December 23, 2010

I Just Want To Write

I've been struggling lately to find a note-taking app that doesn't have some major deficiency. As you can tell from my past posts, I'm aching to replace my paper composition books with my iPad, but everything I try has some fatal flaw that makes it less than suitable for my needs.

I first want to make something clear: my handwriting is actually pretty good. It's not like I'm trying to spin straw into gold. When writing on paper, I have no problem at all with writing cleanly. My Newton always recognized my handwriting. However, even with a stylus, note apps seem to want to make me feel like I should get a D- in handwriting.

Here is a rundown of the apps I have purchased and use (in no particular order):

Penultimate

If my recent app-store review isn't telling, I'm not too happy with Penultimate despite its glowing reviews. The lack of any zoom is both good and bad. Without it, the page feels like writing on a real notebook. However, with a smaller writing area than a notebook, it doesn't work in practice.
Pros: silky smooth writing, simple UI, beautiful look and feel, feels most like a real notebook.
Cons: makes my writing look like chicken scratch, sometimes drops strokes, wrist protection only half-works, can barely fit anything on a page, can't highlight. I could go on...
(A CocoaBox employee on the forums responded to my complaints about the wrist protection and said they are rebuilding it from the ground up.)

Notes Plus

I think if it worked perfectly, this would be my choice for general note taking, as it seems to blend the UI goodness of Penultimate with the advanced writing capabilities of NTHD. Alas, it doesn't.
Pros: clean ui, ability to draw shapes and add typed text, zoom mode.
Cons: very janky when writing, lots of flashing, performance problems while writing at even a moderate pace.
(I've contacted the author and showed him videos I made of the jank and he thinks he knows how to fix some cases, but I've yet to see any updates.)

Note Taker HD

I keep coming back to this because the writing "just works", even if the UI is spectacularly bad.
Pros: perfectly-executed zoom mode, ability to annotate PDFs, great performance.
Cons: the over-complicated UI needs a complete overhaul.

I want to like Penultimate for its UI and smoothness, but I can't get more than five words per line of something that, if I squint, barely resembles my handwriting (this doesn't seem to be a problem for anyone else on the app store or their forums). I want to like NotesPlus, but its performance issues are too great to ignore (hopefully fixes are coming). I have a hard time getting around NTHD because of its backwards and inconsistent UI, but alas, when I get down to writing, its the only one that really works.

I don't think I'm asking for too much here.

Posted by pinkerton at December 23, 2010 2:00 PM | TrackBack