PenUltimate, by Benajamin Zotto
• Great basic notebook recording app
• Simple design makes it easy to use
• Wrist protection mode!!
• No way to “label” notebooks
• Can’t adjust paper size
When the iPad came out, I decided that one app I would LOVE to see is a simple “notepad” or “notebook” app that allows you to enter data via multitouch – not via typing. PenUltimate is a simple, straightforward app that attempts to do just that.
PenUltimate is based on the idea of storing multiple notebooks on your iPad – notebooks that you can write, draw, scribble, or otherwise mark up using the multitouch display. The design of PenUltimate is elegant and simplistic – but this also means that it may be lacking some more advanced features.
The notebooks on PenUltimate are designed to look like simple, leather bound multiple page notebooks. You can choose graph paper, lined paper, or unlined paper as the style of paper. Right off the bat, this is a nice, simple choice. While I would love to see more paper sizes (like legal pad), there is no need to have multiple color background, multiple notebook covers, etc. Just a simple notebook for recording information.
The data entry uses the multitouch display – no typing here. Using your finger, you simply draw what you want. Now, the multitouch is nice, but it also lacks some sensitivity – you aren’t going to be able to write lines and lines of text on a single page. If they come out with a fine point stylus that might change, but your finger (or at least my finger!) is simply too wide for fine detail. The tools are simple – a pen for writing, an eraser for erasing, and a clear button to clear a page completely. No shapes, no text boxes – simplicity is the key.
To move to a new page in your notebook, simply swipe along the bottom. Unfortunately there is no index or quick way to jump to a page (not even jump to the first empty page). You do have a wrist protection mode, so that if you are resting your wrist on the iPad, it won’t read that as input. I tried it, and it works pretty well!
The description of the app says that you can name your notebooks. I didn’t see any way to do that, but it would be nice to be able to write on the covers of the notebooks. The app itself does work in both landscape and portrait modes, which is nice, but in landscape modes you can't see the whole page of the notebook. I am use to scrolling down by swiping, but this simply draws a line on the page - you need to use a scroll area next to the notebook to scroll down.
I would also like to be able to see some ability to organize your notebooks (put them on shelves maybe???). Right now they are all just lined up next to each other. You can choose to email the notebooks (either the whole notebook or a single page), but there are no other options for distribution. I hope they will incorporate other mechanisms for sending a notebook to someone else.
All in all, PenUltimate is an easy to use, straight forward notebook creating app. The key feature of PenUltimate is actually a lack of features. It has gone for simplicity over flash, for ease of use over multiple features. And personally, that is what I am looking for in a notebook app. I just want to be able to write something down, draw a quick picture, without having huge menus of options. I am sure other apps will come up with those, but if simplicity is your thing, PenUltimate is for you. At $2.99 it is very reasonably priced compared to other iPad apps. Four out of five stars.
* = No redeeming qualities or features, probably not worth it even if it is free
** = Few redeeming qualities, or is simply isn't worth the price
*** = Some good features but also some clear flaws.
**** = A solid app, worth the money if interested, a few flaws or problems or slightly overpriced
***** = Top of the line app, no problems or drawbacks.
Price is factored into the ratings. Ratings are lowered if I feel the price of the app outweighs the benefits/enjoyment/features it provides. Likewise, an app that is a good value for the money will have a higher rating.