The skinny on Paper and Pencil

So I did order a Pencil by 53, and was very excited when it arrived. It’s beautiful (I got the wooden one) and easy to charge. It comes in a lovely and creative package that brought back fond memories of Painter and its paint can packaging. However, once it was charged and ready to go, I had some trouble.

At first, Pencil wouldn’t pair with my iPad and I kept getting a message to charge the battery (which I had done). I had left the spare tip at home, so I couldn’t try swapping them out as the app recommended. A colleague tried it with her iPad, and it paired right away, so she unpaired it and I tried again. That time, it worked. I tried to make a list of what I liked and didn’t like. As you see, it’s not up to my usual standards.

My notes using Paper and Pencil by 53

My notes using Paper and Pencil by 53


Some tools work better than others. I love the look of the ink pen, but the ballpoint pen is more useful for digital notetaking. The ink pen is harder to control when doing small work like letters.

Zoom is essential but painful. The zoom is, for me, the worst part. Zoom is critical to writing clearly at small sizes in any app on the iPad. In Paper, I can’t zoom in far enough, and the loupe only allows me to see a small circle of zoomed-in area. I found that using a stylus worked better than using my finger with the zoom, but it was still quite difficult.

Pencil behaves unexpectedly at times. Pencil feels great in the hand and looks great lying around, but I can’t say I had a great experience using it with Paper. The squishy tip has to be pressed down fairly hard in order to make the right part of the stylus come in contact with the screen to make a mark, and it’s not always where you expect it to be. Occasionally, it wouldn’t mark at all, or it would behave like my fingertip and smudge the lines instead of drawing new ones. Overall, it was too slow a process for me to comfortably use it to create visual notes. I also tried using my fingertip, which is how I usually take notes. I had trouble with that, too, mostly because of the zoom.

The good news: Best palm blocking I’ve ever seen. When you’re using Pencil, you really can rest your palm on the screen and the iPad won’t pick it up. It worked worlds better than other palm-blocking styli I’ve tried.

The end result: Not the best choice for iPad note-taking. I love Paper’s interface and I love the look and feel of Pencil. I wish I could love how they function, but they aren’t a great way to take visual notes. Again, for sketching and drawing, I do really like them as a team.

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