One of the many casualties of the digital age, decent
penmanship, may not be lost to history after all. A few apps are
bringing back the art, with a few modern improvements.
I was always terrible at handwriting, and worse at drawing. Since
I've glued myself to a keyboard for the past decade or so, my
ability to write or draw has only gotten worse. With the exception
of grocery lists, my thoughts are usually stored in zeroes and ones
somewhere. I even struggle to read my own hieroglyphics. But
perhaps I was too quick to forget my grade-school handwriting
lessons. I am seeing a trend in tech toward reviving the tradition
of dragging a black line of ink on paper - or a capacitive
One of the biggest innovations that
) brought to the iPhone was accurate input from your fingertips.
Before MultiTouch, there were a few pen-based inputs for mobile
devices such as the
(TYO:6727) tablet, and the
) Clie. Steve Jobs was famously against the stylus, and pushed his
engineers hard to make sure they weren't necessary on the iPhone.
"Who wants a stylus. You have to get them, and put them away, you
lose them, yuck. Nobody wants a stylus. So let's not use a stylus.
We are going to use the best pointing device in the world,"
at the first iPhone keynote.
Since then, accurate touchscreen inputs have become ubiquitous, but
we are finding new uses for the pen. Last year, Apple honored
FiftyThree, a New York-based startup launched by
) veterans, with its annual
for an app called Paper. A quintessential killer app for creative
drawing, Paper somehow renders your drawings to make them look
better, and it works even more effectively with a stylus pen.
Mixing colors in Paper is far more natural than it is in other
digital drawing applications, such as
) Creative Suite programs. It isn't intuitive for humans to think
in terms of mixing red, green, and blue light. FiftyThree found
a paper on optics by two dead German scientists
to make a much more user-friendly color-mixing tool. Currently,
Paper is only available for Apple users.
) are eagerly awaiting their own version.
Microsoft also included a stylus option with its Surface Pro
(OTCMKTS:SSNLF) is also bringing back the stylus with the Galaxy
Note and the the S-Note App.
A few companies are putting a digital twist on actual pen and paper
writing, too. Today, Reuters profiled a South Korea-based company
called Equil, which makes a smartpen and app.
"The best ideas often start on paper," said Greg Appelhof,
president of the Americas for Equil,
. "But people use all sorts of ways of capturing notes, from sheets
of paper to very expensive journals. We wanted to create something
that could capture it all, regardless of where it was written," he
said in an interview.
With EquilNote or EquilSketch, users can draw, write, and scribble
on actual paper with a special Bluetooth smartpen called Equil JOT.
All of their sketches or notes will appear on the program's iPad or
iPhone app simultaneously, like magic.
Livescribe, a US company,
produces a smartpen
as well that works similarly, but also records audio that
synchronizes with notes on the page. Livescribe's interactive notes
require special paper, however.
Moleskine, the makers of those cute little journals that hipsters
use for the occasional artistic, poetic grocery list, has partnered
with its digital equivalent, Evernote. It is the
first paper notebook designed for digitizing notes
using the iPhone's camera. The Evernote app recognizes your
handwriting and syncs it across your devices.