Pragmatic 68: Paperless

9 January, 2016


We are closer than ever to a paperless office, and for John with the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil it’s time to actually try and see if it’s possible.

Transcript available
Welcome to Pragmatic. [Music] Pragmatic is a discussion show contemplating the practical application of technology. By exploring the real-world trade-offs, we look at how great ideas are transformed into products and services that can change our lives. Nothing's as simple as it seems. Pragmatic is part of the Engineered Network. To support our shows, including this one, head over to our Patreon page. And for other great shows, visit today. I'm your host, John Chidjie, and I'm joined today by Vic Hudson. How are you doing, Vic? I'm good, John. How are you? I am very good, and I'm excited about the topic today because it's one that I have been pondering for a great many years. And it's only something that recently I think I can I can feel it. I can taste it. It is like it is so close to being a reality. and I want to talk about the paperless office. OK. That's it. That's just OK. There's lots of excitement there. I guess it's because that term has gotten a little bit tongue in cheek, which I want to talk about, actually. But I've got to start by just describing a problem that I have. I mean, I have many problems, but this specific problem is a problem. my desk is a mess, like at work and at home, more so at work though. And I've often wondered about why. And if you look around my desk at work, there is paper, paper everywhere and not a square space of desk left. Dozens of pens, rulers, staplers, bulldog clips. And in terms of pens, I've got a fine point pen, a medium point pen. I've got a Waterman, is like a fancy pen, I guess, sort of fancy. I don't know. I'm not a pen addict or anything like that. But hey, I've got gel ink, ink, inky ink, different colors of ink, you know, ink. Anyway, I got liquid paper, sometimes referred to as Tippex or whatever, correcting tape. Wired out here in the States. Wired out. There you go. That's another one. Sticky tape. That's another one. Stello tape, he gonna call it. And then of course there's binders, then you got ring binders, spiral binders, and then there's folders like manila folders. So you know Neo in the Matrix he said the problem the problem is choice. Well he was wrong it's not choice the problem is paper right. And that's what he would have said if he was looking at my damn desk at work. So anyhow why do I have so much paper in my office okay and I say my office it's not it's a cubicle and it's in an office building so whatever it's nothing it's I don't have an office I'm not that important okay anyhow so I'm gonna leave home out of this for now but since my office is a mortar of magnitude worse so what I want to talk about is I would love to be able to just say no more pens no more paper it's all electronic but I haven't been able to do that for so long because well there's a whole bunch of problems so we'll talk about that but I want to talk about how tablets, styluses, software, and sync services, like syncing all of that stuff, all the notes and everything, are actually now starting to help me to finally, after all these years, stop using paper at my desk, in like an engineering environment. I actually think this is possible. For the longest time, it hasn't been. So anyway, all right. It would be remiss of me to not talk about a little bit of history about paper because that's like, don't worry, it's not going to go for long, this bit. Because I'm really not that thrilled by the history of paper and I can't imagine too many listeners are, but what the hell, here we go. Okay, so I've talked a little bit about the history of writing on episode 23, which is maximum erasability. Honestly, I don't want to go over too much of that again, but just really quickly though, word paper is actually derived from the Latin version of papyrus and that of course comes from the Greek papyrus which is the word for cypress papyrus, the plant cypress papyrus. And although the word paper is derived from papyrus, the two in terms of materials are actually very very, they're produced completely differently. Papyrus is actually, they laminate the natural plant fibers into sort of like a hash, sort of like a pattern or a strip pattern. And it's it was the preferred paper, sort of paper like material, I guess, that the Egyptians used for writing on, you know, when they weren't doing hieroglyphics and on stone and stuff. And whilst, you know, paper sort of is manufactured from plant fibers, the plant fibers themselves are actually macerated, you know, chopped into a gazillion bits. And, you know, pulped and glued and pressed and so on and so forth, and that changes their characteristics quite significantly. Paper is actually made through a pulping process and that came from China in 2nd century AD. But using wood pulp for making paper didn't actually come about until the mid-1800s. That was when all the mechanizing industrial revolution was happening and it was mechanically, originally it was produced by water-powered machines you know, like water wheels and stuff and then eventually to steam powered machines. But anyway, when when that happened, it was becoming mass produced that made it cheap and covered with the printing press that allowed mass production of newspapers and books and and changed the world and yada, yada, yada and also messed up my desk. So there you go. Now we've been stuck with it ever since. That's when it all started. It's just it all went wrong, man. Well, not really. It went wrong for my desk. We know that much. OK. So, I'm not going to talk about a history of pens. So, totally not doing that. But the stylus is actually kind of interesting. And I say it's interesting because the first known usage of a stylus was actually by the Mesopotamians. Now, when I was doing the research on this, I'm like, wow, that was a little while ago, wasn't it? So, the thing about Mesopotamia is, it's actually was is the site of the earliest developments of the Neolithic Revolution and that was around about 10,000 BC so it well and truly predates paper by just a couple of years because of course styluses were used not for things like drawing on paper they were used for things like pottery and so on so the stylus as it's known as it is today of course from the Electronic Age well that's different but Mesopotamia lots of actually really cool stuff came around that period of time you know things like the wheel and planting cereal crops cursive script slash handwriting I guess mathematics astronomy and agriculture all had a lot of their basis in that region of the world in that period so a stylus as you would see them today actually bears a striking resemblance to those ones that we used way back then. Of course for me personally first stylus I ever laid my hands on was an original Palm Pilot stylus, which is just a solid plastic chunk that looks like a pencil, but ain't. And I know ain't ain't a word, as my English teacher used to tell me. Send a dictionary. Ain't totally ain't. Is it really? No, it can't be. It is. It is. You know what I'm going to do now? They added it. Those bastards, you can't do that. My wife and I have this debate a lot. All right. Oh, my God. I just typed in "ain't" in in pages and I did a force tap on it and it's a force click and it says "ain't". Contraction. "Am not". "Are not". "Is not". Usages. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. That's it. That's it. That's it. They broke it. Damn it, you... I have word angry. OK, good. Word angry. That's totally not a thing. Anyhow. All right. You know what? Thank you for that, Vic. No problem. It's always nice to ruin somebody's day. Ain't our a word. OK, great. Thank you. My first grade teacher is now... Oh, first grade. Geez, what did I just say? My English teacher from grades nine and ten is now really angry, too, probably. OK, good. You can always take my wife's stance on it. I don't care if they added it to a dictionary or not. It's not a word. Stop saying it. Damn straight. See, I like your wife. I like her style. Thank you. I am going to do that. Ain't a word. Alright, so the apple... They just added it for uneducated hicks like you. That's what she says. Whoa. Okay. Well then. Alright. It's a loving jest. Well, I'm glad to hear that. I should clarify that she doesn't really hate me. Well, most of the time she doesn't really. OK, put the shovel away, Vic, you dig in a nice deep hole there for yourself. So let's just keep moving back on topic. And that is that was the first stylus I ever used. And I'm not counting light pens because I use light pens back in the 80s. But that was hilarious. But that's not technically a stylus. So anyhow. All right. The Apple Newton, though, was actually the first mass produced pseudo popular tablet. I say pseudo popular. Some people love their Newtons, but most people didn't. Anyhow, never mind that. So and I always find it fascinating that Steve Jobs canned the Palm Pilot and now we've got a stylus. Anyway, in the Apple Pencil. I think the word you're looking for there is they must have done the iPad Pro wrong. Yeah, they're iPad pro-ing it wrong. OK, anyhow, so the resistive screens, that was the way they used to be done with two layers, they produce an XY position where the two layers meet. But you can't do multi-touch with a resistive screen because it can't figure out which of the two points is touching at the same time. Which is why... - Those screens were horrible. - Yeah, they were horrible. Yeah, I know. And of course, you'd get dead spots in the screens because they get pressed together too many times. They'd wear out the contacts between the screens, you know, and sometimes you'd have areas of the screen you had to push harder on. Yeah, the technology was just terrible. I mean, it kind of worked. It was OK, but it was just so frustrating. So, you know, hallelujah, capacitive screens, they finally figured out how to make them more accurate and cheaper. And and we haven't really looked back. But that requires a stylus that imitates the effect of the human finger, which is, you know, we are essentially a a sink, if you will, for charge, charge sink, if you will. I guess it's kind of hard to explain, but I don't really want to go into too much about how capacitive screens work, but maybe for another show, but not today. So let's just say that they're glorious and move on. Yeah, pretty much. They're glorious except for styluses. For it to have a decent stylus that's capacitive, you either have to have an electrical connection from the tip all the way back into the hand and into the body. And if you got gloves, for example, you got to have conductive gloves that