Evernote is one of the leaders in note taking apps and has about 80 million users, making it one of the most popular cross-platform note taking apps. In the middle of 2012, it acquired Penultimate, a digital handwriting notebook app. Although Penultimate remains as a standalone app, it is completely integrated with Evernote's services. This means that users have access to notes made with Penultimate across multiple devices just like regular notes made with Evernote. On top of that, users can also easily search for their handwritten Penultimate notes using Evernote’s optical character recognition technology.
On the other hand, Adonit makes a range of styluses for users who are serious about writing or drawing on their tablets. And just a couple of months ago, together with Evernote, introduced the new Jot Script Evernote Edition stylus. Evernote claims is "the Best Stylus for Penultimate & iPad". Lofty claims, so let’s find out if its true.
To begin, the Adonit Jot Script Evernote Edition has been designed specifically for use with Penultimate and iOS, and features technologies to help improve the writing experience.
To accomplish this, it features a new Adonit technology called Pixelpoint, which consists of hardware and software elements. On the hardware front, the Jot Script Evernote Edition stylus has a tip that is just 1.9mm wide. The material for the tip, which is undisclosed, was also specifically picked so as to mimic the drag of pen on paper. It also has an inbuilt accelerometer to monitor speed and writing angle.
In addition, according to Adonit, touchscreen displays emit a capacitance signature that varies across the different iPad and iPhone models and the Jot Script Evernote Edition is able to detect the unique signature and make adjustments to enable it to be more accurate.
Finally, Pixelpoint is able to improve the accuracy of the stylus if it is used with an iOS app that has been integrated with Adonit’s SDK. Together with the stylus’ accelerometer, the app is able to more accurately predict and place your inputs. However, note that this particular feature requires Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity, which the Jot Script Evernote Edition has and so does the newer iPads (third generation onwards), both generations of the iPad Minis and the iPhone 4S onwards.
Because of Adonit’s SDK, the app is also able to accurate recognize the stylus’ tip and ignore all other inputs. Adonit calls this "Wrist Protection" and this means you can rest your palm on the screen and write as you would on paper, as oppose to hovering above the screen, which is not only unnatural but also uncomfortable.
The Adonit Jot Script Evernote Edition is unique in that unlike other stylus, it needs to be powered to be functional. Without turning it on, the stylus’ inputs would not be recognized at all. And for it to work with Penultimate, the stylus and app must first be paired, which is a simple process that takes mere minutes. Once paired, the synchronization will happen automatically in future once you power the stylus up. If you are wondering, the stylus is not limited to just Penultimate, it can work like any other regular stylus and with any other apps, but without some of the special features, such as Wrist Protection (more on this later) that is enabled by the Adonit SDK.
If you have ever used any of Adonit’s stylus before, the improvement in precision as compared to a regular rubber tip stylus is very significant. The same is true for the Jot Script Evernote Edition stylus. Adonit has also done a commendable job of designing the Jot Script Evernote Edition to look and feel like a pen. The ribbed grip near the tip is a nice touch and the overall weight and looks of the entire stylus is finished to look like a high-end ball point. However, the illusion is somewhat lost once you begin to actually write on the iPad because despite Adonit’s very best efforts, there is simply no replicating the feel of pen on paper. Let’s face it, glass and paper could not feel more different.
The actual note taking experience is pretty decent, but since the Jot Script Evernote Edition stylus relies on the integrated SDK to augment its performance, there is a slight amount of lag before your inputs actually register. Thankfully it is not so much as to detract from the writing experience. The Wrist Protection feature worked well too, and if you do find it behaving erratically, you could fine tune it by going into settings and selecting the style that best represents your handwriting posture.
As a note taking app, Penultimate itself also incorporates numerous features to help make taking notes easier. One of the most useful is the Drift feature that lets you zoom in on a section of the page for more precise writing. In this mode, the app even automatically pans depending on your writing speed and stops when you do too. A nifty "return" button helps you quickly begin writing on the next line and there is also an "anchor" button that locks your position if you want to sketch.
So back to the question: can the combination of the Penultimate app and Adonit’s new Jot Script Evernote Edition stylus really replace the good old trusty combination of pen and paper?
At the risk of sounding cliche, it really depends. Functionally and practically speaking, the combination of the two is an excellent digital alternative. It feels nothing like writing on paper, but we found that we could take notes just as quickly and effectively. Besides this, there are added benefits to digitizing your notes. Apart from being able to quickly access them from anywhere and across multiple devices thanks to synchronization with Evernote, Evernote’s handwriting recognition technology also means that you can search within your notes (provided your handwriting is fairly legible) - something you do not get from writing on paper. However, it is not a perfect combination. Our biggest gripe with it is that the stylus requires power to function. And it’s not a matter of proper synchronization either, it does not work at all without power.
From an aesthetic standpoint, and this is very subjective, there are certain aspects to taking notes using the pen and paper that cannot be replicated no matter how advanced the stylus is or how competent the app. For one, the feeling of pen on paper is unique not just only to the type of paper but also the type of pen used. Additionally, in terms of precision and immediacy of input, how can the pen be bested? Point at the paper and that is where it goes. Furthermore, to some, note taking and indeed writing, is a form of expression and art that requires paper as its canvas.
All in all, if functionality and practicality is high on your list and you do not mind shelling out for the stylus’ rather high asking price - S$94.95 - then Penultimate and Adonit’s new Jot Script Evernote Edition stylus offers what is arguably the best writing experience on the iPad right now.