Smart Notebook 11 – A first look at the new version

The wait is nearly over and Smart Notebook 11 is set to be released on 23rd April. (Edit : It’s here.) I’ve been lucky enough to download a copy early and have a sneak peak of the new version of the Smart software and see how much it has changed since it was previewed at BETT back in January. Thanks to the folks at Smart for letting me have a copy.

I’ll try and sort out some videos in the near future that demonstrate some of the new features, and I will also have to update some of my training materials, but for now here’s an initial run through of some of the things that caught my eye.

The first thing that caught  my eye is the redesigned main toolbar. This was beginning to get quite cluttered  by version 10.8 and not every tool would fit on the single row. The new toolbar has two rows so more tools can fit on. As before you can customise the tools available, and move the toolbar to the bottom of the screen. The icons to do this are on the far right of the toolbar.

notebook 11 toolbar

The left hand side of the toolbar stays the same. The right hand side is a contextual toolbar: If you choose a tool such as the Pens, the toolbar changes, to reflect the options available to you.

All the pens are grouped together now – Regular pens, creative pens, calligraphy pen and the new crayon tool. It’s also now possible to customize the creative pen which lets you build your own stamp using any image you choose.

Smart Notebook11 Toolbar 1

Likewise if you choose a shape, then the various shape options appear. From here you can choose the type of shape, as well as colour and outline style.

Smart Notebook 11 Toolbar 2

A new tool is the regular polygons tool – which has a few new shapes, and clearly shows how many sides each shape will have when you draw it. This will definitely be of interest to maths teachers. It allows shapes from 3 to 14 sides.

A new feature that I’m very pleased to see is the Freehand Fill. I’m not quite sure why it’s taken so long to get this since MS Paint has been doing it for centuries 🙂 But now it’s here. Draw any irregular shape with the pen tool, and you can fill it in with the paint bucket.

It does not group the fill and the outline automatically. So if you want both to move together you’ll need to group them after filling. Personally I’d like them to autogroup and then be able to ungroup if I wanted them as separate shapes. I think more people would be expecting it to work that way. But then Promethean software has always worked this way too, so maybe it’s just me 🙂

Another new feature is the Embedded web browser: This means that you can insert a live web page directly onto a SMART Notebook software page. You can interact with it as normal, plus use the pen tools to annotate on top of the page as well as drag and drop images from the browser into your lesson. I found it worked well, and will be a handy addition.

You need to remember to use the pin icon to “pin” a particular page in place so that it’s there when you next open the file, otherwise you start with a default welcome page from Smart. There is another “pin” button with a green arrow that returns you to the pinned page, if you go off on a browse and need to go back to that page.

One niggle is that there’s no browser zoom option so that you’re stuck on a page resolution/size dictated by the browser. If you want to see more of a page you may have to scroll a bit. I think it would also be good to have an “open in browser” button so that you could go straight to IE or Firefox to get a regular page view too (rather than having to hyperlink).

Smart notebook 11 browserAnother brand-new feature that looks really interesting is the Activity builder. Basically it lets you create activities where objects react to actions by accepting or rejecting other objects. So you could create containers that would only accept a correct set of answers – such as odd numbers, kings of england or the correct text label for a diagram.

So in the example below I set up the box to only accept red objects, and to reject green ones. Incorrect objects will move back to their start position, and if you wish you can also have them play a sound.

I can see lots of potential for this – and I’ll work on some examples and a tutorial in the future. Watch this space.

Smart Notebook 11 Activity Builder

A very interesting new feature is the Audio recording option. You can now record sounds directly into your SMART Notebook lesson. This means you can quickly add audio of yourself or students to a page as a link. To play the sound, click on the link. If you want to attach a sound to an object such as an image, right click on the object and select Sound, then record yourself. The sound is automatically attached.

I had a great chat with Jim Hollis from Teachers Love Smartboards and he pointed out that this records sounds as an .ogg file rather than an .mp3 file – so this will mean sounds added in this way won’t work if the file is opened in older versions of Smart Notebook. So do be aware of that.

Other tools to be aware of include a Reset page feature to return your page to its last saved state and a Show Page border feature which will show you where the page borders will be when the file is shown on other computers – useful if you make your pages at home on a different resolution monitor to that used in schools.

The tables have been improved too. It does feel easier to scale, move and interact with tables more easily. You can also quickly turn a cell shade back on once you’ve clicked on it to reveal the cell contents (Thanks Jim for showing me that!). I need to play a little more with the tables, and will report back on those another time.

