Monday, May 24, 2010

The Penultimate App

Apple has been careful not refer to the iPad as a tablet device.  That's what it looks like though and there have been plenty of times when I wished it had a stylus.  I'd love to ditch the Moleskine I carry around for note-taking but there's no way I'm going to type it all on my iPad using the virtual keyboard.  I'd also rather avoid carrying a Bluetooth keyboard as that defeats the iPad's main purpose of simple portability.

How about just letting me write on the iPad screen with a stylus?  Unfortunately the iPad's terrific touchscreen display doesn't respond to a plastic-tipped stylus.  No, you need a capacitive stylus for the iPad/iPhone displays.  I suppose we'll see more of these in stores but so far I haven't found any at Fry's or BestBuy.  I could purchase one online but the reviews are mixed at best.

The good news is that when I find a great capacitive stylus I'll already have a great companion app installed for it on my iPad.  Penultimate is the perfect paper replacement.  With multiple paper formats, named notebooks and the ability to quickly email a page or an entire notebook, this app is just what I need.  And it's only $2.99, although the app's description page makes it sound like that could be a limited-time introductory price, so get it while it's cheap!

Just don't expect to ditch your notebook without a capacitive stylus.  Writing with your fingertip is far from easy.  It's not how we learned to write so the results are generally pretty poor, or at least they have been for me.

A couple of months ago I wrote a post here about how Livescribe would be an outstanding technology to marry up with the iPad.  Penultimate is no Livescribe replacement but it's a good start.  All they need to do is add functionality to convert handwritten notes to digital text and integrate an audio recording feature that syncs with written notes.  OK, neither one of those are simple additions but I'd love to see them try; and they could charge a lot more than $2.99 if they pull it off!


  1. I bought the Pogo Sketch Stylus. It's like writing with a fat Sharpie. Better than your finger—but not much. I agree with you that this would be a huge addition to the iPad.

    For now, I am using Evernote in meetings and just typing on the software keyboard. It is working better than I thought.

  2. Although it doesn't solve your stylus problem, 'Notes to Store' and 'PaperDesk' are pretty good apps that let you do drawing and typing on the same page. Notes to Store also enables you to export in various ways.
    I must say that I am finding typing better than drawing for text, although I like the option to draw to illustrate a concept and to create a diagram.

  3. Check this DIY stylus how-to-video. pretty ingenious.