Developer: Viet Tran
Price: $5.99
Version: 2.2

Design Rating: ★★★★½
Features Rating: ★★★★☆
Integration Rating: ★★★☆☆
Usability Rating: ★★★☆☆

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

Whenever I bought my iPad in August, I couldn’t wait to try it out for note-taking in lectures and tutorials at university, which started the following month. I learnt to type before I could write, and have always been more productive with a keyboard rather than a pen. But the iPad’s Notes application didn’t suffice. I needed to draw up quick balance sheets, create simple charts and draw mathematical symbols – none of which Notes could do. So when Notes Plus by Viet Tran came into our review queue, I was eager to check it out.

Notes Plus includes a number of features not included in Apple’s default Notes application. The first is handwriting. Taking advantage of pinch-to-zoom, the application allows you to manually write when you need to, for how long you need to. By zooming in, you can write big and clear, and then zoom out again to have your text small but clear on the overall page. An in-built, size-adjustable palm rest exists, allowing to rest your palm on the screen without accidentally drawing. I don’t quite understand why you’d want to handwrite rather than type, but the tool is particularly useful when it comes to symbols and diagrams. It’s all customizable within the ‘Pen Options’ tab under Settings, where thickness, stroke opacity and stroke colour can all be changed. A sample is automatically generated, meaning you don’t have to manually try it out to make sure it suits. A Of course, typing is available also – with a two-finger tap – and also features a number of customizable settings: type, size and colour.

Notes Plus also includes a shape detection algorithm, which means that your rough drawings of squares, circles and just about any other shape are transformed into neat, perfectly proportioned shapes. Once drawn, you can move it about and re-proportion it at will. It doesn’t work for shapes below a certain size (to prevent handwriting from becoming shapes), but this can be circumvented by drawing a larger shape and then resizing it.

You’ll need to learn a number of relatively simple gestures to make the most of Notes Plus. For example, circling an object like text or a drawing will select it. Now I know you’re probably thinking: but he just said you can create a circle by drawing one. That’s true. And so is the gesture. The developers have recognized this dual aspect, offering you the choice of what you want to do. Another gesture, swipe back and forth to delete, is useful in theory but in practice needs a bit of work. More times than I wanted to, I ended up drawing lines all over my drawings rather than deleting them.

Overall, my emotions towards Notes Plus are mixed. On the one hand, it does do more than what Apple’s Notes application offers, and when it comes to productivity, the more features the better. Notes Plus includes unlimited folders and unlimited pages within notes, as well as password protection, Google Docs integration and Voice Recordings, which far surpasses the seemingly bare Notes application. But I still find myself reverting back to pen and paper in classes. The iPad is a complement, rather than a substitute, for the pen.

Posted in: iPad Apps and Games, iPad Productivity, Reviews

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