Issue: 10.4 (May/June 2012)
Author: Marc Zeedar
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Article Length (in bytes): 4,543
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IN BRIEF Product Paper Manufacturer Fifty-Three Price $0-$7.99 (via in-app purchasing) Contact Info http://www.fiftythree.com/ Pros Beautiful and elegant; simple; gorgeous calligraphy brush; addictive; makes you want to doodle; notebook covers can be customized. Cons Very minimal interface and limited features; no copy/paste; can't rearrange pages or move pages between notebooks; no importing of images; "rewind" undo/redo is neat but tricky and not always reliable; can't export entire notebooks; pricey for the full set of tools. Rating (1.0-5.0): 4.5
I adore computers but there's still something about sketching and note-taking on an actual piece of paper that I find can't be matched by typing. Sure, typing is clearer, but it's not as immediate, and it feels too final and polished. Especially for brainstorming and prototyping, you need that feeling of crudeness as though there isn't much invested in the idea. Sometimes those notes on the back of an envelope or a napkin are worth more than all the computing power in the world.
Yet wouldn't it be nice if there were the digital equivalent of that scrap of paper? Many have tried and I've tested dozens of note-taking apps on the iPad and I haven't found any that I love as much as Paper (Penultimate is the closest).
There are two things that make Paper great: a gorgeous and brilliant minimalistic interface and an unbeatable drawing engine.
My handwriting is the worst. I can't even read it myself. Yet somehow Paper makes even my crude letters look like calligraphy. I have no idea what algorithm produces that, but though I've tweaked brushes in other drawing programs for hours, I cannot come up with a brush that acts like the one in Paper. You just have to try it.
Fortunately, you can—and for free, because Paper uses an innovative purchasing mechanism. The actual app is gratis and that awesome calligraphy brush is included. If you want additional brushes, you can use in-app purchasing to buy them one-by-one for $1.99 each or get all four for $7.99. (One nice feature: the purchase page gives you a small window where you can test draw with each of the brushes to judge if it's worth purchasing.) The additional brushes include a thicker marker (outline), a thinner marker (writing), a pencil (sketcher), and color (a watercolor brush).
It is important to note that Paper is extremely limited in what it allows you to do: each brush only does one thing and you cannot change anything about the brush, not even its size. The program won't even let you change any of the default pastels on the color palette!
That can make Paper frustrating if you're comparing it to a real drawing program, such as Autodesk's SketchBook Pro. But that minimalism is actually good in that it forces you to use Paper in the way it was intended: for quick sketches and doodles, not works of art or complex diagrams. For sketch tasks, Paper excels.
I've found it really is better than actual paper for quickly jotting notes and product ideas. You can sketch out your new website, outline the way an interface might work in your new program, or storyboard the screens of a mobile app. Unlike real paper, you can undo mistakes—Paper features an innovative two-finger anti-clockwise rotation gesture for undoing (clockwise redos)—and you can instantly email your sketch to colleagues.
Paper does have some significant limitations. Though you can organize material into virtual notebooks, you can't move drawings between notebooks or rearrange pages. You also can't export an entire notebook (most other programs like this let you export a notebook as a multi-page PDF). There's also no way to import any existing art or use layers.
But considering the low price and beautiful results, this is a fantastic program. I would recommend you try it on your next project and see if you find it helpful.
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