Back in the day I had a Newton (briefly) and several devices from now-defunct Palm. Back then fingers just got in the way in inputting text. We used a stylus and one of the many variations of handwriting recognition software to enter data.
Apple had the most advanced software on the Newton. I am still impressed with its ability to convert my chicken scratch into reasonably coherent compositions.
Palm had Jot, which required you to learn a simple glyph-based alphabet, which was then converted into text. It was a workable system and many people felt fairly comfortable writing in Jot. It wasn’t anything you wanted to write a book with, but for quick notes, email, and the like, Jot was just fine.
Now that Palm has been bought by HP, Jot (or a derivative technology) could well appear in HP’s forthcoming iPad rival, the HP Touchpad, and when it does it will be one more feature that the “other guys” offer that Apple does not, but could easily beat, if only it wanted to.
Apparently Apple couldn’t care less about handwriting recognition, it took the technology from the Newton, packaged it into a product called Inkwell, and summarily ignored it even when its mobile technology seemed to be ripe for it.
True enough, no one is clamoring to have their scrawls converted to readable text on their iPads or iPhones, but I believe it’s a technology that would be a hit if only Apple would at least make it available as a service to developers that want to use it.
Are there developers that might use Inkwell technology? Absolutely!
Take Bamboo Paper for instance. A really interesting app from Wacom that does a great job in recording your finger scratches. Basically, it’s a virtual notebook that lets you save your handwriting and drawn notes.
You can choose pen color and the thickness of the line, the style of paper (lined, graph, or plain), and share your scribblings with the rest of the world via email.
Wacom is currently giving away Bamboo Paper, implying that it might charge for it later. That’s likely a mistake since there are many other more capable app available. Check it out anyway, even if you’re not sure you want to use it.
Another app that would benefit from Inkwell technology is Note Taker Lite.
Try as I might, my finger, as a writing tool, sucks, and my handwriting on my iPhone often looks like it did back in early grade school when I was just learning how to make my mark. My words are illformed and seldom line up even on ruled virtual paper. Note Taker Lite tries to remedy this.
Here we have an app that isn’t satisfied to let you scratch randomly all over the virtual page, it has an ingenious system that lets you write in a larger space, then converts your lines, swirls, and dots to smaller versions that are lined up nicely. You can easily dismiss the system if you want to scrawl or draw, and you can start your ordered writing anywhere on the page. Very nice!
I strongly recommend you go through the tutorial to understand the simple controls before you dive in and start using the app. It’ll help immensely and will make a difference in how well the app works for you.
Definitely check out Note Taker Lite. As you might imagine, there is a non-Lite version that offers many other useful features, none of which automagically converts your writing into type, unfortunately.
If you like Note Taker Lite then you might also like Neu. Notes. It has a similar ability to line up your writing using a larger area for you to scratch in. It also offers various ink colors and line widths, and the ability to zoom in so you can draw in detail.
Neu. Notes supports the hardware Screen Mirror feature on iPad 2, so you can show everyone what you’re writing. Presumably, it will support wireless mirroring when it becomes available in iOS 5.
Other great components include the ability to put photos in your writing, and you can write over anything on the screen.
There are more features available in the free version of this very cool app, but even more are offered in the paid version. Neu. Notes is a definite keeper.
As if wrangling finger writing into something useful isn’t enough, all these apps works even better with a stylus. Now, if only Apple would give up Inkwell…
That’s a wrap for this week.
For those of you in the Good Ol’ U. S. of A., have a safe and Happy 4th of July. The rest of you, have a great weekend as well.
More free note taking apps below with direct links.