A Fistfull of Styli… Styluses… whatever!

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img_0188-editI still have my 1st generation iPad. Oh the times we’ve had. In truth, it almost never came together for iPad 1 and I but that’s another story.

From the beginning I’ve been following the pied piper of writing on a digital tablet – the reality of it hasn’t happened for me but I thought I’d share my stylus journey and hopefully a bit of insight about my obsession to achieve the feel of writing on my tablet.

Why write on a tablet anyway? What kind of result am I trying to achieve? 4 reasons I want to write notes on my tablet and the most important thing I learned on the journey so far.

Why Write on a Tablet?

  1. It’s easy to have the right notebook with me when all my notebooks are on the iPad.
  2. Saves paper – I love my Moleskines but keeping notes electronically means a few more trees and less waste. Oh… and, let’s face it… more economical.
  3. Easy to share by email, Evernote, Dropbox etc.
  4. Backup to the cloud or office computer prevents data loss.

The Back Story

I’ve tried my share of styli over the years from the very first spongy ball things to the latest innovation from Adonit (Pixel) all to some level of “we’re not quite there yet”.

Maybe my disappointment stems from my dream.

What I want is for writing on my iPad to look and feel like writing on my Moleskine. At first it was sort of a non-starter. The ink function on the iPad was meh and the styli that were available were well… more meh. Then I found Penultimate and I really felt like technology was moving in the right direction. While the writing flow on Penultimate was smooth, the palm rejection wasn’t good enough to reject my palm and keep the writing area stable.

Yeah, I write with my palm on the surface of the iPad. Sorry developers hardware and software alike, that’s just the way I roll.

At this point the Jot Pro was my stylus of choice but the process of writing on my iPad still didn’t make it into the mainstream of my workflow. The tip of the Jot Pro is metal and hard plastic so every lift and return makes a clicking sound which might be fine in the privacy of your office or in a loud airport terminal but in the midst of taking notes at a presentation… click, click, click… rude.

Enter Bluetooth.

Now we’re getting somewhere! The bluetooth connected styli by Wacom and Adonit were on my shopping list. Surely the Bluetooth instruments would be able to distinguish between me trying to write or my palm.


Ski ped let ers …ugh and still with the palm rejection issues?

Is it the app? Is it the stylus? Is it me? Is it impossible?

I was back to my Moleskine full time.

I have a Surfacebook Pro that I use when I simply must be in Windows and I have to say that the stylus works pretty well in Onenote… if only Onenote were an app that I would use.

Okay so maybe there’s no pleasing me. I chase the dream for years on my iPad(s) and when Microsoft comes out with something that mostly works I don’t like it. To be fair I haven’t liked Onenote since the day it launched and the best stylus in the world wouldn’t change that.

What about the Apple Pencil and the iPad Pro you may ask. Well, I don’t know. I got an iPad Air 2 just a few months before the reasonably sized iPad Pro was released (the first one was just too big for me) and it will be cycle or two before I’m ready to upgrade again (if I even get another tablet at all but that’s another story too).

The ones I’ve tried:

  • Adonit Jot Pro
  • Adonit Jot Switch
  • Adonit Jot Script
  • Adonit Jot Touch
  • Adonit Jot Pixel
  • Pencil by 53
  • Wacom

The Takeaway

There is a danger in the disconnect between what you imagine a technology (or situation) should be capable of and the current state of the art. I believe there are people at Apple, Adonit, 53, Wacom and Microsoft who share my vision of writing on a tablet in a fluid, comfortable and quiet experience. I trust that someday they will bring us that experience. But… I’m not in the stylus business, nor the app business, nor am I in the tablet business. Since I’m in the business business here is the lesson to be learned here.

You have to measure your obsession with a specific result with the reality of what is currently possible in the state of the art.

It’s okay if you see beyond the status quo… good even but unless you’re going to drop what your doing and start a new company to change the state of the art (which is a great thing to do if that’s your passion) then it’s time to moderate your vision and use tools that actually achieve the result your looking for.

How many styli does it take before you buy a package of .7mm pencils and a Moleskine? For me… apparently at least 7.

Are you writing on a tablet? What has your experience been? Suggest my next stylus, tablet, app or combination of all three!

Okay… let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work!