WritePad

WritePad is a notes app, but not just any other notes app. This app from PhatWare allows users to hand-write their thoughts and converts the handwriting into type. The interface is simple, providing a blank slate for writing, with an option to toggle the iPhone keyboard. I was skeptical of the handwriting recognition, but I was pleasantly surprised by WritePad.

I reviewed both the iPhone and iPad versions. Details about the iPad experience are included below.

One word sums up WritePad’s handwriting conversion: Amazing. It recognizes cursive, print, and mixed handwriting styles. Within the app settings, users can define how long of a pause after writing will trigger the text conversion. After the defined delay, the text conversion is lightning fast and amazingly accurate. WritePad learns your writing patterns, so as accurate as the app is initially, it continues to improve over time.

But what about daily use? The standard app configuration was fine for experimenting and showing off to friends. But for every day use, I noticed I had to tweak some of the settings to get it just right. Also, the app does have a small learning curve. Reading through their included tutorial is required in order to get the best experience out of the app.

The small size of iPhone screen can be a bit limiting, which is where the iPad comes in. Having a larger surface area allows you to complete full sentences. However, I found the handwriting recognition to be more accurate on my phone for some reason.

WritePad offers a number of additional useful features besides the basic note taking.

Users can convert a saved note into one of 13 languages. This requires Internet connectivity and can take a few moments depending on the document size and connection speed. Being mono-lingual, I was unable to truly test the accuracy of the translations.

WritePad can share notes with other devices via the local network. Using the network sharing, users can upload or download documents on the phone. PhatWare even offers a handy — and free — utility for Mac or Windows that notifies users when an instance of WritePad is running on their network.

Notes can be emailed, which also means WritePad can be used for composing quick email without ever having to use the iPhone keyboard.

Text shortcuts, referred to as Shorthands by PhatWare, can be configured in the app settings, allowing users to create short lines of text that are converted into a larger block. For example, by writing “addr”, WritePad types the user-configured address.

There are a couple interface annoyances I would like to see resolved, but none of these make the app unusable at all. For example, the toolbar offers a save button, which is not consistent with most iPhone apps. Every other iPhone app saves automatically when changing views, so having to tap save makes the app feel more like a Windows application. This is not an issue in the iPad version, by the way. Also, it is difficult to know when you are in edit mode (meaning gestures are being recognized as text) or in view mode (meaning gestures cause the page to move).