Over the last year I have grown use to taking notes on a tablet. I gave up my pad of paper and pen (in most cases) and picked up a tablet and stylus. Up until about a month ago, I was using a Lenovo X220 tablet computer. This was a quite awesome machine that had a great touchscreen. The digital stylus felt very smooth while writing. The softer screen made the experience feel like I was still writing on paper. The problem with it was that it was a full laptop. Big and heavy (relative to an iPad) and it’s price tag made you think twice before just grabbing it and taking it out in public without putting it in some laptop bag.
A couple of weeks ago I was able to pick up a iPad 3 and the first thing that I needed to find was a way to continue to take digital, handwritten notes. Below is a quick review of a couple of apps that I found to be good for very different reasons. I have a iPad stylus that I picked up at my local Best Buy that is a must for any notetaking on the iPad.
Noteshelf is very robust notetaking app that costs $5.99. This is a very reasonable price for many of the options that this app gives. It organizes your notes in a library of notebooks that very similar to iBooks. When using the notebooks you have several different options for customizing the layout of the notebook paper. A big problem with writing with the iPad is that you have the tendency to lay your palm on the screen (which causes all sorts of unwanted marks.)
The really cool aspect of Noteshelf is its vast number of paper layout types you can pick for your notebook. College ruled, blank, color shades, grid, music score, and even a baseball scorebook page types are all available. The also make available a ton of additional paper types (and notebook covers) through their in-app purchase store.
Noteshelf has a handy feature that had a slider on the right side of the screen that only allows for writing above it. That way you can place your palm below that slider and not worry. Sometimes I do feel like the app fights me sometimes when I try to make very small, precise strokes with the stylus which I need to use the zoom feature to overcome. Overall I am extremely happy with this app.
One issue I had with Noteshelf was that it was great for notetaking, but not very strong with artistic sketching. There is a required fluidity that is needed when just sketching. Paper was released in the midst of me testing notetaking apps. This app is not made for hardcore notetaking. But was perfectly created for sketching. It has a fluidity of drawing that I have yet to find in any other app. The app is initially free and comes with just a pen and eraser tool. To get all the other drawing tools costs $7.99, but it is very worth it.
The simplicity of this tool does allow you to really focus on simple sketching. There are only 9 colors available (my only frustration) but this has not totally hindered me in what I have wanted to do. The two tools that impress me the most are the pencil tool and the watercolor tool. The pencil tool looks and feels just as a pencil would. It will react to the pressure of the stylus and adjust accordingly. The watercolor tool reacts more to speed than it does pressure, and emulates the uniqueness of watercolor painting very well.