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Apple Pencil

Issue: 14.1 (January/February 2016)
Author: Marc Zeedar
Article Description: No description available.
Article Length (in bytes): 4,851
Starting Page Number: 15
Article Number: 14103
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Like the iPad Pro, Apple's Pencil is for a niche market. It's definitely an optional device, as it should be. But for certain tasks, Pencil is unbelievably awesome.

The most obvious use for Pencil is for sketching and drawing. For an artist, Pencil represents a breakthrough in hardware-software integration. It's incredibly accurate (you can draw a single pixel if you want), smooth, responsive, and the pressure and tilt sensors make it respond like a real pencil. I'm nothing close to an artist (though I've always envied them), but I find Pencil dramatically improves my drawing abilities. It's just so much more natural than drawing with a finger or mouse.

But we're Xojo programmers, not artists. So the Pencil isn't for us, right?

Not so fast. There are many things you can do with Pencil that may not have occurred to you. For example, if you need to mark up or annotate PDFs, Pencil is awesome. It's like writing on a real piece of paper. Pencil is so accurate even small handwriting is legible and the process is natural and much more relaxing than trying to mark stuff up on a computer.

There are also some really cool note-taking apps for iPad that, when combined with Pencil, suddenly shine. If you attend lectures or take courses, being able to record audio while you handwrite notes is really useful. (Some apps will even convert your handwriting to text. I was skeptical, but if an app can read my handwriting, it's amazing.)

But the biggest draw for me (sorry about the pun) is being able to use my iPad for brainstorming and app design. I love to sketch app interfaces. I want them to be rough, not finalized, so I don't use a widget library that lets me draw with real buttons and toolbars and such. The idea is that if the sketch is rough I'm not committed to it and can still change it. If it's too polished, my brain thinks it's finished and I'll be hesitant to change it.

I've tried using notebook apps on iPad in the past, and while I like the concept, the execution was flawed. For one, I need to have text descriptions along with my sketches. But trying to switch between typing and sketching was awkward, and if I tried handwriting (even with a non-Pencil stylus), my words were illegible. I had to write in giant letters, only a few phrases per page. Not good.

All that has changed with Pencil. Not only can I write normal size, but my sketches look much better, too. My horrible handwriting is actually readable. It's just like making notes on a real piece of paper, except it's digital and I have undo and multiple colors and brushes, plus unique organization features. For brainstorming and making notes about my projects, this is so relaxing. I can sit back on the sofa and daydream, and it doesn't feel like work the way that typing a document on a computer does. I can't wait to incorporate Pencil into my workflow.

The bottom line is that you don't just have to be an artist to find Apple's Pencil useful: it will work for all sorts of tasks, such as annotating PDFs, touching up photos, marking maps, handwriting notes, sketching user interfaces, and so on. There's even an iPad app (Astropad) that turns your iPad into a graphic tablet for your computer, allowing you to use Pencil with Photoshop and other desktop apps.

For the Xojo programmer, these tasks could be very useful—assuming the cost of an iPad Pro and Pencil isn't prohibitive (Apple Pencil only works with iPad Pro, though that could change with future iPads).

End of article.