The best ideas are famously (stereotypically, perhaps) captured on the back of a napkin. That’s the thing that’s been closest to hand at a zillion restaurant or coffee shop tables when great minds have got together and come up with something new.
Ink is a new, free digital napkin for the modern era. It’s also an exercise in minimalism, designed to replicate that napkin and the pencil you’d scribble on it with and nothing more.
Ink shows you nothing but a blank page – just like a blank napkin. Down in the bottom right corner there’s a single button that has two functions. We’ll come to those in a moment.
Let’s stop to consider the things that aren’t there. There’s no choice of pen – not brush size, color or stroke. There’s just a single pen that works just fine for rough sketching, using a dark shade of grey. It’s like the stroke of a soft pencil.
There’s no choice of paper type. No graph paper or lined paper, no diary template or empty todo list with checkboxes. Just white space to draw on.
So all the choices that you usually get with sketching software are taken away. You have no choice but to draw. That’s why the comparison with a coffee shop napkin is so apt – when you reach for the napkin to sketch something, you reach for it because you have no other paper to hand, you already have no choices. You use what’s available.
The same thing happens here, inside this app. You’re provided with the minimum, with just the essentials you need to get your idea down. A pen, and some paper. That’s it.
But it’s software. There have to be some controls. And there are, hidden behind the on-screen button.
The button’s first function is lovely, and beautifully designed: swipe it upwards and your sketch disappears from sight, automatically saved to the Camera Roll in the background while you start thinking about your next sketch.
Tap the button twice and you call up a simple actions menu, including a clear button to empty the screen and start over.
Ink is great for artistic sketching or for scribbling down an idea for a thing, directions to a place, something like that. It doesn’t work so well for text or notes. If you like to discreetly draw people while you’re out and about, it’s almost perfect.
This is a really lovely free app, and I can’t think of much that could improve it, except perhaps the addition of a single feature: undo. I’m not the most talented of artists so I often draw something I wish I could remove. I know it’s not the same as drawing on a napkin, but I’d love to be able to shake the device to undo the last stroke, or tap an icon in the actions menu to do the same thing.