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Why this reusable smart notebook is the perfect tech gadget for students

The Rocketbook Pro is an inexpensive and eco-friendly way to digitize handwritten notes, and it might just be compelling enough to replace your planner or bullet journal.
Written by Maria Diaz, Staff Writer
Reviewed by Alyson Windsor
Rocketbook Pro on a desk

The new Rocketbook Pro comes in two sizes, the letter size (8.5 inches by 11 inches) is pictured.

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

The Rocketbook Pro looks like any other notebook but it packs a beautiful secret: It's completely reusable, and the Rocketbook app makes it easy to transfer your notes from the pages to your phone. 

Also: Best smart notebooks for students

The notebook comes with a Pilot FriXion erasable pen, a microfiber cloth to wipe the pages clean, a 40-page lined and dotted grid page pack, and a scratch-resistant cover.

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Smart notebooks are one way to reduce your environmental impact, especially if you're one to buy a planner each year or a fan of journaling. Beyond their eco-friendliness, is the plain fact that a lot of people still prefer to handwrite their notes, journal entries, lists, and planning rather than use a digital alternative. 

Also: Remarkable 2 adds keyboard case to level up its impressive no-distractions tablet

Personally, I have an easier time remembering things when I've handwritten them, which has been proven to be true for others in medical studies

Pilot Frixion Pen

The Frixion is a line of eraseable pens from Pilot.

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

The greatness of the Rocketbook Pro is in the two-pronged approach to a smart notebook; you get both the benefits of old-fashioned handwriting and the ability to digitally store and save your pages. 

Also: The 5 best note-taking apps for the iPad

How does that last part work? The notebook cover on the Rocketbook Pro features an embedded NFC chip that, when held up to an NFC-enabled smartphone running iOS or Android, leads to the Rocketbook app. This will then let you scan your pages and save them as a shareable PDF, individually or as a bundle. It can be preset to automatically send the scans to different destinations, like OneDrive, Evernote, Slack, email, iCloud, Google Drive, box, OneNote, and more; all with different codes that are at the bottom of each page. 

After you're done with your notes and satisfied with how they got scanned into the app, you can wipe down your Rocketbook Pro page clean with a damp microfiber cloth. 

Rocketbook Pro on a desk

The Rocketbook Pro is a sleeker version of the smart notebook aimed at professionals.

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

Rocketbook has also taken a step towards a more professional look with the Pro smart notebook, by doing away with the spiral binding and flexible cover in favor of a hard, scratch-resistant portfolio-style cover made of vegan leather. 

The hardcover on this newer option is one thing that many users of previous Rocketbook versions had requested. The Pro version can also lay completely flat when open for easier writing and bends in 360 degrees to take quick notes on the go. 

As a fan of bullet journaling and organization in general, I love how customizable a blank or dotted notebook is. My bullet journal serves as an all-in-one for planning, writing down work tasks and meetings, lists, to-dos, budgeting, and random annotations. 

The Rocketbook Pro has a variety of page packs from planners to blank pages for sketching, so the ability to customize my planner is there. Pilot also offers different types of the erasable Frixion pen, like clicker colored pens, markers, pastels, and more options to make my journaling heart flutter.

Pilot Frixion Pen eraser

Aside from a damp cloth, the included Pilot Frixion Pen has a pretty effective eraser on one end.

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

I like keeping my old journals as snapshots of my life at that stage, but scanning and saving my pages serves the same purpose and the fact that I can just wipe down the pages to start over is so convenient.

Bottom line

Rocketbook Pro with "What does ZDNET think about it?" written on it
Maria Diaz/ZDNET

Having used it for a number of weeks, I can't say for sure that I'll never go back to my pen and paper notebook, especially my beloved bullet journal. But I can definitely say I won't for a good while. I love the fact that the Rocketbook Pro is versatile so I can create my own layouts on the dot grid, and I can wipe off any errors I make -- something I can't do on my paper bullet journal. For now, I find myself reaching for my Rocketbook exclusively whenever I have to take down a quick note or try to organize my thoughts, so it's been a win in my book. 

The Rocketbook Pro is available in letter size, 8.5 inches by 11 inches, which retails for $60; and a 7 inches by 9 inches executive size, priced at $55.

For more back-to-school recommendations, check out ZDNET's ultimate tech deals list.

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