Ballpoint pens can be tough on the fingers. Paint-markers are messy and have a nauseating odor to them. Pencils need to be sharpened, roller-ball pen tend to fail to place ink on the paper, and highlighters are simply good for highlighting rather than writing words. Finding the right pen that works well with note-taking in college isn’t as easy as it sounds. Even high-tech gadgets such as laptops, cell-phones and PDAs have limitations in its use and power. Yet, note-taking is vital in college, especially when the lessons being taught are done through long, tedious lectures, hard-scrabbled scrawling on the white board, or Power-point presentations. So what is a student going to use to write his/her notes? Possibly, one of the most powerful tools to come around in recent times is an inexpensive one. Gel pens are slightly higher in price than the typical ball-point pen; however, the price is worth it when one finally gets a chance to swish it over a piece of paper with the greatest of ease. They are ergonomically designed, easy to refill, and come in packs of different colors. Gel pens, by far, are the smoothest-and best – pens to use for taking notes. Despite the onslaught of technology, pen and paper note-taking is still the most viable tool a college student can have. Laptops are bulky and its batteries have a limited amount of energy. A user usually has to sit near an outlet in order to plug in and keep it going. The same can be said about cell-phones and PDAs. Also, college professors tend to frown on these devices. Some see it as an obstruction, and believe the student is using them for other matters such as text-messaging friends or cheating on exams. Others, as one example proved, are simply paranoid that someone is trying to record their lecture for nefarious reasons (one professor banned them for fear that the devices were being used to collect evidence against him for the FBI). Pen and paper are easy to carry and to retrieve. All it takes is a notebook, backpack or a three-ring binder – with a pen pouch – that can carry both. The secret behind the gel pen is its ink. It is thicker than the standard types found in ball-points, roller ball, and fountain pens. Its high viscosity allows for more support of various pigments than other pens. In other words, it can come in many colors. The ink rarely congeals like a ball-point pens and it doesn’t bleed through the paper like paint-markers or fountain pens. The reason for this is the ingredients in the ink. It is kept in a water-based gel made of water, biopolymers (such as xanthan gum and tragacanth gums) and thickeners such as polyacrylate. As a result, the pens: Create bolder lines than ball-points pens Smudge less. Are less prone to bleed through the other side of the paper and anything under it. Create finer, more controlled lines with fewer blots than a fountain pen. Can be seen on dark surfaces. Support an assortment of colors. Have no odors. The design is also a plus. More expensive models will use contoured rubber grips to ease the pressure one usually puts on a pen. Most models are retractable and require no caps. This makes matters easy for the note-taker who may have to juggle the cap, papers, books, and other devices while seated in a lecture hall. It’s simply one less thing to worry about. Most gel pen models are similar to rolling ball pens. Some models – such as the Pilot G2 – will come in different point sizes such as ultra fine, extra fine, fine and bold points. Its G-TEC-C models come in micro fine and hyper fine. Gel pens are similar to fountain pens, as well. Its design allows for refills. Often, the refills come in various colors, types of gel-ink and design. The straw-like cartridges can be swapped out of the pens and replaced with another. Although the pens as an entire unit is relatively cheap and can be replaced easily with less time and money than the refills, the ink in some of these refills are specialized for certain needs. There are several companies that make quality gel pens. Pilot’s G-2 series and Zebra are two companies that come to mind. Paper-mate has also come out with its own gel pens, as well. They are probably to most affordable of the three. Technology is one thing. The feel and pressure needed to push this pen across the paper is more important. The inks come out smoothly with little or no effort. On top of that, it doesn’t dissolve as fast as other inks, thus leaving a longer and lasting impression on the notes. Since it comes in different colors and can be bought in rainbow packs, several can be used during a note-taking session to illustrate, underline or highlight an important topic. On top of that, gel pens are surprisingly durable. They can survive an accidental trip to the washers, or a drop in the water and still be workable. By far, gel pens are the most useful – and smoothest pens – out there. Due to its price, it’s also a great buy – especially in bulk. So if one needs a good tool for note-taking, look no farther than the gel pen.