In terms of the common whiteboard file format, I was interested in how well this new version would deal with .IWB files, following the experiment I had a few weeks ago. I tried Smart 11 with the same .IWB files as before, and like Smart 10.7+ it was pretty awful at opening them up. I hope this is something Smart can look into with later releases of 11 in the future. It’s not a big issue right now, but it would be nice to see sometime.

So on the whole I really like the look of Smart 11. It looks great, and it was very easy to get up and running. I’ve always been a big fan of Smart notebook and this version builds on that legacy well. If you are already familiar with version 10 then you should be able to migrate to 11 quite easily. The new features will be very welcome by a lot of you I’m sure. If you do have version 10 then the update to 11 will be free of charge. Activation keys work in the same way as before.

Thanks again to the folks at Smart for letting me get a sneak preview of the new version. Keep an eye on the Smart website for more details. Not long to wait now!

Update : Notebook 11 for PC is now available here and download Smart Notebook 11 for Mac here.


Author: Danny Nicholson

Danny is an author, Science teacher, ICT Consultant, PGCE lecturer and computing / interactive whiteboard trainer. He has delivered training courses across the UK, in Europe, and in Canada. Please get in touch with your training requests.

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  1. Hey Danny, A few questions about Notebook 11. Do you know of any problems with opening or using older Notebook files in Notebook 11? My teachers are concerned that they will lose work that they have done in their older Notebook files when opening them in Notebook 11.

    Also do you know if the new Notebook takes any other other type of movie file besides a flash video, flv?

    Thanks for your help and your informational blog!

  2. Hi Lorie. I’ve been able to open some of my really old Smart Notebook files (.xbk format) with no problems. There should be no problem opening version 10 files in 11.

    Flash video files will play directly in a notebook page. Adding any other video format will add to the page as a hyperlink and put the file in the attachments area. It will still play fine, but you’ll need to click the link to make it play in the correct media player.

  3. I am having trouble when creating new pages. It keeps freezing when I try to move text/shapes around with my mouse. If I try to group objects it no longer appears to want to let me use ctrl g. I feel like going back to the old version as it is taking me a lot longer to create things. Anyone else having similar probs?

  4. We are just discussing going to version 11. I am interested in your perspective for sure.

    Since I am here anyway – question for you. I changed my main pen colour from Black to White – not sure how I did it. Would like to change it back and use the floating toolbar on the side to get a white marker when I need it. Any way to explain to me how to get the black marker black again?

  5. Do you mean within Smart Notebook it’s white? In which case – go into the pens, select the white pen. Click on the properties tab and change the colour that you want the pen to be i.e. Black. At the bottom of the properties tab you should see “Save tool properties” button – click that to set that tool to be black.

    It’s the same kind of thing as changing the default text types ->

  6. Alternatively – do you mean the black pen on the pen tray is now white? In which case you need to go into control panel (click on the smart icon in the pen tray) In Smart 11 it’s called Smart Settings and change the pens in the Smart Hardware settings… you can set default styles for all 4 pens.

  7. Hello
    Please help! I have just downloaded the update ot SMART Notebook on my mac OS X version 10.6.8 and now the Notebook application won’t open at all, it just has a big ? on it!! What do I do?
    Thanks v much

  8. Hi GA… I’m not a mac expert.. I asked on Twitter and got this:

    #SMARTnotebook11 is compatible with 0SX 10.7 If the issue persists call our support team at 1-888-42-SMART

    Looks like it might not be compatible with 10.6.8

    Does that help?

  9. I’m k-12 teacher in Spain. The cange from 10.8 to 11 can convert your hardware in obsolete because the hungry RAM the new Notebook is. The normal works now are very slow. If you hardware it’s not more than 2 GB RAM, you’re in trouble.
    I keep in mind to install this new Notebook in WXP, but its the same thing. Notebook devours the RAM availlable.
    It’s time to buy more RAM.
    In my opinion the new features are very pros, but the great cons is that: You’ll need more RAM now.
    Great blog.
    Greetings from Spain.

  10. Thanks Enrique – I would probably suggest it’s time to move on from Windows XP, if you can.

    I just did a quick test on my system (Windows 7) and Notebook is using 139MB, Firefox is using a simlar amount (124MB) and Tweetdeck is using 132MB. So it’s quite high when compared to something like Word (32MB) I guess.

