CrossPad Review

Christopher Rath

(Preface 2002/01/23)


In 1997-ish, Cross (the ball point pen guys) and IBM co-marketed an electronic notepad called the CrossPad. The special pen contained a small radio transmitter which told the special pad where it was writing. To provide you, the user, with feedback on where it was writing the pen also contained ink and you wrote on a writing paper placed on top of the CrossPad. There was a small display at the bottom of the CrossPad that provided feedback about commands you gave, and there were six buttons which could be activated using the special pen.

In late 1998 my position at work afforded me an opportunity to evaluate a CrossPad. I had hoped that the CrossPad might be a better replacement for my Apple Newton. The idea behind the CrossPad was that you would use it just like you would a pad of paper, except that at the end of the day you would upload your notes into your desktop computer; where these electronic notes would be organized and stored, enabling searching and sharing of the notes in ways which paper doesn't allow.


I have spent several days working with the CrossPad. My bottom line on the device is that it’s not useful at this time: the CrossPad itself is excellent, but the accompanying software (the IBM Ink Manager) is substandard. Some specific comments:

Postscript: 2006-09-06

Today I received the following comments from Lewis D. Gudmundsen; which I believe will be of interest to anyone reading this CrossPad review (his comments have been posted here with his permission):

Nearly 8 years have passed since your original review date. And digital pens from Maxell, Logitech (and others) now allow for an entirely new kind of experience as relates to handwriting recognition.

But I thought you may just appreciate the time proven issue as regards “the CrossPad itself is excellent.” Indeed, it is. And with software from VisionObjects, MyScribe Notes, all the specific comments made in your review of nearly a decade ago are addressed and surpassed, not just resolved. Read more on the VisionObjects MyScribe Notes software (which is the supplied software when purchasing any of the three leading digital pen products).

The CrossPad output file is .nbk file. It must be acted upon by IBM Ink Manager Professional Viewer software and saved as a .ps file. The MyScribe Notes software can then open the .ps file and without any special training, transfer the contents into a highly satisfying -- formatted -- electronic text.

The IBM Ink Manager Pro Viewer is available for download at:

The CrossPad is indeed experiencing continuing usage as evidenced by FMV of $60 to $90 (US) bids on EBay for both the original and the 6×9 "XP" model. A product of the A.T. Cross Company, a single link to FAQs still exists at but nothing more... except an offering to sell connector cables and ink refills. The site once active for the sales and support of the CrossPad ( has long been owned by others, and the site is once again offered for sale.)

Unless one reads Chinese, there is little likelihood of finding any support. The hardware was manufactured (in China) for A.T. Cross Company and now Lenovo would appear to be continuing some ties to the product. Lenovo had good reason in buying IBM's notebook hardware, I am sure. (How many millions of investor dollars at Cross and IBM were siphoned into China start-ups and technology development?)

For persons experiencing difficulties, there is little help. But if it is not broken... I myself had thought that the old hardware and software was incapable of connecting to a computer with the Microsoft Windows XP Professional operating system until I finally learned that it was my CrossPad connector cord that had failed. Once I replaced the cord, the transfer occurred with ease from the CrossPad using the serial port connection on any of several different computers that I use.

As you stated, the hardware is very good.

It is only the Vision Objects "My Notes" software that provides utility from the CrossPad's .nbk files rendered as .ps files (a "specialized" .ps file that is possible to obtain only from use of IBM Ink Manager Pro Viewer software's handoff of the nbk file). The links for downloading (1) the IBM Ink Manager Pro Viewer and (2) the My Notes, are certainly helpful. While the My Notes offers a 30-day free trial, the cost of $74 is a small price to pay for the really good experience possible in using it in combination with paper and pen and of course with pen tablet, too.

©Copyright 2002, 2006, Christopher & Jean Rath
Telephone: 613-824-4584
Address: 1371 Major Rd., Ottawa, ON, Canada K1E 1H3
Last updated: 2015/02/14 @ 21:33:56 ( )