Paper's new iPhone app can replace your Moleskine

Nathan Ingraham
N. Ingraham|09.10.15

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Paper's new iPhone app can replace your Moleskine

Even without an official iPad stylus (until yesterday, that is), FiftyThree's Paper for the iPad was one of the best apps out there for showing just how good Apple's tablet was for creating beautiful artwork, either with your finger or the company's Pencil accessory. The app has changed over the years, but its focus has remained on sketches and drawings collected together in different virtual notebooks, but today FiftyThree is shaking things up significantly with the launch of Paper 3.0. The update features both a change in focus and a change in platform. The latter is easy enough to explain: for the first time, Paper is a universal app that'll work with your iPhone as well as your iPad.

When you launch Paper on your iPhone, you'll see the evidence of the app's evolution. Rather than simply focusing on sketches, Paper now wants you to focus on ideas -- those can take the form of text notes, photos, sketches or any combination of the three. Tapping the plus button at the bottom of the screen launches a text entry field by default for you to jot down notes on, but Paper has included a few nice features here to elevate things beyond the many note-taking apps already out there. After typing a line of text, you can hold and swipe across it to get some different formatting options. Swiping to the left makes the text bigger and bolder; swiping to the right adds either a standard bullet point or a check box for to-do lists.

At the bottom of the text entry field are icons for you to switch your view from text to either Paper's traditional sketching view or a photo view -- from the latter, you can snap a picture or access anything in your camera roll. Once you've added a picture to your note, you can crop, resize, or "highlight" a specific portion of the image. Resizing seems particularly useful if you want to include some sketching notes alongside the picture, but unfortunately you can only add one photo to a note at a time. Still, the ability to combine text notes and photos with the sketching features that Paper has done so well for so long makes the app a pretty compelling tool for anyone who needs a note-taking experience that extends beyond simple text entry.

To go along with its new focus, Paper has renaming journals to "Spaces." They're effectively the same thing -- a way to collect a bunch of related sketches and notes -- but they're viewed as more a pile of your different ideas rather than the faux-notebook pages that dominated the journal view on the iPad. It's more of a design change than anything functionally different, but it definitely fits with what Paper is now focusing on. And even though the main thrust of this app update is the move to the iPhone, all these changes are present in the iPad version, as well. Fortunately, the app is still just as good at its original sketching features as it has ever been -- in fact, the sketch view is the default in the iPad rather than the text field that's the default on the iPhone. And if you're a stylus fan, Paper's Pencil will work on your iPhone as well as the iPad.

Other apps may combine mixed media as Paper is now trying to do, and there's no question that Paper isn't as focused on extensive organization and search like Evernote is. But the app's excellent sketching features remain best in class, and that alone means that Paper will continue to have an important place on many people's iOS devices. It's hard to argue with the free price point, as well -- if you want a good way to take visual notes and like to doodle, Paper is certainly worth a look. It's out today in the App Store.

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