March 27, 2011

Handwriting on the iPad: Penultimate

Cocoabox's $2 Penultimate app for the iPad was the breakthrough app that clearly demonstrated just how well an iPad could capture handwriting with a stylus. The 'ink' is beautifully rendered in three different widths, and the smoothing algorithm is so well
crafted that your handwriting may well look better in Penultimate than it does on paper.

Each Penultimate notebook is made up of one of more pages, and can be emailed as a multipage PDF or, for further editing, as a Penultimate notebook file. Individual pages can also be emailed as .PNG files or added to your iPad's Photos library.

Focus on Simplicity 
Penultimate does not import PDFs for markup, implement cut and pasting of previously entered ink, or address page zooming. These choices simplify the user interface. But the omission of page zooming does limit the amount of handwriting that can be entered into each page. Compare the Penultimate page on the left, with the Note Taker HD page on the right, each holding the exact same amount of handwritten content: [click any image below to zoom]

Full page in Penultimate
[iPad screen capture]

Same content in Note Taker HD
[iPad screen capture]

Page as emailed from
Page as emailed from
Note Taker HD

Palm detection, Smart Eraser, Backup
A smart eraser varies its size automatically.  All your notebooks can be backed up using iTunes file transfer. Penultimate even attempts automatic palm detection and rejection (wrist protection) — although this is something very difficult to achieve in practice and did not work well for me. YMMV

If you can live with the reduced amount of content-per-page imposed by the lack of page zooming, and if you have no requirements to markup PDFs, you will find the $2 Penultimate app easy to use, and it should join the $5 Noteshelf app on your short list for iPad handwriting capture.

See Also