connecting the pen to any PC via USB port.
    Sent data is in proprietary Anoto PGC format and can either be handled locally or routed to the application server associated with that specific document for further processing.

The application receiving the PGC data extracts all information using an Application Programming Interface (API). The APIs are available both for PC and server environments. The pen data includes all information about the pen strokes written on the page, including: The location (coordinates for each pen camera snapshot taken by the pen); Exact time of when they were written; Who wrote them; The identity of the paper form and of the specific pages.

Data may be exported in any preferred format to suit the recipient system. Typically, data may be exported as a picture (for example, in .GIF format), but most often it needs to be translated into letters and digits by character recognition software. This requires, for example, an .XML file as an input. Finally, data can be integrated into the enterprise's back-end system for further processing and automation of subsequent procedures.