Paper For iPad: The Notebook That’s Like A Real Notebook [Review]


Notebooks in Paper work just like real notebooks
Notebooks in Paper work just like real notebooks

New on the App Store is Paper for iPad, made by the team at 53. It’s a gorgeous, simple digital notebook that deliberately ditches features in a bid to keep things simple.

The result is something that’s unusually elegant, and a delight to use.

From the notebooks overview mode, tap to enter a notebook. From here you can flick through its pages – a lovely feature that instantly makes the app feel closer to its analog real-world equivalent. You can even share pages from here, without having to expand them further.

Tap or pinch outwards to open edit mode. Your notebook page lies before you, ready for your thoughts. The tools are deliberately minimal: five different drawing implements, one eraser, and a small selection of (well chosen) colors.

Art was not my strong subject at school

By default, with the free download, you only get one drawing tool, simply called Draw. It’s fine for simple note-taking and drawing, but if you want more freedom, you’ll have to pay in-app for the other tools: Sketch (pencil-like), Outline (marker-pen), Write (thinner strokes for text), and Color (a watercolor paintbox).

Each of these costs two bucks as an in-app purchase, or you can buy all of them at once for eight dollars (no saving for the bulk buy; just convenience). It’s helpful to offer the upgrade this way – you can pick and choose the tools you think will be most useful.

You get options, but not lots of them

As with a lot of simple products, that means there are some features that didn’t get included.

There’s no zoom: a double page is the size of your iPad screen, and no larger. There’s also only plain blank paper on offer, no lined paper, graph paper, music sheets, or anything else. It’s landscape view all the way: tip your iPad into portrait orientation and the Paper UI won’t tip with it (although you can still draw just as easily this way).

Different people will have different opinions about these limitations. I’d like to see some additional paper types on offer, but the lack of zoom doesn’t bother me. Your view will depend on how you typically use a paper notebook.

Of course, there are many rival notebook apps around. Penultimate and Noteshelf immediately spring to mind as excellent examples, each of them packed with all the features missing from Paper and many others besides. I’d say there’s room for more than one of them on your iPad – Penultimate and Noteshelf are better for actual notes; Paper is more suited to designs, sketches and artworks. But each can be used for either.

Paper succeeds precisely because it leaves a lot of stuff out: it is the closest that any of these apps comes to the experience of picking up a real notebook, opening a blank page, and starting to draw.

Pro: Simple. Clean. Gorgeous. Free for the basics.

Con: Lack of features might bother some; but try out the free app anyway.

  • speedtriple

    hi there, which pencil is used in video on homepage ?

  • Blake Beavers

    hi there, which pencil is used in video on homepage ?

    You have to buy the “sketch” pen for $2 or all of them for $8

  • jpaul

    Appreciate the thoughtful, well written review! I’ll have to try one of these notebook apps. I can see where it might come in handy sketching things that one observes– say in nature or through a telescope.

  • pluginguru

    Maybe you got everything unlocked for free – however I find your review is missing a big CON – it’s released as a freemium app and it’s $8.00 to unlock 4 tools that you can’t even tryout until you pay. For a notebook app, that is way too much money. Unlock all for 2.99 and they become millionaires…. Instead, they went “caviar” on their pricing and instead they have a ton of 1-star reviews. It’s a nice app, I like how it works (although another con you missed is that you can’t dray ANY line from bottom of page to top since that is how you access the toolbox).

    I hope these companies realize that we users will pay if the pricing is reasnobke but if you try to make enough money for your private island with 1 app, we’ll call you out!

  • VeryPisces

    I’m surprised by the lack of color options. Aren’t there only a handful of colors? That’s amazingly limiting for an app like this and has kept me from spending any money on it.  

  • Benjamin Diem

    ive been googling “iPad paper notebook” for months now, while I’ve ben working on a kickstarter project… I just can ditch paper…

    NOTEBLOX is a simple blank paper journal, with magnets in the binding that hold onto the iPad delivering the best of both worlds.

    check it out, but one if you like it, or leave me a comment why you dont. I would love the feedback