do the same function, you know, but either that or we have to give that up and go with a powered stylus and a powered stylus can, of course, imitate that effect, which is what the Apple Pencil does. Mind you, so do quite a few others. So anyway, all right. Getting ahead of myself. So fundamentally, let's just talk about paper and why paper is attractive, I guess, apart from making origami, which is not something I can't do with my iPad Pro. I mean, I can't, I could try, but I don't think it would unfold well. No, no, no, no, no, not going to do that. So paper is cheap to manufacture. Paper is disposable. You know, you drop your piece of paper. It ain't going to break. Ha! I said ain't again. For the longest time, paper was expensive to copy and clone and reproduce, but not anymore. Photocopy is solved. That one solved. And then that created more paper. Interesting how that works. Paper, however, can be recycled. It's easily transferable, but only locally. And that makes it a good collaboration tool. So, you know, paper, you know, a single sheet of paper will take up less space than a tablet, which is true. But that doesn't seem to be the problem, because once you add about half a ream of paper, then you're well and truly taking up more space than a tablet. Paper, though, the basics can't be searched by an algorithm. So it requires filing and organization in order to reduce your data and information seek time, which is, of course, not really the right terminology to use because it's the human eyes and it's not a disk drive, but whatever. OK. And there's no cloud sync for your paper either. Yes, that's true. There isn't any cloud sync. Hmm. Isn't. Anyhow, different marking implements are required to convey different kinds of information and reduce visual clutter. That's not a problem on a tablet. You don't have to carry, you get one stylus. You don't have to carry multiple colored styluses. Although I suppose for style reasons, you could have two different colored styli. Anyhow, paper cannot convey information without a marking implement. Tablets on the other hand, technically can. Anyway, so the whole thing about the paperless office, right, sort of has been a joke for quite some time. And just before I was born and just after you were born, there was an article published on the 30th of June 1975 in Business Week. That was just after you were born, right? About six months. There you go. A little more than six months. Yeah, I thought so. There you go. See, I pay attention to other people's ages and on the spring check- We're dating ourselves here. We are not. Yes, possibly. Anyway, it's all good. That's fine. Everyone's happy. It's often attributed the expression of the paperless office to this article that was published in Businessweek way back then. The line that's often quoted is, "Some believe that the paperless office is not that far off." Of course, the reality is someone probably said it before that, but we'll never really know because they probably didn't write it down or print it. Who really cares? All my life though, it's been a running gag. Here's the scenario. I'll just do the inverted air quotes there. This is the scenario. So person A walks into the room, points at the desk that's overflowing with paper, and they say something like, "It's a good thing we live in the paperless office of the future," and then they laugh. The persons all surrounding them laugh as well because, um, funny. Anyway, whatever. So, I kind of like- But you're not laughing why they point at your desk, are you? Um, no. No. [laughter] I'm just I'm finding a recycle bin to figure out what I can chuck out at this point but anyway so there's another quote though from Thomas Watson at IBM and the funny thing is it's actually quite a bit of contention over this accuracy of this quote if he actually did say this and the year that he said it anyway so he said IBM dude says I think there is a world market for maybe five computers. Well, that was a pretty dumb thing to say in retrospect. Just five. Just five. That's all that we need in the world. So a lot of people think along the same sorts of comments like, oh, back in 1975, the paperless office, ha ha, joke, joke. Yeah, yeah. We'll never get rid of paper. Right. So I guess it's absolutist and you should never be absolute about anything. But honestly, though, and I do think we need to start a thing that And like an expression like instead of saying, so anyone that makes a really bad prediction about something, we should give them like they, like that guy really pulled a Thomas, you know, something like that, you know, like, because it's just a really dumb prediction to make that you didn't, don't really think through all of that. It's like, you know, you really pulled a Thomas on that one. So like, like, like Steve Ballmer, he pulled a Thomas on the iPhone and Ed Colligan, the palm guy, he pulled it, he pulled a Thomas on the iPhone as well, because they're not just going to walk right in. They're not going to figure it out. And the iPhone will never be a mass market success. So there you go. They really put a Thomas in that one. In fact, we should call it Tom-ass as opposed to Thomas. Anyway. All right. Never mind. I should put that in the urban dictionary. Anyway, never mind that. All right. So maybe we won't get rid of paper entirely. Fine. But like money, like as in cash, it's fading away is the primary form of transacted currency. So it's taking its time about it, but it is happening. So eventually paper is going to fade into the background more and more as time goes on, as more people use tablets and more people use better styluses or styli to take notes. I honestly believe that that is the case. However, it's the sort of thing that I've been keeping a close eye on this for a long time, you know, for as long as I can remember, to see if the right software and the right hardware would come along and let me finally ditch paper. And I think that I'm pretty almost there, if not there. So, in engineering, we convey a lot of information through drawings, diagrams, markups, all that stuff. It's all done by pen, which sucks, but at the same time, it's how we communicate and it's more natural and easier to draw a diagram with some annotations than it is to type out the text equivalent. So, I guess, OK, so we talk about paper, what about electronic notes, though? So, one of the things about electronic notes is that let's do pros and cons. So the pros of electronic notes is that they are fast to copy, they're quick and easy to share with anyone, anywhere in the world. They are absolutely searchable. They take up the same amount of space, no matter how much you store. Well, within reason. OneStylus has infinite colors and thicknesses and pen types, I think I mentioned that before. There's no ink, so there's no smudging. No dripping, No mess. That's always good. Can you tell I've had pens leak on me and I'm still bitter? Yes. Anyhow, fixing mistakes. They don't run out of ink. Well, it was just, you know, it's ruined shirts. That's all I'm saying about that. So ink, whatever. So fixing mistakes is faster and it's cleaner because you can just say, oh, I didn't do that right. I'll just hit erase and do it again. Yeah. But the same has been true of word processors for years. It's just now that styluses and tablets are catching up. So the same can now be true of handwritten notes that are electronic handwritten notes. However, the flip side, the cons are an individual page. So the individual cost per page of a note is far more on a tablet than the cost of a piece of paper and a pen. Or is it? We'll get to that in a minute. In some professions, signed ink originals are required by legislation. You can't get around that until the legislation is updated. and it always lags behind technology. Just refer to Causality in the Titanic, episode four of Causality. If you're not listening to Causality, you should be. Give it a shot. It's on the Engineer Network. It's a great show. Anyway, so... Yes, it is. Thank you. Anyway, the point is that, yeah, the legislation always lags and hopefully someday that will change. Another con, stylus is a lot more fragile than a pen if you drop it. That is unavoidable. $165 $5 or Australian dollars, which is whatever, $99 US for an Apple Pencil versus $5. You know, you drop that and yeah, it's a lot of money. You drop it, you broke it. You haven't broken it yet, have you? No, no, I treat that Apple Pencil better than I treat... OK, here's the million dollar question. Have you intentionally disassembled it yet? No. No. Does taking the nib off count? Because there's a steel bit in the middle. Well, I'll find out. I'll put you some slack on that. Have you actually seen the teardown? The teardown of this thing, they don't want you pulling it apart. It's like the repairability ratio of this thing is essentially it's unrepairable. They had to grind the outside plastic as a line down the side. They literally had to tear it up to open it and to pry it open. This thing is completely unrepairable in every way. No, sirree, it is not. So, yeah, anyway, we'll get to that in a minute. But yeah, no, I have not pulled it apart. No, and I wouldn't even try. But I have at least taken a nib off and said, oh, look, shiny bit in the middle. because I'm me. Anyway, right. So stylus, another con for stylus is styluses are much heavier than a pen. But the active styluses are, that's for sure. Because they've got electronics, they got battery and a few other things. So the thing I mentioned before about cost, well, let's just quickly run some numbers on that. Now, it only makes sense to do this over the lifespan of a product. So let's look at it that way. I've just, you know, I could have gone to Staples, but it doesn't really matter. I've got Officeworks, doesn't really matter. Roughly, you know, 100% recycled carbon neutral A4 paper sheets. OK, pack 500. So that's $5.83 Australian. Doesn't really matter, but call it that number. I particularly like the Uni-ball fine rollerball pens. You can get a 4 pack of them from Officeworks, which is 2 black, 1 blue, 1 red pen for $15.20. Those are the good ones, the ones that tend not to leak, they're the ones that give you a nice fine precise line, they're perfect for marking up engineering drawings. They're not the cheapest pens, but they're still nice. They're also not the most expensive pen in the world either, as someone I'm sure would point out to me. Anyhow, 10 pages I print on an average day, or rather I used to. 5 days a week, 48 weeks a year, that's factoring in 4 weeks of sick leave and holiday leave each year roughly, whatever. So that's about 5 reams of paper, a ream of 500 pages. So that's about $30 a year, if you look at that for your costs. So in that time, I'll go through