iPad Meet Stylus, the Adonit Jot Script 2
For me Apple’s market-leading tablet still feels a bit like it did on day one – a beautiful piece of technology that lacks a really compelling use-case in the work environment. Certainly there are things that the iPad is great for. Light web browsing, casual gaming, quick email triage and viewing photos. But when it comes to what you might think of as ‘real’ work it probably wouldn’t be the first device you’d turn to. Although there are rumours of a more productivity-focused iOS in the pipeline, at the moment between short bursts of enthusiasm I tend to find that it gets left at home and it’s my MacBook Air and iPhone that accompany me to meetings and trips away. Yes, you can do a lot of what you can do on a laptop or with pen and paper with an iPad but it does feel like a bit of a process doing it. My hope was that a good stylus might change all that.
Enter the Adonit Jot Script 2 stylus (Evernote edition). At £55.95 it sits towards the top of this growing market with the likes of 53’s Pencil and Adobe’s Ink. But it comes with 6 months of Evernote Premium membership redeemed through a voucher code. The other items included in the box are the Jot Script’s USB charger and a quick-start manual. Setup was incredibly simple. With Bluetooth enabled on the iPad and your app of choice open it is just a case of pressing the Jot Scrpt’s only button and then holding the stylus tip against to screen to pair the two together. Some apps offered additional options to set a preferred writing angle, which would improve the accuracy of the palm rejection, but that’s about as complex as it gets.
As a stylus newbie I wasn’t quite sure how intuitive the whole experience would feel. A bit like the unknown around typing on glass when the iPad first came out. But I knew what I was hoping for, something that combined the flexibility of the digital format with the accuracy and simplicity of pen and paper. Even after a short time with the Jot Script it became clear that the apps you pair it with are as important as the choice of stylus in the first place. I already had 53’s Paper installed, along with Adobe Draw and Adobe Ideas, all of which I’d been using on and off with finger input. I added to this Penultimate and GoodNotes 4. With the exception of GoodNotes, which clocked in at £4.99, the rest of these were free so there’s no real barrier to initially giving lots of apps a try to find your particular preference.
After a couple of weeks testing I settled on Penultimate for general note taking and sketching as it seemed to give the most accurate renderings of my jottings and GoodNotes became my go-to for signing or annotating PDFs. Paper undoubtedly felt the most creative and if my leanings were more artistic I could see myself gravitating towards that app.
There were certain tasks that I hoped the Jot Script would be good for, taking the place of the laptop or a traditional notebook. Making quick notes in meetings, sketching wireframe ideas and marking-up designs and documents. So these seemed like a pretty good place to start my tests.
I quickly came to the conclusion that for fast and extended note-taking the pen and paper is probably still the way to go. There is a very slight time-lag which affects accuracy when moving at speed. I’m sure this is something that would improve with practice but for me my already pretty illegible handwriting became an abstract scrawl. However the Jot Script really comes into its own for note-sketching. The ability to switch colours, line weight and crucially undo/erase in a couple of taps makes more creative note-taking feel natural. And having those notes sync across to all your other devices gives the peace of mind of instant backup and the convenience of instant sharing – or even collaborative sketching. Penultimate’s integration with Evernote means that all notes benefit from its text-recognition feature allowing you to search within your jottings if you write clearly enough.
One of my primary intended use-cases was wireframe sketching and the Jot Script proved a great solution for this. Desktop wireframing can often feel a bit too precise and slow for quickly mapping out initial ideas, but there are some distinct advantages to having your outputs in a digital format. The iPad offers a good canvas size and the results are pleasing. There is some clever stroke-smoothing going on behind the screens in most apps but the results still look very organic. The flexibility to erase or undo really encourages experimentation and it’s great to be able to have access to a virtual bag of pens, markers and brushes in the full gamut of colours wherever you go. With apps like Adobe’s Sketch integrating with Creative Cloud it’s easy to push your work straight over to Illustrator as a starting-point for more detailed wireframes.
Another of the Jot Script’s strengths is as an input for signing or annotating digital documents. Opening a PDF in GoodNotes you can easily scribble in a signature or highlight some text and save back out to DropBox, iCloud or send on via email. Images can also be opened so annotating a screenshot to illustrate some design feedback is just as quick.
The suggested battery-life between charges is about 20 hours so you’d need to plug in your iPad before before the Jot Script runs out of juice. Charging does look like you’ve pimped your MacBook with a CB radio antenna, but the charger and pen come together with a pleasing click and at least there is no messing around with cables or removing batteries. With my MacBook Air I did experience some strange behaviour when charging out of the left-hand USB port, where the screen would go to sleep. But the right-hand port worked just fine.
So what’s not to like? Well the only minor annoyances I found in testing were around occasional pairing issues. Sometimes it’s a bit hard to know if the Jot Script is on, paired or ready to pair. You launch the app, press the Jot Script’s only button and then wait, repeat and eventually the two come together. Although this happened rarely it was frequent enough to make me hesitate to reach for the stylus if I only had the one shot at getting a note down. A small kink in an overwhelmingly positive experience.
My decision to give the Jot Script a go was as much about rediscovering the iPad as a work tool as it was experimenting with the stylus as a new input device. For two weeks I forced myself to use the Jot Script for everything that I would normally turn to pen and paper for and it’s fair to say that I’m now a convert. For quick notes, wireframing sketches and annotating documents this is genuinely the best solution for the way I work, helping the iPad find a firm place in my digital toolkit.
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