Over the years I have written many reviews of styli and iPad note taking apps on this blog. I am a heavy user of notes:

  • Jotting down things during client presentation briefings. A very small part of this is actually to make sure I do not forget certain things (a correction on page 53, the total market for home insurance). For the most part I find that when I write things down, I remember them better. I actually never look back at the notes.
  • The second big use of a note pad is to draw sketches for charts. Almost every chart with a sketch.

Up until now, I have not found a good alternative to pencil and paper:

  • Tapping on laptops (and iPad screen keyboards) disrupts the flow of a meeting (you look like a note taking clerk)
  • Styli were physically unpleasant to work with (too small, too fat)
  • Handwriting recognition on iPad was not optimal (small strokes, palm interference).

The iPad Pro (I have the 9.7" version) and Apple Pencil changed a lot. I actually use the device now in meetings and leave my note book and pencil at home. I tried Apple Notes, Penultimate, and Paper by 53. Of these, Penultimate suits me best in meetings. Everything syncs to Evernote (they got me locked in), nice and fat pen strokes, and easy to add pages and scroll over your notes. The big issue has now become battery life. Watch out in long meetings where you leave the screen on for a long time.

I got the iPad keyboard cover as well, but like laptops, that setup disturbs the dynamics of the meeting. I find myself using the keyboard for writing blog posts on the road in between meetings.

For brainstorming charts, I prefer Paper by 53. Boxes, circles, straight lines, the user interface is just better. I don't want to buy 2 iPad devices, but my guess is that the big 12" iPad Pro will be superior for creative work. The 9.7 screen feels limiting for big, bold, creative efforts. Maybe I should get 2 devices.

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