two sets of pens because I always go through the red and I always go through the blue. So I just get another pack of four and I got a spare black at the end of the year and that's fine so whatever. Actually I gave one away last time. So the total cost each year is about $70 Australian. So if I were to have already had an iPad in my pocket, an iPad Pro in my pocket, the cost of the stylus on top of the iPad is an extra 165 Australian, like I said before, $99 US. That will mean it would take about two and a half years for me to break even. So my stylus has to last me more than two and a half years for it to be cheaper than using the paper and the pens. Now you can say that's a false economy because in the end, the paper is supplied by work. I supply my own pens because the work pens I supply are absolute rubbish. They're Can't stand them. Sorry. They just are. Why is it that people say build... There's a clip of Dilwood that says, "Build a better life by stealing office supplies." And I'm like, "No, don't. The office supplies, they give you a crap. You don't want them. No one wants them. Don't take them." Anyhow, do I... Anyway, whatever. Just don't do it. Just don't do it. Yeah. Resist the urge to take the crappy pen. Just don't do it. Okay. Anyway, so these sorts of, you know, back of the napkin kind of calculations are lovely and all that, but they don't include things like the electricity cost to charge the stylus. It's probably negligible, but still something. And they also don't take into account the shipping costs. So the paper into the building or the disposal or recycling costs when you leave the building. If you shred the paper, how much electricity you use when you shred the paper. I mean, I could go on for a long, long time and try and do a true end to end cost. But let's just say that it's actually not that much more expensive if you take the tablet out of the equation. So if you already have the tablet, then getting an expensive stylus, like an Apple pencil, you know, it's actually not as bad as you might think, provided you stop using the paper and the pens. Anyway. And also, obviously the assumptions I've got on this math is all based on my taste in pens, but in engineering, it's very common for engineers to do this because like I said, You need the fine marking pens, the ink that dries quickly and it doesn't run, doesn't smudge. It has to be very fine and precise because some of the markups we do on these drawings, you know, they need to be as accurate as possible because then they go to the drafter, the drafter does up the changes in the drafting and it needs to be clean. Anyway, so most people just go for a dollar pen from the supermarket or they actually do use the free ones supplied by the company. So, you know, I do understand that, but from a cost comparative point of view, if it was entirely up to you buying your own stuff, paper and pens, then it works out about the same for the lifetime you'd expect out of a stylist, which would be like two or three years. Anyway. All right. So I was thinking to myself as well as I was doing the prep for this episode is, you know, we're already going down this road. This is not a new thing. It's been around for a while and we're seeing it more and more. So how many times have you had a courier deliver a package to you that you've had to sign for? Not as often as I would have liked to have signed for them. They usually just dump them on the porch here and run off. But a few. So much for that theory. Of the times that that has happened, have you ever signed for it electronically? Yeah. OK, see, that's becoming far more common these days when you do sign for stuff and there's a whole bunch of reasons for that. But I also recently had my driver's license renewed because my five years was up and I signed my signature on a touchscreen. Paper memos. Now, they've essentially been replaced by emails. I haven't seen a paper memo in years. Notice boards that used to have stacks and stacks of paper on them with little bits of... You remember on your notice board, you have like an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper or AKA A4 or thereabouts and on the bottom you have a bunch of tear off strips that you have got someone's contact name and phone number. Tyrone: Yep. David: You know, that sort of stuff has been replaced by intranet webpages and wikis and SharePoint and you know like all those, we don't have a notice board anymore. You know, we don't. all intranet. So the move away from paper is already starting to happen in some areas and I think it's going to accelerate. So, okay, in order for a tablet and a stylus to be useful as an engineering tool, for me personally, it needs to solve several problems that I've got. First problem is I have to keep an engineering notebook that stores all of my sketches, handwritten, as well as typed notes in the one place. It has to do that electronically. I have to be able to make accurate markups of PDFs usually without losing resolution. And what I mean by that is that if I take a drawing done in something like AutoCAD and I print it on an A3 page and I then get my red pen and mark it up and then I have to scan that back in again and that loses resolution so then my lines aren't quite as sharp as they used to be and then I send it off to someone else. Then they mark it up, they scan it in, they send it off again. It loses more resolution. After about the 6th or 7th scan, the thing is a blurry blobby mess and it's terrible. So that needs to be something I have to be able to do is do that electronically so there's no loss of resolution. I need to be able to create flowcharts and diagrams quickly and easily as in it cannot be any slower than doing it on a piece of paper for it to solve a problem. Whatever tablet I end up has to be portable enough for me to take with me everywhere I go, especially to meetings. And I have to be able to physically sign documents either in Word or PDFs as accurately as possible. So those are the problems that I have to solve. And the goal, I guess, also to eliminate the other three issues that I encounter every day at work is I have to carry three pens everywhere, a blue, a black and a red. And I keep complaining, they leak. I also complain, well, I didn't complain, but I'm going to complain now that I lose them from time to time. They also run out of ink and well, basically pens suck. So anyway, I currently have to print print a document, write my markups on it and scan it in and as I said before that destroys the resolution and why that's a problem also is that it makes the original document unsearchable so when you produce a PDF, the PDF is actually a collection of marked up text but as soon as you scan it in as an image you can still create it as a PDF but the PDF has an embedded image in it so there's no longer text, you can't search the text anymore. So sometimes you have these hybrid documents where people will sign the front page, the signatory block on the front page. They'll say, you know, "Author John" sign John, okay. Checker, who doesn't actually check it, they just read through it like at a thousand miles an hour and don't even bother reading anything. "Oh, I know, I'll fix your comma and I'll put an Oxford comma in here" or something like that. There, a thumbs up, I've reviewed it. It's like, "How about reviewing the content?" Anyway, never mind that. So yeah, so the front page is scanned, the rest of the page is the original PDF. You know, anyway, so and finally, of course, I'm making notes of my engineering notebook. I need to take that notebook with me everywhere. But the problem is the size is limited. So what I end up with doing is I move from book to book and then I have transitional books because let's say I've got a book that holds six months of my notes in it and then it fills up. I need to get my next book for the next six months. But when I get my new book, if I don't carry the old book with me for at least the first few months, I have no way of referring back to the notes I took the last week or two. Yeah. So I end up in my transitional months carrying two notebooks. So now you're carrying two books. Yeah. And it's so annoying. Anyway, so these are the annoyances I'm trying to solve here. So before I go and talk about the iPad Pro and what I've gone and invested in, I just want to point out it's actually it's not my first tablet. Those of you that have been following me for years will know that but for those that don't I started out with a Palm Pilot that I actually wrote a bunch of software for a Palm Xyia 71, model 71, not the 72 unfortunately but anyway. On the Apple side of things more recently I started out with the original iPad, iPad 1. I've then had an iPad 2, an iPad Air, an iPad Mini, an iPad Mini Retina which I believe was renamed the iPad Mini 2 retrospectively, retro-reactively, anyway, and now an iPad Pro. So, styluses, I've had most recently, I've had a Griffin 2-in-1, which is actually a combination pen and capacitive stylus, which worked well for about six months and then broke and now doesn't work as a stylus anymore. Yeah, it was cheap, it was like 20 bucks. Anyway, that's okay. I think it's pronounced a Donut or Adonit. I don't know, whatever. A Jot Pro and that wasn't too bad as stylists go. Now again, a passive stylus and then an active stylus I got, first one is the Apple Pencil. So going paperless for engineering is mostly about the stylus but having a device that has a decent touchscreen keyboard would be a huge plus. So I'm going to talk about that as well. anyway. So I have to ask the question, have you played with an iPad Pro and or the Apple Pencil at all? I have not played with him yet. Okay, cool. Well, I didn't jump into this without trying them a lot. I actually hung out the Apple Store. Well, let me rephrase this. Careful how I phrase this. I hung out the Apple Store more than usual. There you go. There you go. There you go. And I've been trying not to do that. Yeah, and that's bad. It seemed like my last few trips into the Apple store I left with something. So I... Yeah, yeah, the holes in my wallet were on the floor of the Apple store. But anyhow, so anyway, yeah, so okay, about the iPad Pro, just a few basic things about the styluses first. So I tried styluses before and honestly, I really didn't have much luck. The, when I say luck, I mean they didn't work well. The touchscreen keyboards as well, I didn't really have that much success. So I was very skeptical from the outset, I wanted to know before I put money into this thing that it was actually going to work properly. So I want to be able to take a tablet and a stylus with me and not need a laptop or a notebook or a pen or a pencil. I don't want any of that. I want to just be able to take the tablet