Developer: Ranki
Price: $4.99
Version: 4.1
App Reviewed on: iPad 2

iPad Integration Rating: ★★★★☆
User Interface Rating: ★★★★½
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★★★½

Overall Rating: ★★★★½

One of the things I love best about iPad – what made me find it so much more useful and frankly, impressive, than an iPhone – is that the multi-touch screen at this size gives me room to write in as fairly organic fashion.

There are dozens of handwriting apps that take advantage of this capability, often blending it with type, audio, or document annotation. But, few apps really just focus on recreating a paper and pen experience. While Penultimate tends to get the most buzz, my long-time favorite has been Noteshelf.

At the heart is a bookshelf where users can create personalized virtual notebooks with customised covers and paper types. There are 20 paper templates from lined and graph to day planners and designer looks and 15 cover options to give each notebook it’s own look and purpose. Templates can be mixed in one notebook and for further customization Noteshelf can import hand-made templates from drawing apps.

With recently added in-app purchases, many of which I picked simply for their elegance or whimsy, the customization options go even further. The app has 17 different colored pens with scalable nibs, as well as eight highlighters whose width is also adjustable with a slider. These are tucked neatly into virtual trays that pull out when needed and slide back into the unobtrusive toolbar. There are also three erasers, a few emjois and photos can be imported from the library, or with an iPad 2 users can also snap a picture from inside the app.

Noteshelf was one of the first handwriting apps to include a wrist guard and it has always worked well. There is also a zoom feature allowing users to write in a big box and place the resized smaller text precisely. The app allows for copying and pasting to the iPad clipboard and pages or whole notebooks can be exported to Evernote and Dropbox, or saved as PDFs and image files.

I like to work in landscape mode most of the time, so I was thrilled when landscape support and special paper became available recently. But, since updating to iOS 5 and after reinstalling the app several times the landscape feature no longer works on my iPad 2. I was careful to ensure landscape was fully enabled on my device and within the app, but as you can see from the screenshot, the paper no longer rotates in the correct direction.

Notshelf has not, however, yet had its iOS 5 makeover. And since updates are frequent and diligent, and attention is paid to user concerns, I have no doubt this will be resolved soon. It still bears mentioning, however, as it’s a major selling point. I’m hoping for iCloud syncing too.

Notwithstanding, Noteshelf has been and remains the most natural, eye pleasing and useful handwriting-centered app I’ve used. I recommend it wholeheartedly.

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