I recently spent a week up in Boston attending a conference. Since we were highly encouraged not to use our laptops during the class, I basically sat through three days of lectures with only my trusty iPad as my primary companion. To take notes, I decided to use Penultimate, which is currently one of the top-selling paid apps in the iPad store.
Penultimate uses a notepad & pen metaphor to allow you to capture handwritten notes. You can create notepads as needed, with each page customizable to be a grid, lined, or blank format. You use your finger to either write/draw on the pages or to erase your musings. You can add as many pages as you’d like and you can email individual pages or notebooks as desired.
For the life of me, I can’t understand why this is such a popular app. I could not get the hang of writing notes with my finger, and I was very glad I had my stylus with me. There is only one size pen and one size eraser. You can undo or redo your last action. And that’s about it. Here are some screen captures of my notes.
I had several complains about the interface. First, you can only see one page at a time, whether in portrait or landscape format. I can understand why you’d have only one page in portrait orientation. But to force that same limit in landscape mode seems artificially limiting. Also, in landscape mode, you have to scroll down to get to the pen and eraser controls. This is despite having ample free space between the edge of the notebook page and the edge of the screen. Furthermore, you can only flip the pages from the bottom of each page. The notebooks are arranged based on last edit date and there are no other options. It would have been nice to sort them alphabetically. Finally, the pen and eraser action areas seemed excessively large. It would have been nice to have at least a couple widths for the pen tool. And the eraser seemed to erase a lot more than the width of the pen, which doesn’t really allow for fine erasing. Usually, if I needed to erase, I ended up erasing everything or deleting the page and re-starting rather than just removing the section I wanted to.
If the app had been $0.99, then this might have been OK. But for $2.99, I expected a bit more.