and be done. So way back when I had an iPad mini 2, I also had the Griffin and the Adonit at that point and I drew several engineered comic strips and I used some software for doing that. Hang on, let's double check the name of it. I didn't write it down. I used Inkflow Plus was the software that I used and it was good software, but the styluses sucked. You know, the passive styluses, they weren't accurate. They lagged. They didn't always detect the beginning of a stroke accurately. And it was really, really frustrating and difficult. So I tried, you know, and I also tried using my older iPads and styluses at work. And the two big issues that kept coming up were the accuracy of the stylus and the speed therefore for drawing markups and signatures and notes was effectively impossible to do. So I found myself just going back and erasing and trying again before to try and get it right. Like I'd have two or three attempts, sometimes even more, to try and get the markups to be accurate and correct the correct length and all that stuff. There's no pressure sensitivity, none of that. And my signature did not look like my signature. You know, I do signatures again and again and eventually I just give up. I'm like, "This is ridiculous." Because I was signing, my natural signature was too fast. So I have to slow down and that wasn't really my signature. Because once you slow down how fast you sign your signature, you change the dynamic of the signature, the pen weighting and everything. And it just doesn't look anything like it. Now the typing side of things was really slow because on the iPad Air, the iPad 1 and 2 that had, you know, 1 and 2 and 3 had almost the same size screens, but particularly the mini, honestly the keyboard was just too cramped and I mean the on-screen keyboard I'm talking about. Yeah. And on the original iPad, I'll be honest, the typing lag was beyond horrible for most of the time. It wasn't always, but most of the time it was pretty horrible. I could sort of touch type on the touch screen and it just could not keep up. And I realize I'm going back in time to pain that was five years ago, but still, it put me off even bothering. So obviously you can say, well, typing problems on an iPad, you can overcome that by using an external keyboard. So why don't you do that? Well, that's exactly what I did do. I used an external iPad keyboard dock, which with all of the models, for every one of them, time to time I used that. I actually got a 30 pin dock to lightning adapter so that I could use the newer iPads with it as well. And I got an old box of business cards and I used to prop that up behind the iPad to take the weight of the middle to top of the iPad so it didn't break the lightning connector. And that idea worked fine until I tried that with the iPad Pro. It's way too top heavy and just doesn't work. Yeah. Yeah, just too big, I just pushed it a little bit too far. So yeah, whoops. Anyway. And it's one more thing you're carrying now too. Oh yeah, exactly. It was excellent for text entry because the keyboard was exactly the same keyboard as the first generation aluminium Apple keyboards as well as on the MacBook Pro and the MacBook Air that I had for the most part for the last few years. And it was great, but as you pointed out, it's not portable. And you're stuck at your desk. So it's excellent for text entry as a keyboard, but it was only useful at my desk at work and portability for meetings, forget that. On the train, useless. So then I went and tried a clam case and that's a, it was a Bluetooth keyboard in a case with a handle. But the problem was it just wasn't stable enough. And I talked about this on an episode way back with when Mike Hurley was on the show and we're talking about the surface and the surface instability because you can't change the laws of physics, right? Like Scotty said that, so it must be true. Anyway, and yeah, the problem was the Bluetooth keyboard kept disconnecting. Again, I had the same problem with buffering. Yeah, the typing speed was disconcerting. It just didn't work. So, you know, I've written about this, I podcasted about it. Honestly, I gave up on the iPad as an engineering productivity tool, I just gave up on it. It just wasn't working. So the thing is that I did a year of typing at school, at high school, and I got that much ribbing about it. I've talked about it previously on the show, but you know, now I'm a touch typist. Yay, go for me. But in order for that to be a useful skill, the key spacing on the keyboard is critical when you're swapping between devices. So one of the things I love is that all the Apple keyboards have the same keys and the same key spacings, at least their physical keyboards do. Yeah, but the touchscreens don't. So I've tried many times to use touchscreen keyboards for touch typing, but there's always been the two issues. There's no locators for your index fingers. So if you feel your physical keyboard, there should be a notch or a divot or a dint or something or a ripple on the F and the J keys on the physical keyboard. Those are your locator keys for your index fingers. So you can feel where your fingers hands are supposed to be hovering without looking down at your keys. You look at your keys you're going to lose 20-30% of your typing speed. Don't look at your keys, it kills your speed. So anyway, the key sizing and the inter-key spacing however for touch screen keyboards were also just a little bit off although just too small such that you're used to moving your finger a fixed distance to go from J to U or J to Y or F to E or whatever, oh no, don't go F to E, F to R, whatever. The point is that if you change all of those dimensions, you have to relearn how far you're going to move your finger, otherwise you're just hitting the wrong keys and a lot of the keys just won't align. So it just didn't work. So typing on an older, smaller iPad, it was slower, it was inaccurate and it was frustrating as hell. So I end up giving up on that as well. So yeah, anyway. So all the older iPads, it was physically impossible to create a virtual keyboard that matched the same dimensions as a physical keyboard. And interestingly, despite the, well, some people say the novelty or ridiculous size of an iPad Pro, which is 12 points, I forget how many inches, 12 and a bit inches, but it's actually really close to a physical size keyboard, really close. So the key sizes and the spacing for the iPad 1, 2, the mini, the pro, smart keyboard and the Apple wireless keyboard, there's a link in the show notes to the companion article for this episode on tech distortion. So have a look at that if you want a table, I've done a table where I've measured them all. It's in millimeters, sorry. Anyhow, but for the purposes of this discussion about the iPad Pro, a real world physical keyboard made by Apple is 273mm wide and that's from the left hand edge of the caps lock to the right hand edge of the return key. The full width of an iPad Pro screen is only 263mm. Now that missing 10mm had to come from somewhere and where Apple shaved it off is they shaved off the inter-key spacing. I mean that's the obvious choice, right? That's the spacing between the keys. Honestly, it's exactly the same choice I would have made if I was to make that choice. I'd rather the keys are the same size and I just made them slightly closer together and that's what they did. So what does all this add up to? Because this is pragmatic and it's not about aesthetics of the screen, it's how practical it is. So what's the best way to tell how practical it is? And that is a good old-fashioned, well, typing test, speed test. So I used my iPad Pro and I ran a program, I got a program, I got to get with it, I'm not hip, an app from the App Store. There's an app for that. There is an app for that and the one I got was called Tap Typing, there's a link in the show notes if you're interested. So it's just a typing test, so you just get a standard random script from a classic novel that's got a bunch of sentences in it and you just type it in and it measures how many letters you get right and how fast you do it. So it measures how many words per minute and it measures an accuracy percentage. So I did a best of three for each of the keyboard configurations that I tested and I took the best time from each of those three runs. The typing test does not rely on auto correction so letters have to be entered correctly prior to proceeding. So I'll list them in order of the slowest or worst in terms of accuracy to the fastest and best in terms of speed and accuracy. And there is a connection between that. The slowest was the worst and the fastest was the best in terms of speed and accuracy. And that tracks all the way through all the tests that I did. So we're going to start with the worst performance. The worst performance was a touch screen on an iPad mini sized keyboard. So the way I did this is I turned the iPad Pro into portrait mode and which point the keyboard dimensions then almost exactly match that of an iPad Mini's keyboard dimensions. So in that orientation, and I know that's my baseline. Remember, this was the point at which I said, Nope, this sucks. I'm not going to bother. And that's why it's a relevant data point. And that was 39 words per minute at 94% accuracy, which for me, that's just that's terrible. And that's one of the reasons I gave up on it years ago. So iPad Pro with a smart keyboard. That's Apple's fancy smart keyboard, which we'll talk about more in a minute. 