Finally dove into the most awesome right-brain-enabling technology, an iPad 3. I want to use this to help me quickly dash off sketches and mockups of web page designs, business process workflows and the kinds of stuff I’d whip out on a whiteboard.
I’m addicted to whiteboards; whenever I’m in a meeting with folks at work I’ll inevitably go up to the whiteboard and start sketching out thoughts. Sometimes I’m just organizing the random ideas that people (including me) are spouting off; other times I’m trying to express a thought that just isn’t coming through clearly from my sometimes-addled brain-mouth interaction. (I have a love-hate relationship with the way my brain makes me feel like brilliant ideas are a lottery – they’ll sound amazing in my head, but it’s a crapshoot whether they’ll come out of my mouth – or my hands – in any recognizable form.)
So there’s two cases when the ubiquitous whiteboard isn’t nearly ubiquitous: working with someone as-hoc (e.g. meeting in the cafeteria), and working with someone who’s a state or country out of reach from me.
When I can’t get up to my usual tricks with the totally-free-of-expectations whiteboard markers, I seem to have an aversion to capturing stuff in my little paper notebook. Well, it’s a learned aversion – after years of carrying this little memory crutch around, I’ve noticed that it’s the intellectual equivalent of the Roach Motel: lots of ideas go in, very few of them escape the gravity well back out into the public sphere.
What’s Your Point, Mike?
Sorry, sometimes I get on a confessional roll. (Recovering catholic tendencies.)
So I’ve been trying out a bunch of note-taking, sketching and mockup tools on my shiny New iPad. I find it’s pretty easy to get started, but I quickly get bogged down by the lack of control I feel over my finger. (weirdly, I don’t get hung up on what my whole hand – in control of a whiteboard marker – can or can’t do.)
I’ve also tried my partner’s stylus. It’s a pretty smooth experience, though I can see what people mean about how the thing can get a bit “grippy” when it starts to wear. Worse though for me is that it feels like I’m not able to precisely target the pen “tip” – the tip is rounded, fat – seems like I’m drawing with my fingertip, not a pencil.
Not only does it feel like I can’t quite get the line to go where I think the stylus is touching down, but the damned stylus itself is blocking my view of what I’m drawing. I’m sure it’s the same experience as others watching me writing something on a whiteboard (as I’m left-handed, more on that later).
(Or now.) One of my fears of getting a really precise stylus is that it’ll work really poorly for me, a leftie. (Both politically and in manipulating a writing implement.) One of the problems that all lefties know too well is that we (at lesdt those who scribe in left-to-right languages) have to push the writing implement across the piece of paper – whereas you damned righties get to drag across the page. The really sharp precise pens that just lightly scritch the paper for a rightie act more like a dagger or digging tool when we southpaws are trying to force the little f*cker across the page.
So: I’m keeping my eyes peeled for good well-worn recommendations for stylii:
– Warren Ellis (ritual abuser of technology) happened to FAQ-ate his current tech complement here : http://www.warrenellis.com/?p=13843 and happened to mention the Boxwave stylus for his iPad. I’m a huge fan of Warren, and I know that what he talks about using are things that stand up to his brand of torture – he brooks no crap. However, looking over their entire line of stylii, I can’t help but think they’re all going to be fat, obtuse and opaque.
– google search led to the Just-Mobile Alu-Pen http://www.amazon.com/review/RAHGTD4T5XQ1P/ref=cm_cr_dp_cmt?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B0042U9AT6 (rave) and http://www.amazon.com/review/R1QD3A6WP6BL66/ref=cm_cr_pr_perm?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B0042U9AT6 (just a toy)
– a “clear sharp tip”stylus comes from DAGI. Their web site (http://www.dagi.com.tw/) is really no help, but they sure have an array of different models that might all be good, if only I could tell what the differences are. (Why are there like eight or 10 different models, all mentioning Apple products? Do some work better than others, or can theses dudes just not make up their minds?). Bottom line of reading all the reviews that are on Amazon: sounds like it works great until it breaks (which is early and often).
– another hit led to this recent Kickstarter star, the Jot Pro http://adonit.net/product/jot/ with a clear disk and a ridiculously fine tip. Looks good on paper – ideal for my desires really – but I figure it’d be irritating in practice to always have to “flatten” the disk each time you lift and re-use the pen. Which bears out from this thread I found here (which gravitates to IFaraday products) http://www.ipadforums.net/ipad-accessories/44578-jot-stylus-6.html
– iFaraday review here: http://www.macworld.com/article/1165546/ifaraday_fabric_styluses_for_ios_devices_are_simple_but_sturdy.html
– the last consideration is a personal recommendation I got, for the Bamboo Stylus http://www.amazon.com/Bamboo-Stylus-for-iPad-CS100K/product-reviews/B004VM0SE6/ref=cm_cr_dp_synop/185-4762383-9477650?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=0&sortBy=bySubmissionDateDescending#RXZ21W2ZX6GGR. The reviews are good (for the mashable-rubber-tipped stylii), but still not stellar.
I’m inclined towards the iFaraday RXII or the Bamboo – sounds like the Jot is terribly precise but damned irritating when you write non-cursive like me and raise the pen a lot while writing.
As for the leftie angle:
– page after page of google results keep repeating the same marketing BS from Griffin – “great for left or right-handed users”. Which just means (a) they did nothing special to help lefties and (b) it’s unlikely they talked to any lefties in the first place. (Damned right-handed world.)
– anytime someone says “designed for” or ” developed for”, that’s telegraphing to me that the writer is right-handed and just parroting the marketing drivel. (Especially clear if they qualify with “basically…”)
– first-person testimonials from lefties using iPad with a stylus don’t tend to talk about this problem, even though I noticed it pretty much instantly. All the talk is about how many apps assume their “wrist detection” only think about right-handed users – or amazement about the apps that finally figured out how to mirror the setting for lefties. Lots of chatter about apps such as http://www.ipadforums.net/ipad-apps/55326-lefty-note-taking.html
– for some good old-fashioned anecdotal evidence (I.e. the kind I was looking for), this positive review of the Bamboo from Wacom makes specific mention of the “drag” non-issue – but it looks like the author is driving their writing while holding the stylus straight up, which avoids the problem entirely http://www.themacuniverse.com/2011/07/02/review-wacom-bamboo-stylus-for-ipad/
– same question asked here but not well answered: http://www.thriveforums.org/forum/toshiba-thrive-accessories/4514-thrive-capacitive-stylus-2.html
Bottom line, I think I’ll order both the Bamboo and the iFaraday – I want this iPad to replace all my other note-taking and sketching carry-arounds, so I better get the maximum satisfaction out of my input. Trying to save $30 now after spending $600 on the damned iPad would be pretty short-sighted.
And I’m going to pray that the combination of keeping my wrist off the screen and the supposed “smooth glide” of these devices is enough to counteract the usual “digging into the medium” problem of a leftie who usually pushes the writing implement into paper like an amateur pool player tearing into the felt on a pool table.