Allergic to Stupid
I have been looking for a tablet that I can use for taking handwritten notes with for about a year. I want it to do these things:
- let me write with a stylus on something that looks like a piece of paper.
- not get confused by my palm resting on the screen while I'm writing.
- be able to see and write on the whole page at one time
- saved notes automatically show up as notes in Evernote, which I could continue to edit there. And have my edited notes show up back up on my tablet. I.e. full, 2-way syncing/integration.
- be able to search my handwritten notes for text that I hand wrote.
- file my notes in notebooks with sub-notebooks.
Prior to this new Note 10.1, there was nothing out there that I have found that would really do what I want - except the HTC Jetstream, which was too expensive and too buggy for me to ever buy. But, its note-taking and Evernote integration was (and still is, I think) the Gold Standard.
So far, on my new Note 10.1, I have tried (note: all apps listed below support hardware-based palm rejection, so you can set them to only accept input from the S-Pen. No accidental drawing from resting your palm on the screen.):
- Lecture Notes
- Papyrus Beta
- Soonr Scribble
- Writepad Stylus (by Signal)
- TabNotes (no hardware-based palm rejection)
- PenSupremacy (no hardware-based palm rejection)
Lecture Notes is nice, but, when I export a multi-page note to Evernote, it creates a note in Evernote with a .ZIP file attachment, which I am unable to do anything with. If anybody knows a way to do something differently, so that multi-page notes export to Evernote in a useful fashion, please tell me. When I export a single page note, it seems to work fine. If I could figure out how to do multiple pages together, I would go back and spend more time evaluating LN.
Update: I have now found that LN can export to EN like I need. If you do a Share (on a multi-page note) and then choose Evernote, it creates the ZIP file. But, if you open a note in LN and then go to the menu and choose Export to Evernote, it will export a multi-page note to the default notebook in Evernote, where each page is a separate PNG file in the Evernote note. So, it's a one-click affair just like Quill.
I think I'm going to ante up the $3.74 for the paid version of this app.
LN lets you create folders and put notebooks under them. That's really nice and my biggest knock against Quill (because Quill doesn't have that).
LN also has several features that are disabled by default. To enable them, all you have to do is go into Settings and find Menu (I think) and then uncheck the boxes that say "Hide XYZ Feature". Then the icons for those features will appear on the toolbar for you to use. I think the reason they are turned off by default is because if you turn them all on, they take up so much room on the toolbar that you end up losing some off the side of the screen. And different ones make sense depending on whether you're using the software on a digitizing tablet or not. Anyway...
One of the features that is pretty darn cool is layering. By default, you don't have access, but once you turn on the Layers icon, you can add layers, delete layers, merge layers, and exchange layers. This is essential if you're going to do something like annotate a photo and want to be able to edit your annotation. If you do it all on one layer, when you try to erase your annotation, you'll erase part of the photo that's "under" it, too. But, if you put the photo on one layer, then annotate on a different layer, you can come back later and erase just the annotation.
One interesting thing that is missing from LN is the ability to enter typed text. It seems like that ability could possibly come in handy occasionally. S-Note will let you do it, of course. I will see, going forward, if I miss not having that ability in LN.
Quill is very good. I actually bought this app almost a year ago when I was trying out the original Transformer and the Galaxy Tab 10.1. The dev had bought a Lenovo Thinkpad Touch and did an amazing job of whipping this app up from scratch to use on the TPT. It was not useful on the TF and GTab because of their lack of a digitizing stylus. But, now, a year later, the app has improved quite a bit and works really well with the Note. My only nit, so far, with Quill is that, when you add a page to a note, then go back and view the notebook, it displays the pages in order of newest first. I think it would be better to display them in the order they were created.
Quill seems (so far) to have the best feature set for exporting notes. You can export them in vector graphics format, so that they look good and clean no matter how big you resize them. And you have control over what the background is or whether it is even included in the export. This is very handy if you're planning to print the note. Printing a note that has any kind of colored background means a huge waste of ink.
Quill makes it very easy to send a multi-page note to Evernote. You just go out to the Notebook level and tap Share to Evernote. One-click and you're done. But, the downside is that it goes to your Default Evernote notebook. No chance to tell it where to send it or configure Quill to send to a different destination.
S-Note seems to be the best for actually writing notes. The handwriting-to-text feature is cool and seems to be very accurate for me. But, overall using that feature is still a bit clunky. For example, if you write a bit, then stop, it inserts the text. Then if you write some more, it inserts the new text right after the previous text, with no space. You can tap the button at the top to insert a space, but that is WAY klunky. Also, there's no way to resize the page to smaller than the screen - and when you're using handwriting-to-text, it always puts a toolbar across the top. The result is that you simply cannot see the top part of the note 'paper' that you are writing on. I've had text get translated and put at the top where I couldn't see it and I thought the program just didn't understand my writing, so threw it away. There are other occasions where the toolbar at the top covers the note 'paper', too. Overall, that makes using S-Note so clunky for serious use that I may just go back to spend more time with Quill.