63 words per minute at 96% accuracy. Okay, that's a bit more respectable. Now, here's the interesting one. The next fastest wasn't the smart keyboard, fastest smart keyboard was the iPad Pro touchscreen keyboard in landscape mode at 67 words per minute and 97% accuracy. The fastest one, you know, the fastest one is the first generation Apple aluminium physical keyboard, 85 words per minute at 98% accuracy. So 80-90 words per minute, that's what I average these days. And that's fine. It's just that there's no way you can beat the physical keyboard. I think we all know that. That's fine. But that touch keyboard, really not that far behind. And what's interesting is that the smart keyboard, for me at least, I didn't actually get a, I mean, call the number 63 to 67. So I was out by four words a minute and 1% accuracy. I would have expected the smart keyboard being a physical keyboard to have performed better than the touchscreen, but it didn't, at least not for me. So whilst it's true that the occasional need to glance down at my virtual keys when I was typing was call it double touch typing actually because it's touch typing on a touch screen. So I call it double touch typing if you want to. So double touch typing was actually I did hurt my speed by looking at the keys from every now and then to make sure my fingers were in the right spot. And there are slightly different key spacings that also hurt my accuracy. So the thing is though if you measure the dimensions of the smart keyboard, the smart keys are slightly smaller, only by half a millimeter but the key spacing is the same. So it's interesting, I'll have the measurements on the website, have a look, but the smart keyboard itself really wasn't, even though it had locators on the F and J keys, the physical edges of those keys, the material it's made out of is very unusual and I found it made it difficult to feel the edge on the keys, wasn't quite as obvious. Lower profile, different material, very rubbery. Just not the sort of keyboard I'm used to typing on. Now I dare say that with more practice, the smart keyboard would probably be slightly faster than the touchscreen, but it shouldn't be slightly faster. It should be as fast as an actual physical keyboard. So I don't know. I find that interesting. But for me anyway, the touch typing speed, 67 words a minute, that definitely then passes that minimum threshold for usability. So I'm now at a point where, hallelujah, I can use a touchscreen to double touch type. Yes. No keyboard necessary. No external physical keyboard necessary. And that's quite productive. For me at least anyway. So anyway, the conclusion from that, iPad Pro is essentially by far the best and perhaps only iPad that there is that I can actually double touch type on. So that's a big plus. No more external keyboards needed for me. So that's cool. So about the smart keyboard, for those that don't know, it's designed to work only with the iPad Pro. It actually does double duty. It's a cover as well as a keyboard. So the keyboard's built into the cover. It's a passive device and it uses the three small and rather well disguised pins, if you can call them that, circles, on the left hand side of the tablet to connect into the iPad. Now it has several folding configurations depending on whether you want to use it as a keyboard or not or in carrying mode or in covering mode or whatever, propping it up mode whatever you want to call it. But I tell you what mate, I spent a lot of time practicing in the store to get it right. I actually felt really stupid to be honest because it's not obvious. I sat there and I'm like, "Oh maybe this folds behind this and that props against that." I'm trying to get the geometry straight in my head and I'm looking at the ones folded next to me and I'm like, so how did they fold that? What sequence did they do that in? And it's like, oh, not the magnets latched again. OK, stop, undo it, start again. I was... As a cover, it actually wraps around the iPad twice, doesn't it? Not exactly, no. It's... No. I don't know how to describe it, but it folds back on itself, yes, which is bizarre. I mean, once you get your head around it. So it doesn't wrap around one side and then wrap around the other. It folds back on itself. OK. Yeah, yeah, exactly. And it just it feels just bizarre and it doesn't sit flat, obviously, because it's got keyboard built into it. But I guess once you get the hang of how you fold it, I'm sure it becomes second nature. But it was just bizarre to me anyway. But the thing is, though, I tried typing on this keyboard many, many times. I spent half an hour blocks over many days, well not many days, several days anyway, over a few weeks. I did that to make absolutely sure before I put money down on it and I didn't. I decided not to. I really didn't like the key mechanism. But the funny thing is it wasn't the key mechanism that I didn't like as much. I really didn't like the feeling on my fingertips. It felt rubbery. It felt sluggish. I had trouble feeling where the edges were. It was just an annoying feeling. It just it didn't feel right. So for me, you know, those things were basically were deal breakers. I couldn't type as fast as I could on the touch screen. You know, it's like if I'm going to put down that kind of money, it really needs to be a damn good keyboard. And it isn't, you know. So if I want a decent typing experience from an extra physical keyboard, then I'll just get a physical keyboard and take it with me like a proper one. So I guess they had their reasons, right, for making them out of the materials that they did. And there's all sorts of possibilities as to why they did that. I mean, maybe it was a weight reduction thing. Maybe it was to make it thinner. Certainly, the key action was to make it thinner. They used a much smaller travel on the keys to make it thinner. There's no doubt about that. Maybe they use that material because it was a cover on the iPad, need to be more moisture resistant. Whereas normal keys on a keyboard, they don't make them moisture resistant. Yeah. So they're all probably the trade offs that Apple made. But honestly, like I said, it doesn't feel great to the touch, at least not to me. And pressing the keys felt horrible again to me, not what I'm used to. The key sizes weren't quite the same. So for that kind of money, I'm like, no, I'm not going to I'm not going to do that. I'm not going to buy one and I haven't. I didn't get one. So if I didn't have a laptop and the iPad Pro is the only device I had, I could understand buying a physical keyboard to use with it, but I'm not in that position. But having a big screen does need some kind of protection. So, you know, you've got to protect the screen somehow. So if you don't buy the smart keyboard, what do you do? Well, you just buy the smart cover and that's what I did. So I had a smart cover on my iPad mini for years and it was great. I loved it because you can just pull it off when you don't want it. makes the iPad lighter and it covers the screen quite nicely and it protects the screen from being cracked when not in use which is great. And you can use it to prop it up as well. So it got me thinking, if I really did want a nice new wireless keyboard for my iPad Pro, would it actually be a better option to go with a smart cover and the new Apple wireless keyboard? So I crunched the numbers. It actually works out $11 US, $15 Australian cheaper to do it that way than to get the smart keyboard. Of course, the downside is that it's going to be slightly heavier, but it's not that much heavier, 56 grams heavier, which is just under two ounces heavier. And of course, you would take the Bluetooth keyboard with you only when you expect to do a lot of typing, which would not be all the time. Of course, the flip side of that is people say, "Oh, but the smart cover's always with you, so if the urge to type strikes you in the the moment, you'll have it there with you. And it's like, that's true. But then the touch screen is a perfectly passable keyboard. So why would you do that? And I'm now going to take one of Tim Cook's expressions and turn it back on him, which is the smart keyboard to me just makes the iPad a more confusing product than it needs to be. So there you go. Anyway, that's what I think about smart keyboard. Okay, the pencil. I've always dreamed of having a responsive and accurate stylus, and I had not found one until I tried this one. Mind you, I haven't tried every stylus in all of existence. I have used a Bamboo Wacom tablet many moons ago, and I've used all sorts of other styluses I've already listed previously. But the Apple Pencil, I can say from my own personal experience, you know, is the best, most accurate styles I have ever used. It is almost as good as writing with a real pen. And, you know, it's pretty incredible. So I did the whole slow motion thing because, well, again, I'm me. And yes, you know, it's obvious that there is some lag. Of course, there is. And some apps haven't been fully updated to utilize the Apple Pencils APIs properly. And they're obviously not as they don't perform as well. but the ones that have been updated to include the Apple Pencil are fantastic. So what's the competition? Let's think about it. You're competing against, let's just go with a nice cheap boring old ballpoint pen, a Paper Mate Inkjoy. And why? Because that was the one I had handy when I had the scales. It weighs 7 grams. The Apple Pencil weighs 20.5 grams, but interestingly my passive stylus, the Adonit, the JotPro, it actually weighed the most at 23 grams, despite the fact that it's shorter and about the same thickness. But you can argue all sorts of things like, "Oh, it's not a fair fight because the Apple Pencil is an active device. It's got a battery. The Adonit doesn't, but the Adonit has a metal case and that makes it heavier. Like the whole thing is metal." But the thing I noticed the most about the Apple Pencil, though, when I feel it in my hand, I use it for writing, is that it's weight distribution. So it feels heavier and it's longer. So it's that turning moment problem and it just feels that heavier to your wrist. Despite the fact it's lighter than the Adonit, it feels heavier because of the weight distribution. So anyway, sometimes what I do with pens when I'm using them for a long period of time is I'll take the lid off. So you know when you take the lid off a pen, you often just put it on the end of the pen when you're not using it. Oh, sorry, when you're using the pen, right? So what I'll do is I'll sometimes take the lid off the pen because I don't like having the pen that long because it then makes the pen feel heavier for the same reason. So to make the pen lighter, I'll often take the lid off or not put the lid on at all. And that reduces the overall length when I'm writing for longer periods of time. Because doing that affects the pressure that you write with as well. And it's a fatigue thing. The plug cap, whatever you want to call it on the end of the Apple pencil that hides the lightning charger, it doesn't make much of a difference to the weight or the length of the device. So it makes no difference. And okay, I know that's completely the nitpickiest nitpick of all nitpicks, but still. Still you know, but I don't like a hefty pen. I just don't. And it just feels unnecessary, it adds no value, it just sucks. I know that they've added steel to it and that weights it to stop it from rolling around. Okay, that's a handy feature. Mind you, it says a pocket clip, never mind that. And for the magnets, they also put the steel in there for the magnets, so it would attach to the iPad, I guess. Maybe they did, maybe they didn't. That's less clear, but I'm assuming that's why they did that. So I found using it for long periods of time, it ties my hand out more than a pen would, that's understandable given the additional weight, but I can't do anything about that. I'll get used to that, of course. But then, you know, I think back to the days when I was at uni and I was writing six pages of text