Daily iPad App: 7notes handwriting recognizer lets you take notes with one finger
7notes is a note-taking/handwriting recognition app for the iPad. It costs US$8.99; there is also a $4.99 iPhone version, along with feature-limited free versions. I spent several hours using the iPad paid version (7notes Premium) and found it did an excellent job of recognizing both my cursive words and individual letters, all done with my finger on the iPad screen. Handwriting recognition is not a trivial task, and 7notes has a very smart recognition engine.
The app also has a predictive engine which worked quite well, figuring out my scrawl and giving me some words that matched the context of what I was writing. When there is more than one guess, you just tap the word you want. As you write, you can also add freehand graphics, with some choice of color and thickness of the stroke. I was able to easily add arrows and other simple symbols or diagrams.
You can convert your words to recognized text at any time, on a word by word basis, or full sentences or an entire document at one time. The app allows you to write in 2 or 3 column format. You can save your document or send to email, or export to Evernote or Dropbox; you can save as a PDF, or if you are equipped, you can print directly to a local printer. When I tried printing everything worked as expected, and the graphics appeared within my text just where I wanted them.
The app allows you to bring up an on-screen keyboard at any time if your words aren't being recognized, but in point of fact, I did not have to use it.
In a way, 7note fulfills the promise of the Newton from back in the 1990s, only 7note works better and has a lot of formatting options the Newton never had.
When I first started to use the app, nothing worked, but I pretty quickly learned to adjust my fingers to the screen and then recognition got very good. The app has a lot of icons on screen that aren't always readily obvious in purpose, but I quickly learned them; built-in help is available at any time.
You can try a free version of the app to get an idea if it will work for you. It won't convert your handwriting to text, but it will give you a good introduction. I did not try the iPhone version, and the smaller screen might be more of a challenge. 7note works with a stylus, and that might be a preferred method of input.
7note provides a support page where you can get questions answered, and read what other users are saying about the app.
If you are a note-taker and just can't get excited about the software keyboard on iOS devices, 7note may be for you. Remember that it will take some time to get used to writing with it, and you'll need to learn the purpose of the on-screen icons. You can see some screen shots in the gallery below.
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