Tegra Note - Evernote

I am still searching for a good Android app that is comparable to the iOS-exclusive Notability. I would love to have such an app to use with the Tegra Note, a low cost Android tablet with a well implemented stylus.

Evernote is an extremely popular note-taking platform, with clients available for Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android. In a recent update for the Android client, Evernote added handwriting support, including the ability to search handwritten text in documents. The following is taken from the Evernote blog entry.

"Our realization was that a fluid handwriting experience would be one that lets you easily move from writing to typing to taking photos and back all within a single note."

This description sounded like Evernote would be able to work much like Notability. I eagerly updated Evernote on the Tegra Note, but it wasn't quite what I was hoping for.

In Notability, pages are very much like actual blank pages. I can add images, text, and written notes anywhere on a page. Once added, I can select and move any of those objects anywhere within the note. In Evernote, I can indeed add handwriting, but it is placed in vertical order with other "objects". So, I can type some text, then write notes beneath that text (not next to it, or over top of it). Once I had completed the handwriting, I could not find a way to move the writing "object" to another location in the note.

As for the handwriting itself, the Tegra Note worked well, but Evernote did not support the variable widths of the stylus. The pen thickness had to be manually selected from a menu. I was impressed with the text searching. It seemed to find my printed text easily, but did not find results in my cursive writing. That isn't much of a surprise. My cursive writing is quite bad, even on real paper.

Evernote is a platform and service. You can use some of the service for free, and your notes are synchronized to the Evernote cloud service. To get additional storage and features, Evernote is $5 per month or $45 per year. While not terribly expensive, it is not a cheap service, especially in light of Google's recent price changes for Drive ($2 per month for 100GB of storage). Notability is a one-time $3 purchase, and will sync with Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, and even WebDAV.

My search for a good alternative to Notability continues...

Tegra Note - iAnnotate PDF

A general note on stylus accuracy

While using various apps on the Tegra Note 7, I would try simple drawings (like a 3D box). I found it easy enough to place the pen tip at intended points while drawing. I am not an artist, but I at least know that a proper drawing app that lets you zoom in and out for fine detail is still going to be essential. When writing text, I had no trouble "dotting my 'i's and crossing my 't's". In both drawing and writing, I had far more success than I ever do when using a stylus with Notability on the iPad. I just wish Notability was available for Android.

iAnnotate PDF

If you work with PDF files regularly, iAnnotate PDF is a great app for marking up, highlighting, commenting, and bookmarking. The controls are very simple. Two pull-tab interfaces can be hidden and revealed from the left and right as needed. The left pull-tab exposes page controls, including PDF chapters/headings, user annotations, and searching.

The right pull-tab exposes the various annotation tools.

There is a pencil for free-hand marking up of the document. Unfortunately this tool does not support the stylus-width control of the Tegra Note. To be fair to the Note, iAnnotate doesn't seem to support pencil widths at all, so I doubt a tablet with an active stylus would have an advantage.

Next is the annotation button. Touch the button, then touch a point on the PDF document and you can type in an annotation. These are the annotations that can be navigated through using the tool in the left pull-tab.

There is a highlighter for highlighting text. Note that this will only highlight text and cannot be used freehand like the pencil tool. The advantage to this is it is very easy to accurately highlight text. The disadvantage is that some PDF files are scanned without the use of OCR, so the PDF is actually just a "picture" of text.

There are a couple of buttons for scroll-lock and fit-width, and the last button on the toolbar is a toolbox button. The toolbox button exposes even more tools. In the toolbox you will find strikeout and underline tools that operate much like the highlighter. There are tools for adding, and navigating through, bookmarks. It also has buttons for emailing the PDF, the PDF with annotations, or just the annotations.

If you regularly work with non-PDF documents, iAnnotate PDF won't be of much use. Also, you cannot use iAnnotate to add or remove pages within a PDF. The interface does require some accurate touches, so in this regard the Tegra Note was tremendously useful. The fine tip of the stylus made highlighting, drawing, and placing bookmarks and annotations much easier than depending on finger touches or constantly zooming in and out.

iAnnotate will stay installed on the Tegra Note for now, but I will keep looking for a good Notability alternative.