notes during a two-hour lecture. That was 20 years ago, and my hand didn't cramp. Mind you, go down half a page of this thing and my hand starts cramping. Well, insert old man comment here. Anyway, never mind. Okay, so toughen up, princess. Whatever. That's me telling me that to myself. I'm not a princess. Okay. So I want to wrap up on the hardware now between the iPad Pro and the stylus. So, but basically I've owned and I've used pretty much all the iPad form factors and I can pretty well safely say that the size extremes have very clear use cases and the mid-size model is sort of a bit of both. So the mini I would say is great for single-handed use and reading books, novels, if you like. The iPad Pro is pretty much for two-handed use only. You know, using it one hand, no, I can use it with one hand and I prop the short or the long side against my stomach or my hip sometimes, taking notes, or I prop it on my arm underneath. So the entire diagonal of my arm. So I have one corner propped in the crook of my arm and my fingers around the other corner and I hold it like that when I take notes with my other hand. Or of course, I'm resting. Yeah, exactly like a clipboard. Yes. But it's also great for reading newspapers. It's so nice for reading newspapers and comics. Not that I'm a big comic reader, but OK, maybe I tried it. Maybe I didn't. I'm not confessing anything. OK, the Air, the iPad Air is a bit of both, and it balances portability with both of those two extremes. So clearly now it's a much better spread in the product line, but I can see that the use cases for both. So, and there is something magical about being able to touch the screen and seeing things respond directly to your touch. And yeah, well I used my first light pen in the late eighties and I was impressed, but it's nothing at all like this. And I worry that people get a bit blase about it, you know, because the ubiquity or near ubiquity of smartphones these days, touchscreens. It's just people like, "Oh yeah, it's got a touchscreen. Big deal. It's just a bigger touchscreen. Big deal." But the fact remains... It's old news now. Yeah, people get blasé because it is a bit like old news. And the fact remains that how immersed you feel in what you're interacting with with a touchscreen device, it draws you in the larger the screen is. Because the screen is light, it just draws you in more. So it's more immersive. It's more engaging. There's simply no other way to describe it. It is. So anyway, I use my laptop on the train a few hours each week, each workday, but primarily it's at my desk. I use my iPad on the couch or in a comfy chair. I use it for reading Twitter, the newspaper, Instapaper, RSS feeds, surfing the net. The iPad Pro for me has been the best iPad for all of those tasks. The only one where it's fallen down is reading books and novels. And frankly, I don't read enough much of those anymore. According to my wife, I don't read enough. So, you know, anyway, how I read it's just engineering stuff. That's all anyway. All right So now I'm using my iPad for all of my handwritten notes at home and at work I have made it my mission to not pick up a pen at all and Just today I had to sign something in ink It was the first time in three weeks and it took me Five minutes to find my damn pen because I'd forgotten where I put it Did you curse and grumble at the people that made you do it? I absolutely did. I actually did. I'm like, God, why are you making me use my pen? And they looked at me funny. And I'm like, I just realized how crazy that sounded. Never mind. I just need to find my pen. Yeah, you can use our pen. No, I have to use my pen. Anyway, you can imagine that conversation. I've had some of those conversations myself. Well, there you go. So anyway, I thought I would miss one handed operation of the Mini, but ultimately I just propped the Pro up on my leg or my knee or used it as a clipboard and it's comfortable enough and it's not as much of an issue as I thought it would be. And over the Christmas break I was lucky to spend a few hours pretty much sitting in that position on the couch, kicking back and it was fantastic. And watching video and audio playback on the iPad Pro is actually really impressive. bass reproduction, stereo on it, the sound is really, really nice and it can, the volume is great, it can fill a small room, no problem. Yeah, I hear they did some great work with the audio on it. Oh yeah, the audio is quite impressive. It's it is quite impressive. It's far better than the MacBook Pro and it's just, it's better than any other iPad or iPhone by a significant margin. Anyway, now for other reasons I've been avoiding using my iPad in bed, my old iPad for a few months because I've been trying to avoid the whole artificial light thing before bed, you know? Yeah. Yeah, which is bad for getting into sleep and so on. So that hasn't been an issue. For the longest time I did, but I don't do that anymore. So that actually hasn't turned out to be an issue. So in short, one handed operation of the iPad is no longer an issue for me. Obviously your mileage may vary, you know? Okay. And as I said, I've only ever used the pen once in a month, pretty much an actual physical pen. And that's only because someone else made me. Those bastards. Okay. I've only ever printed out pages for other people, not for myself. And no additional paper has been landed on my desk by my own hand. Unfortunately, I can't stop other people from putting their paper on my desk and they still do it. So I go, "I left this note on your desk to have a look at and these drawings to have a review." Couldn't you just email it to me? I'll mark it up on my iPad. Oh, but, but it's here on the paper. I don't want your paper. Your paper is no good here. Anyway, whatever. So I didn't put any on my own desk by my own hand. So that's the best I can do. I don't think they have your iPad to go with it. So you know what? No, but they don't. All I got to do is email me the PDF. I can mark it up. Right? I can email it back to them. They don't need to give me a hard copy anymore. Anyway, it's fine. I'm not at the point where I'm going to put a sign on my desk yet that says this is desk is a paper-free zone, but it's coming. Anyhow, all right. So finally is the software equation. And this is the piece that glues it all together. The iPad Pro and the Apple Pencil doesn't matter if you're using a Surface Pro, using the Surface Pen, doesn't matter, no matter what you've got in terms of hardware, as amazing products as they may be, they are no good. are useless without software that supports their features. So Apple of course knew this, so Apple had the Notes app. They gave it a big upgrade knowing this was coming. And the Notes app on the iPad itself, it's been optimized for the pencil obviously because Apple knew it was coming and it shows. It's got excellent pressure sensitivity, the tilt support's really good and you'll see some of the cleanest lines and the best palm rejection you can imagine. really, really good. But there's one huge drawback. There's no handwriting, there's no handwriting recognition, there's no OCR, optical character recognition, there's no searchability. So OCR is becoming very common. And honestly, it's supported in OneNote, Microsoft leveraging their decades of experience with pen support. And OCR, they brought that to OneNote across all their platforms, I believe, including iOS. Now, Apple don't have a native solution for that on iOS. They don't have pen support on iOS, not really. So whilst I recognize that typing is always going to be faster than handwriting, in engineering, I still spend a lot of time making handwritten notes because it's just that's the way it's done. That's why I've always done it. That's how I work. So drawing diagrams, the reason I have text in them is because that's what I do. So being able to search handwritten text, that would be a dream come true, right? OCR it or some other method, that would be a dream come true. Now, the problem is in my office where I work, access to the servers, the Microsoft servers are firewalled, right? I have to tether to get external access to my OneDrive for OneNote to synchronize and Microsoft actually do their OCR not on the device, they do it on the server side. They send it off. Yeah. So they crunch in the background and they feed the results back to the document as text when they're done. So then you can search and it's like an underlay under the document, if you'd like, or a separate layer. Think of it that way. Now, they suggest that it takes five minutes for that to happen. But I've waited hours before I've had that back. And it's like before it was searchable. I'm like, really? That's when I did have connectivity and I don't when I'm at work. So it was no good. you know, and what I needed is a method that was, you know, able to work locally. But on the plus side, it was genuine OCR, which means any image, no matter what it was, whether I drew it or not with my own handwriting or my own sketching, any image I would put in there would be OCR and would have a response anyway. But the downside is, you know, server side, so it's no good to me. So, okay, so with notes, it was all going really, really well for the first week or two, but it then started to look a lot like my real world notes and my real world notes had a big problem that they were unsearchable and they were poorly indexed because I'm disorganized and just terrible. You know, so instead of flipping pages in my notebook looking for my notes, I was going through notes documents looking for my notes because I couldn't search them. On the plus side, I could look at them wherever I was because the notes synchronized to my phone, they synchronized to my Mac, so I could take notes on the iPad and then I could look at them in the other tool. So that was at least one of my criteria was met. That's great, but I couldn't search them. So I did a lot of researching over a few, well, about a week or two, and I found a program that I am blown away by for that key feature. And it's a software is called GoodNotes 4. Have you ever heard of GoodNotes? - I have not. - See, I hadn't either. And then I had a look at it and I saw some of the reviews and some of the how-to's on the website. And I'm like, I'm skeptical, call me skeptical, but I'm gonna give this a go. Now, it's not particularly special in so far as what it can do. like you can create categories for your workbooks. You know, so you got it started uncategorized and trash. I just added work and home and went with that. You can create a notebook. You can give it different covers if you want. There's lots of options, colors and patterns and everything. But me being me, a cover is a cover and it's a virtual cover and I don't care. So I just