Also, in S-Note, the feature for shape matching is pretty cool. I am a software developer (not currently for Android, though ), so a lot of times the notes I take involve drawing examples of screens. The shape matching thing could be really cool for that. However, the Clunk Factor comes back into play here. To be REALLY useful, it would need to make it a LOT quicker/easier to draw a rectangle, then write some text, then draw a small circle (for a radio button), then write some text next to it, etc.. Right now, switching from drawing shapes to writing text and back takes too many clicks/taps.
Also, in S-Note, I can't figure out how to make the stylus button do anything. If I press and hold it, the stylus stops doing anything. I want to make it switch to eraser mode when I'm holding the button down. Or be configurable, so I can switch between regular drawing and the shape drawing tool, for example.
Also, in S-Note, I can print (or export), but I can't seem to do so without including the background. I did a note with the Meeting template. When I print it, it has a lightly colored background, which wastes my printer ink, for no good reason. Also, I have a suspicion that the colored background makes the Evernote handwriting text recognition not work as well. Evernote seems to find handwritten words in my notes export from Lecture Notes or Quill much more reliably than it does with words written in S-Note exports.
Papyrus seems really nice. The ability to write a multi-page note is very well-implemented (regarding convenience). It doesn't have the problems like S-Note of having toolbars displayed on top of the "paper" blocking your view of part of what you're doing. It has nice gesture support. You can just use your fingertip to erase. You can configure what the stylus button does. By default it puts you in Select mode for grabbing part of what's on the screen to move/cut/copy. The Share to Evernote works nicely EXCEPT that it only appears to work by exporting as a PDF. The PDF shows up nicely in Evernote. But, so far, my testing cannot get the Evernote search of handwriting to match anything in the PDF that comes from Papyrus. In fact, it seems as though the Evernote searching of handwriting only works for writing in a PNG file. Handwriting embedded in a PDF does not seem to get recognized by Evernote.
Scribble seems to be really focused on use for marking up existing documents. It is not really oriented towards creating your own handwritten notes from scratch. And you have to create a (free) online account with them to use it. Once I made those determinations, I didn't really spend any more time on it. I do note that it does do palm rejection, so when you're using it, it only takes input from the stylus.
Writepad looked promising. But, the first thing I did was write a 2-page note and export it to Evernote. It goes across as a ZIP file attached to the note, which is useless in Evernote. You can do Share Page to send just one page at a time over to Evernote and it comes across as a PNG file and, thus, you can use Evernote to search it based on handwriting recognition. But, with no option to do the same with multi-page notes, I quit looking further.
TabNotes does not support hardware-based palm rejection. But, I am including it here just because it is a paid app, which I bought almost a year ago (I've been on a quest for a tablet that I can use to take handwritten notes for a WHILE ) and I did try it out on my Note.
Since TabNotes doesn't do hardware-based palm rejection, it takes a completely different tack in allowing you to hand write notes. It shows a small panel at the bottom of the screen that is a window onto the larger piece of "paper", which is shown in the rest (top) of the screen. You write in the window at the bottom and your strokes are mirrored in the top part. It's a neat idea and not a bad way to deal with handwriting on a non-digitizing screen. But, ultimately, not what I want - or likely what any Note owner wants. So I dusted off the app, ran it for a minute, and now I'm done with it.
This is another paid app that I bought almost a year ago. So, again, I tried it and have included it in this list just for the sake of completeness (i.e. so you other Note owners don't waste your money on it).
This is the Android version of the PenUltimate app for iPad, which is one of the top note-taking apps for iPad. As you can probably guess, though, that means it is setup for use on tablets with no digitizer. As far as I can tell, it does not have any support for enabling hardware-based palm rejection. And thus ended my review of that app.
Unfortunately, none of these apps export (or Share) notes in Evernote's native format. That would be ideal. So you could open the note in Evernote and actually edit the content, not just see it in Evernote as a JPG or PNG or PDF. But, what is there is definitely more than usable for taking handwritten notes - and getting them out to an app (e.g. Evernote) that will let me keep my notes organized and find ones that I'm looking for later.
Overall, the Note 10.1 seems to be the first "keeper" tablet for taking notes with.
Finally, I know there are other note-taking apps out there. If any of you can post reviews of them, maybe we can turn this thread into a sticky and develop a useful source of info for future note-taking wannabees.