Review: PhatPad, by Stan Miasnikov
PhatPad, by Stan Miasnikov
• Lots of nifty features included
• Many options for sharing notes
• Can be overwhelming to organize it all
• Limited text options
• No “drawing” tools
PhatPad bills itself as a “brainstorming tool”. While that is a nice sounding title, I view it more as a complex, full features note taking tool for the iPad. As a frequent user of Penultimate, this app takes a different route. Penultimate goes for simplicity, basically just acting as a pad of paper. PhatPad adds a diverse array of option for the user.
At the basic level, PhatPad is a note taking tool. You can draw on the screen to take notes, draw shapes, and jot down memos or ideas. It is what happens after you start taking notes that PhatPad starts to differentiate itself from the rest of the crown. PhatPad is designed to go beyond simply “writing” down notes – it also works to interpret what you are saying. To this end, there are a number of additional features built into the app – handwriting recognition, shape recognition, even a feature to record a voice memo associated with specific pages in the app! So all these features are there, the real question is how well they work.
In my use of this app, they really seem to work quite well. The handwriting recognition, for example, works almost flawlessly. You simply select a handwritten note, select “covert to text” button that pops up, and the note is converted to a typed font. On a side note, use a test input screen to convert text as you write it into typed fonts. Unfortunately there are no options for things like italics, bold, or underline, but this app isn’t designed to be a word processor.
The shape recognition works quite well. For basic shapes (lines, circles, boxes, triangles) the app will automatically convert your drawing into the appropriate shape. You can even draw arrows using a modified line pattern indicating which side has the arrowhead. The only problem with the shape recognition is that sometimes my shapes are less that…perfect. A couple of times I had a lopsided quadrilateral be incorrectly converted to a triangle. For the most part, however, this aspect of the app worked flawlessly. Out of curiosity, I tried to draw a pentagram, but it interpreted this as a circle.
There are many other features included in the app – voice recording, various color and size pens (not different shapes for pen tips however), abilities to actually insert pictures, include grid lines. There is even a presentation mode, where the multiple pages will appear as a slide show on your screen. There is a palm rest mode, so you can rest your palm on the iPad without it being interpreted as input (this is still in the experimental stages, but seemed to work with pretty good success).
There are a lot of accessibility options as well. In addition to syncing notes with your desktop, you can also sync with dropbox. You can export a document as a PDF, send it to a printer, or share it via email. Lastly, you can also access and share via wifi, using a remote access password. I would have liked to include an option to send via Bluetooth or something to another PhatPad user (after all, who brainstorms alone!) but this was not available.
While the app isn’t designed as a drawing tool, I do wish there were some basic art tools that could be used. Things like filling in a shape, or using different brush shapes would provide a little more functionality to the app, and might make “brainstorming” easier or more productive.
All in all, this is a useful note taking tool, choosing to focus on features instead of simplicity. For the most part, the features such as handwriting recognition and shape recognition work almost flawlessly. Combine those with a number of features as well as connectivity options, and you end up with a full features, useful note taking (or brainstorming, as the apps refers to itself) utility. For $7.99, the app isn’t cheap, but it can come in handy for people that use their iPads at work often. 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.