went with the default color, default cover, which was simple blue. Boring, but it's fine. It works. It's a cover. Who cares? The first page, when you create it, gives you options for different paper sizes, so you can customize that based on where you live. In my case, I used A4 because it's the standard because I live in Australia and A4 is the standard. If you're in North America, it'll be probably 8.5 x 11 or 11 x 17 if you want to go to a larger size, whatever. Anyway, so you have all sorts of different options for paper types, so you can get pre-ruled or graph style paper if you want. So it'll just give you a nice blank template for you to draw on, it'll be whichever pattern you like. custom template if you want to, not that I'm going to, but you could. Anyway, so I use narrow ruled, which is when I'm going to write a lot of words, or I use narrow and quad ruled, which is basically ruled in the X and the Y axes, which is otherwise known as graph paper. And I'd use that for sketching diagrams or just plain paper for freehand sketching. Of course, it's not real paper, it's fake paper, virtual paper, if you'd like. Anyway. So anyway, you cannot turn it into origami and do not try. Anyhow, so swiping between the pages, two-finger slide left or right, pinch to zoom works like you would expect it to. It's pretty basic, you know, you got a stylus, you can use it as a pen, a highlighter or an eraser. It's also got a nice little lasso tool for selecting areas of your notes and you can cut, copy, paste or resize them. Quick Flow has the same tool and I loved that which is really good. Anyway, the other thing is you can just tap those once they've been selected like as a pen or a highlighter and then you can choose the color or the line thickness and all that stuff. It's all pretty standard, you know, color palettes and all that other jazz. Nothing too special there, it does the job. There's a shape recognition function as well so if you draw a square, like freehand, it tries to turn it into nice straight lines for you. I found it was kind of mostly passable, but there's another bit of software I'm also trialing which I'll talk about another day called Graphio and it does a much better job in terms of shape recognition and frankly so does OneNote actually. OneNote has pretty decent shape recognition as well. It identified pentagons and octagons which was really good and even adjusted the side width so that they're all equal length which is really cool. So anyway, but unfortunately, no, good notes is not quite as good for that, but that's okay. It's not a deal breaker. A synchronizing options, obviously via iCloud, that works fine. I tested that extensively between the 6S Plus, the iPad Pro, and the MacBook Pro, but it also includes import and export options for Google Drive, OneDrive, Box, and Dropbox being the key one. And you can also use Dropbox for automatic backups. Every time you finish writing a couple of things and you pause for like five or 10 seconds, it'll just upload a copy to Dropbox for safekeeping as an automatic backup if you don't trust iCloud, which is awesome because you can then open that in the desktop app and so on and so forth. So yeah, you can also import stuff from iCloud Drive, different sources like photos or the camera directly if you want, like you can take a photo to start marking it up, which is cool. But all of that's all like, you know, okay, there's plenty of apps that do that. That's not what hooked me. That's not what impressed me and not why I bought it. It's the live offline text searching of your handwriting. That is awesome. So imagine this. I'm going to write the word Hudson, well, Vic Hudson, and I'm going to write that down right now. I'm then going to go to the top right corner. There's a little ellipsis. You click, tap on that and go search. I'm going to type in Hudson and it automatically finds that text, highlights it in yellow and takes you to that page where it sees the word Hudson. That's pretty cool. And to prove that it works offline, I killed the wifi. I wrote something, searched for it, searched for the text I've just written, and it found it. So it does the analysis on the device and it does it pretty much in real time. So as soon as you write it, you search for it, you find it. Just amazing. It just absolutely melted my brain that it was actually, it was good enough to do that. Now it's not OCR, okay? It doesn't run it through a post process. It tracks your strokes as you write the words. As you sketch things. Which means that that created a problem. Because all of the last two weeks of Notes before I started using GoodNotes for, they were all in Notes. Like, sorry, the Notes app. The Apple Notes app. Now, as far as I know, there is no standard for like line thickness, line pressure, like stylus pressure. I can't export something in a common format between notes that good notes can import. It has to export it as an image. You know what I mean? I can't extract how much pressure was I at this point, how fast... order for it to look the same everywhere. Exactly. So there is no standard that I'm aware of. If I'm wrong, someone feel free to correct me, but I'm reasonably sure there is no standard or agreed standard. I think it's just very much like WordPerfect versus Word versus OpenOffice. Somebody will have to make a markup protocol for it. And I'm sure they will in time. And then you'll have to get everybody to agree to play with it. and not try and lock you in with their own proprietary thing because they just want you to use theirs. Yeah, exactly. So anyway, so unfortunately what I've done and people are going to probably think, John, you're so crazy and here's the thing, right? Maybe I am, but hey, searching my own handwritten text is such a unbelievably awesome feature. I am prepared to put myself through this. Here's what I've done. What do you think I've done? There's no talent. How well do you know me, Vic? Come on. What I did... Pretty well. I'm sure you went to extremes that most people would not. Yep. That is probably accurate. I did, I exported all of my notes as images onto the camera roll and then imported them as static images and then I traced over them with the Apple pencil, letter for letter, line for line over the top and then deleted the image out. I deleted the image out from underneath. How long did that take? Next question. The effort is not necessarily the point. It's now the fact that I've gone even further. You think this is bad? I've gone further. I have actually gone and taken my last six months of my engineering notebook. Why? Because of the same problem I said about half an hour ago. I'm transitioning between notebooks. I don't want to carry the other notebook. I don't want to carry the other notebook with me. So what am I going to do? Well, I've taken a photo of all 50 pages. And I am tracing them through in my spare time. So basically what I'm hearing is there's no cost too great to make a clean break. Quite possibly, yes. Am I crazy? Probably. Because the bottom line is, of course, that there is no standard. If I export from GoodNotes 4, it'll end up as a PDF or an image. Right. So any handwriting recognition that I'm getting, any handwriting search that I'm getting is going to be stuck with this app. My hope is that in two years time, three years time, if more apps come out that support this, that are better than GoodNotes 4, may happen, may not happen, doesn't matter. You know, I will have to cross that bridge when I get to it, but I don't think I would be so brave or stupid. And you can transcode it all again. Man, two and a half years worth of notes. I think that would be just pushing it. So anyhow, yeah, so that's what I've done. And you know what? It's great because now I can search notes from six months ago and it works. It works really well. I've only used US English, of course, handwriting recognition. So I can't speak for the other languages, I can't comment. I've tried to trip it up by putting underlines, you know, like you'll say, you're like using the letter Y or G because they've got the little dip underneath each of the letters. Well, sometimes I'll write, you know, like frustratingly or something like that. And I'll put a like draw an underline underneath that and that'll put a line through the bottom of the G. And I thought, oh, let's try and trip it up. I'll do two or three strokes underneath it, like a squiggle or something like that to try and trip it up. But no, it figured it out and it got it right. So it doesn't do so well with cursive but it does fine with printing and I print my writing anyway. So, and now you may think that this thing is amazing but you know what? It looks like a really nice app. I'm looking at the app store listing for it. Yeah, there's a link in the show notes. They're not a sponsor but they should be. So yeah, good notes authors, please get in touch. Anyhow, point is it's not perfect. So here's what's not so good about it. how they got you. There's an engine diagram in the screenshots. Yeah, something like that. All right. So, palm rejection. Now, I'm still messing with the settings because it gives you some settings, but it's a little bit twitchy. I hear that's the real absolute magic in this device. Yeah. The problem is that I suspect it's an integration problem with the APIs they use for the Apple Pencil. So I suspect that it will get better with time as more and more apps and GoodNotes 4 gets better at integrating with the Apple Pencil functionality because it's only really been around as a device to be used for a couple of months, right? It's not a new, it's relatively new. So as the developers spend more hands-on, literally time with it, then they'll get better at it. But for me at the moment, the annoyance is that it gets it wrong probably once every 20 minutes or so of writing and it will kick me out of the app into the app switcher. And when it does so, most of the time it will then draw a big line, go vroop across the screen across whatever I've been writing on. And then I'll see that when I jump back to the app, I'll just see this dirty great big line across the app. I'll just hit undo, gets rid of that line and I'm all good to keep going. Anyway, there's several sensitivities and a hand angle adjustment. I've been playing with those to try and improve it and it's getting better, but I yeah, it needs more work. There's no question about that. I'm sure it'll improve with time. So broken lines is another one that annoys me. It bugs me from time to time. It's only a couple of pixels, two or three pixels here and there, and it's just a visual annoyance if you zoom in. So you're trying to draw like right, just the letter T or J or something. And yeah, it's just a visual annoyance if you zoom in too closely. That's all