  11. Not only there’s this hungry for RAM. There’s a few, but important bugs on the new version:
    – Why the new SP1 can’t make Notebook works fine?
    – Why the Gallery 2.0 Beta can’t appear like a new addon?
    – Why Notebook start after 70 seconds of double clic?
    – Why I can’t to re-arrange the Tools/Actions from the window of configuration? The new Notebook crash all the times.
    – Why the new INK 2.0 devour more than 100 mb of RAM? Sometimes we don’t need for nothing the INK property.

    I think this new Notebook was launched to be tested for all the teachers and people interested on it. In my opinion, the software ins’t depurated and, maybe for that, their functionnality is dramaticly reduced.

    Not only isn’t not a solution go back to the XP, because the problem are the same. Ridiculous performance.

    The early version + text processor is more versatile than this edition, and more accurate even for the most inexpert of the people workin’in.

    I don’t know because this pefomance is so, but somebody, maybe, can to explain. For the moment, my solution is back to the previous version.

    Thanks for your support, and answers.
    Sorry for the language. I’m 55 years old and my study language was french. The little english that I can to express, is so limited.

    Greetings from Spain.

  12. When I open files from version 10, the formatting is all messed up which means any pages with tabs in have to be amended – really annoying!!

  13. SMART Notebook 11 is horrible. They’ve completely messed up the text input (which used to be EASY!). It is very slow to load. Embarrassingly slow… I tried down grading back to 10.8 but it won’t let me! Say it ain’t so SMART. You are ruining a perfectly good program.

  14. Version 11 even with SP1 does not work right. Many, many complaints. Writing will not scroll down, pens don’t write on the board.
    Dreadfully slow the students would count to 40 when a teacher opened it.
    I’ve started to remove it !
    You must remove ALL Smartboard programs, then reinstall 10.x.
    I leave the galleries.
    Don’t even need to reboot after removing 11
    Don’t trust the “older version” on their site, it’s 11.
    I spend hours installing 11 on some 25 laptops. Most teachers want it off. There is a SP1 update and Smartink update on their site.
    The “patch” is really a reinstall of a somewhat fixed 11, but still painfully slow. The SmartInk fix is suppose to fix writing on PDF files. Really, did someone ever test this ? Not every teacher has a quadcore Win7 with 4 gb. Our staff love their smartbords but just two days and they wanted it gone!

  15. On Macs running 10.6.8, Notebook 11 works fine with new documents but crashes every time it tries to open a notebook file created with Notebook 10. Have tried several workarounds (deleting prefs files, etc.) but the only solution was to reinstall Notebook 10. Works fine on OSX 10.7 and 10.8.

  16. Smart Notebook 11 is THE WORST update EVER. If you were thinking about running the update, don’t bother unless you don’t want to use Smart Notebook anymore. I used to have SN10 on my laptop at home, and when school upgraded to SN 11, it did nothing but crash – and I mean opening older files as well as trying to create new ones. It got to the point where I was having to create everything at home, but then you’d never know if it would freeze in the middle of a lesson. At the worst, it would freeze every time you tried to turn a page, or when you double-clicked to try and edit a text box you already had in it.

    Read on the internet that it may be because the files were created in SN10, so upgraded at home, and now I can’t create flipcharts at home either. Practically nobody in my school uses it anymore, as it is so unstable. Most people stick to powerpoints, and that really is a shame, considering what Smart Notebook USED to be able to do.


  17. Sorry to hear that Kate. Do make sure your school has updated to the newest version. Version 11.2 is more stable than the initial release

  18. Hello, Danny:
    Even the v. 11.4 is horrible.
    Ihave changed even the prefetch configuration, defragmented the files several times, stopped some services, cleaned very deep the PC, reinstalled from a deep de-installation, but nothing seems work fine. Extremelly slow charge time. The new patches haven’t repair nothing.
    I’m still standing for a more fine compilation for Smart Notebook.
    Thanks anyway.

  19. Hi !

    When i’m trying to open older Notebook files with Notebook 11.2
    it says that it cant open the file if it’s from newer version of Notebook and that i should try to save it in Notebook 9 , when in fact i have the latest Notebook version and the file is created around 2012.
    Aren’t older files compatible with newer Notbook releases ?

    Then again some of the files(created around same period) open easily.

  20. I can’t access the gallery options I had before like the timer. 🙁

  21. I’m getting the same error message as Peeter. According to a web search, it probably means the file is corrupt. Is there any way to get it back as it’s a huge file with hours of work in it. I do have back ups of sections of it but none of the file as a whole.

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