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Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Handwriting tools for your iPad

*This blog post originally was published on the In-Depth Genealogist blog page 18 February 2013.  

I have a confession:  I love hand writing notes.  Not only is the feel of pen on paper absolute bliss to me, but there is just something about pulling out a pad of paper and writing on it.  Even if I just need to jot down a quick reminder, an idea, a grocery list, or a doodle to pass the time.  I am also one of those people who if I write it down I tend to remember it longer than any other way.
Hand-written notes are old school in today’s high-tech world, but I found the answer to my note taking habits with a couple of amazing apps.  On the downside, neither of these apps have a function to add voice memos, which if you like to make voice memos to yourself or want to attach an interview to your notes you won’t have that option.  Sorry folks to android users – both of these apps are for the iPad, but I am on the lookout for great android-based ones for other tablets.
First, I recommend you look into the app Penultimate, created by Evernote, and for the low price $0.99 everyone should give it a try. It appears Evernote is looking into making an app for android-based tablets a reality in the future.  Penultimate allows to you write, draw, add pictures, and keep notebooks of your thoughts together.  Plus, you can create a PDF of your work and upload it to Evernote or Dropbox, email it directly to a friend, open it in GoodReader, or share it with iTunes file sharing. I don’t know about you, but I can be a note book snob and prefer grid patterns for note taking. If you are like me and have a paper preference Penultimate comes with graph, lined, or plain paper for you to choose from.  There is also an in app purchase option of 6 different paper templates for music, pictures, lists, and games.
For a bit more, there is a fancier handwriting note app called Noteshelf.  At $5.99 it is not a king’s ransom, but it is an app you may need to think about before diving into buying it.  Like Penultimate you have notebooks that you create and customize for your purposes.  There are more types of paper and notebook covers to choose from as well as varying styles of pens and markers for your use. Of course, if you do have the desire to type an item into your note this app gives you a typing option with varying fonts and sizes for the text. If you are concerned about privacy, Noteshelf has the ability to password protect individual notebooks for security, unlike Penultimate.  Noteshelf allows you to tweet and Facebook your pages as well as share them via email, export as a PDF, publish to Evernote and Dropbox, and send them to an iOS compatible printer.
Adonit Jot Pro Stylus Pen for iPad, iPhone, iPod, Kindle Fire and Other Touch Screen Tablets First Edition - Gun MetalNow that you have an app to try for your note-taking needs it is important to have a great stylus to make your words, and doodles, come to life.  Recently I was introduced to a stylus that bears the closest resemblance to a ball point pen you can get for a reasonable price.  It is called Jot and is made by Adonit. Amazingly enough the Jot works with all capacitive touch screens on the market.  Instead of a clunky rubber tip that can be unpredictable in its line Jot gives you a fine point stylus with a disk on it.  The disk provides the contact that the tablet needs to draw your line, but you have more precision and control with where you line goes and how you write.  The one drawback is it works best with no screen protector or least a newer one.  If your screen protector is old and scratched I found the disk has difficulty making the right contact and your words will not appear. Finally, there are 5 styles to choose from ranging in price from $19.99 to $99.99.
With these apps and a new stylus you will be well on your way to digital note taking in no time.  Hopefully it will keep you from wondering where on earth you placed that very important note, besides in a very safe place.  Happy writing!


As is the way with technology, there was an update to one of the apps listed above that came out after my print deadline.  This should make anyone wanting to check out Penultimate very happy.
On 31 January 2013 Evernote, the company who owns Penulitmate, released on their blog an announcement about the new version 4 now available.  Better yet, they are offering it for FREE!  However, if you are not an Evernote user (and if you aren’t, why not?) be aware that you will not be able to access some of the new advanced features without an account.
A few of the upgrades include:
  • Cleaner interface
  • More accessible functions
  • Sharing with Evernote is now a core function
  • Searchable handwriting software
  • Access your notes anywhere Evernote is installed
I have to say, this is one of the more exciting things that has happened today!  Happy note taking!!

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