not the end of the world, but does it happen a lot? Not that much, but it's enough to be annoying. It's the sort of thing that I wrote in the Notes app for two weeks and it never did it. So I think again it's an integration issue with Apple Pencil. I mean it says it supports Apple Pencil, but as you know, it's not just that simple. There's more to it. And Apple had a head start with working with the APIs and updating their app for it. So it's an unfair. It's an unfair judgment insofar as like I said, new hardware, new APIs. And I'm sure good notes will improve with time with Apple Pencil integration. I'm sure they will. OK, here's my biggest bugbear about this app. I love the handwriting search, can you tell? But it's restricted to the currently open workbook. So if I've got a workbook, open notebook, workbook, what I'm going to call it, I can search within it. But if I create 10 workbooks, I can't search through all of them. I can only search through the one that's open. That's a bummer. Which sucks. Right. What about the new series searching? Have they integrated that at all? No. So you can't do that. You can't, you know, but again, that's as far as I can tell, that should just be a function of time. Like the search algorithm, I imagine they can make it broader. It's just a matter of open this scan for this, close it. It's just a matter of time, I'm sure. So it may well be an architectural thing with the way they've architected the app and how the memory is allocated and how it does the recognition. I don't know, but it seems like that's a solvable problem. So I have my hopes that they will solve that at some point. Until then, I can just copy and paste all my handwritten notes into a working file and just archive them after 6 months, you know, but always have a honking great big document I can search. It's not the end of the world, it's not ideal, but you know, hey, it'll work. Alright, so another downside I've said it before, I'll say it again, handwriting search in this is not OCR, not the traditional parlance anyway. And it doesn't seem like it's a showstopper until you try and import notes from the other app, like I said. So, you know, it's a shame, but that's okay. You know, I'd rather we had both, but I suspect that there's plenty of good reasons why not. So it's not ideal, but that's okay. It's not the end of the world. Now the other gripe that I've got, honestly, is a minor one about the desktop app. Now the desktop app has actually only been out for two months. It's only very new and it's very feature light compared to the iOS app. So the desktop app you should think of it as an iCloud viewer because it doesn't view from the other repositories, it doesn't let you edit anything, you can just view it. So for the moment that's fine because I do all of my note taking on the iPad anyway. It's a viewer, an iCloud viewer. So my common use case is I'll be at a meeting, I'll make a bunch of notes, I'll go back to my desk. In that time it took me to walk from the meeting to my desk. It's already synchronized back to my MacBook. I can bring it up in my MacBook and I can have that open in one window and I can use that as reference. So it's fine, it works. But still it would be nice to be able to tweak a few things on the desktop as well. But never mind. I'm sure that's coming as well, early days. All right. So ultimately, by the way, that app, it's $7.99 US, which is $12.99 Australian, each for the iOS and the Mac versions, and they're each available through the respective Mac app stores. So basically, now I'm at the point where I am able to search my handwritten notes for the first time in my life. This is something I've never been able to do before. So to me, that is transformative because I take so many handwritten notes. So it's just blown me away. It's changing how I work. And I've seen so many people say about how amazing it is for like drawing pictures and so on and artwork and stuff. But no one's talking about it from an engineering point of view and from a more of an office-based culture point of view. You know what I mean? It's like, to me, it's just blown me away. I got the iPad, I got the iPad pro and the pencil on one condition. The one I got it, I had the two month over Christmas period that I could return it for a full refund. If I was not, if I couldn't find a place for it in my workflow, in my job, Then it was just an extravagance. But if it was going to make my life easier, then I was going to keep it. And it has. Well and truly, it has. It has, mate. And now they might have to pry it from your cold, dead hands. Let's not go that far. But something like that. Yeah. I've been blown away, impressed, truly impressed, and I can feel it. We are so close to reaching that point of being paperless. But of course, what's it going to take? Well, obviously, the Apple Pencil cannot continue to cost that amount of money. And obviously, the iPad Pro can't continue to cost that amount of money. So, you know, but ultimately, we are closer than we've ever been to being able to go paperless. And me personally, I'm at the point where I'm going to continue to try and stay away from paper. I will actively avoid it to the point at which I had trouble finding my pen this morning. Seriously. No, it's fine. That's exactly what I wanted to know. And the fact that I had trouble finding my pen says it all, it's working. And maybe someday, not too far in the not too distant future, maybe we can actually get to a paperless office. technology and software like this is going to help me to get there, which is fantastic. And that's it. Many parting comments, thoughts? I look forward to, I really hope that they add future, in the future, I hope they add support for the Pencil to the other iPads, because I'm really curious to play with that, but I don't have a whole lot of interest in the ginormous iPad Pro size. Yeah, I said that initially as well. Yeah, I don't have anything against the device, and I'm really happy that a lot of people are enjoying it and using it. I just I don't have a use for that particular size class. Yeah, I hear you, mate, I do. And that was my initial reaction as well. But once I used it and realized that it wasn't actually that big a compromise for me, it to me, it only just then it came back to usefulness at work. And the ultimately was the cost. Was there a benefit? Because if there's no cost benefit, why have it? You know, yeah, to me anyway, that's the point. But then this is pragmatic. Of course, I'm going to say that. So, yeah, and I'm sure it will. I'm sure that the iPad mini and the iPad Air in the next 12 months or so will support the Apple Pencil. I have very little doubt about that. Yeah, I'd say there's probably I don't know if they'll do it or not, but there's probably a large contingency of people that would like to use it, even with the phones too. Yeah, that's true. I'm not so sure that they'll do it with the regular 6 size. It would probably be a challenge, but I've got the 6s plus and I could probably see myself wanting to use it sometimes on that. Well, I'm not so sure that they will because you know, it does. It's a bit odd. I've written on a stylus on an iPhone before like with the Adonit and it just doesn't work. It's just ugh. Yeah. No, I wouldn't expect the use case for that to be anywhere near as heavy as what it would be for the iPads. But like one of your examples, when you just need to sign something and send it back, I can see people wanting to do that a lot of times on the phone. Absolutely. And I mean, I've actually tried PDF pen, which works great. I've also tried GoodNotes for, also for marking up PDFs. And I've also marked them up in a couple of other apps as well. But the point is that, yeah, it works fine. So ultimately, yeah. I can feel it, man. We're so close to paperless. If you want to talk more about this, you can reach me on Twitter @JohnChichy or you can follow up @PragmaticShow to specifically see show announcements and other related stuff. Now remember that Pragmatic is now part of the Engineered Network and it also has an account at engineered_net that has announcements about the network and all of its shows and you can check them all out at today. People are really loving Causality as well as Pragmatic so if you like Pragmatic you should probably have a listen and check it out. If you'd like to get in touch with Vic what's the best way to get in touch with you mate? Ah they can find me on the twitters @vighudson1. Excellent. If you'd like to send any feedback about the show or the network, please use the feedback form on and that's where you'll also find the show notes for this episode. If you're enjoying Pragmatic and you want to support the show, the best way is by becoming a patron via Patreon. It's at or one word. So if you'd like to contribute something, anything at all, it's very much appreciated. There are a few perks in there like access to the raw show notes and show backers will have a name thanks at the end of each episode as well. So check it out. It all helps. If we reach our first funding goal, then Causality will go entirely ad free, but that is up to you. Thank you everyone for listening. And as always, thank you, Vic. Thank you for having me, John. [MUSIC PLAYING] (upbeat music) [MUSIC] (upbeat music) (upbeat music) (upbeat music) (upbeat music) (upbeat music) (upbeat music) (upbeat music) (upbeat music) [MUSIC PLAYING] [MUSIC PLAYING] Thanks for coming back. Oh it's no problem. The Vic attack. He's back. That was just so cheesy. I cannot possibly leave that in, but I'm going to leave it in. No, I was going to request an edit. Oh man.
Duration 1 hour, 31 minutes and 3 seconds Direct Download

Show Notes

Related Articles:

Related Episodes:

Miscellaneous Links:

Premium supporters have access to high-quality, early released episodes with a full back-catalogues of previous episodes


Vic Hudson

Vic Hudson

Vic is the host of the App Story Podcast and is the developer behind Money Pilot for iOS.

John Chidgey

John Chidgey

John is an Electrical, Instrumentation and Control Systems Engineer, software developer, podcaster, vocal actor and runs TechDistortion and the Engineered Network. John is a Chartered Professional Engineer in both Electrical Engineering and Information, Telecommunications and Electronics Engineering (ITEE) and a semi-regular conference speaker.

John has produced and appeared on many podcasts including Pragmatic and Causality and is available for hire for Vocal Acting or advertising. He has experience and interest in HMI Design, Alarm Management, Cyber-security and Root Cause Analysis.

Described as the David Attenborough of disasters, and a Dreamy Narrator with Great Pipes by the Podfather Adam Curry.

You can find him on the Fediverse and on Twitter.