When it comes to taking notes with your iPhone or iPod touch, you’re generally restricted to using your mobile device’s on-screen keyboard. But Software Garden offers an alternative in the form of Dan Bricklin’s Note Taker. The $2 app lets you jot down handwritten notes.
The biggest hurdle to overcome with handwriting on the iPhone screen is the device’s lack of screen real estate. Using a stylus is usually out of the question, and nobody can reasonably use the iPhone’s screen for a whole handwritten note. So Software Garden developed a solution that involves a zoomed-in workaround.
A typical note workspace consists of two layers, represented by black and red ink. The black ink is smaller, and represents the whole note. While this text can be edited directly, it is much easier (and recommended) to use the red ink layer. This layer is the “zoomed-in” portion of the note, in which you can freely write.
In the background, the red text is added to the note as smaller black text, which makes up the whole note. In essence, you are directly editing pieces of an entire note. The direct edits are red, while the entire note appears in black.
Of course, manually navigating throughout the note to write something quickly would be an atrocious hassle, and while you can manually advance up or down across a note, Software Garden has luckily built in an automatic advance that works beautifully.
You can customize the red ink layer, modifying the size of the whole note you are editing. For instance, you can either choose to write line by line, two lines at a time, or simply write on the whole note in black ink. You also have an eraser function at your disposal, which allows you to either erase the red or black inks.
Note Taker provides two options for note backgrounds—lined and blank. You also have the ability to write in portrait or landscape mode and choose between various interface themes. Getting data out of the app is, for the most part, fluid. You can either export the note to your photos, e-mail it as a JPEG, or transcribe it in a text box for exporting to the Address Book or copying and pasting.
Using Dan Bricklin’s Note Taker is a beautiful experience, as the app is a brilliant workaround to a formerly sticky situation. More important, it works like a charm. That said, some might question the app’s practicality and usefulness. If you prefer scribbling notes out on post-it notes or notecards, Note Taker is a much more elegant way to store your thoughts. If you’re used to accessing notes via your computer and iPhone, manipulating that text over time, Note Taker isn’t going to easily fit into your workflow, unless you feel like transcribing text by hand.
If you’re interested in experimenting with Dan Bricklin’s Note Taker, but don’t want to lay down the cash for the full version, you can try the restricted Note Taker Lite for free. All of the features, including the red and black ink layers, automatic advance, and more, are available in Note Taker Lite. However, you can only create four notes; any more, and you need to upgrade to the full version.
I found Dan Bricklin’s Note Taker fascinating and a joy to use. However, it hasn’t replaced Evernote or Simplenote for my everyday note-taking needs, though the app fits well with my personal needs, workflow, and preferences. With a free version able to try, you have every reason to give Note Taker a try-out. Perhaps, like me, you’ll find the full-featured version to be a steal.
[John Fuller is a freelance designer and writer from Texas.]