Sometimes I wake up in the night and have an idea I want to jot down. Paper and pen aren’t a great solution for this because I have to turn on a light. More importantly, handwriting notes on a paper tablet keeps them trapped on paper unless I photograph or scan the page and import it into Evernote.
Back in the days of Pocket PC and Palm devices, I used a pocket sized solution for this kind of note taking. Palm Graffiti was an awesome input solution years ago and more recently made a comeback on Android. Back in July I was on a quest to find a workable handwriting solution for handwriting on my Nook Color tablet. The solution I arrived at was to use an app called Handrite Note, which is also available for the Kindle Fire. At that time, the Kindle Fire wasn’t out yet.
While combining Handrite Note and Evernote was a great way to take my scribbles and make them searchable via the optical character recognition technology built into Evernote, it wasn’t an ideal solution. Some new handwriting apps are available now which improve on my original solution. The Kindle Fire works far better with a tablet stylus than the Nook Color ever did, which makes writing feel more natural. The net result after a bunch of experimenting is something I hope everyone will find useful in using handwriting for text input on a Kindle Fire tablet.
The Problem with Keyboards on a 7-inch Tablet
I type fairly quickly on both Android phone and iPhone keyboards. I once timed myself at about 35 words per minute, which is slow on a computer keyboard, but it feels about as fast as I can go on a handheld device. On the Kindle Fire, I can’t get anywhere close to that speed. The size of the Kindle Fire makes it too small for onscreen touch-typing like I’ve seen many iPad users attempt and too big to comfortably hold between two hands and rapidly tap letters.
Holding the Kindle Fire in one hand while using my finger or a stylus is considerably faster.
Which Stylus is Best for Kindle Fire?
Handwriting on a tablet is more efficient if you have a stylus. If you are someone who is used to pressing really hard with a pen or pencil, you need to lighten your touch, but a stylus makes for a smooth writing experience.
Back in July I ordered four different stylus options to try out on my Nook Color. I had this genius idea that I’d try them all, record a video, and demonstrate which one seemed to perform the best. It turned out they were all lousy. I scrapped the idea for the video, because the only thing I could say was using a stylus and Nook Color in combination is a horrible idea. When I tested them with the Nook Tablet, my experience was the same.
I got my Kindle Fire in the mail within days of the initial shipping. At the time, I didn’t even bother to try it with a stylus because I assumed they would be awful. I was sticking with using my finger to scribble notes with Handrite Note Pro, which is faster than typing but less than perfect.
The other day as I was cleaning a section of my office, I found my stylus stash. I decided to try them just for fun. Guess what? They all work great.
The four I tested were from Targus, Just-Mobile, BoxWave, and Kensington. The Targus, and BoxWave models look like they could be the same stylus with a different label on it. The Kensington stylus also has a pen on one end, which might make it more useful in some instances, though I’m trying to avoid needing paper. The Just-Mobile is my personal favorite, because it’s like a fatter version of a golf pencil, which makes it fairly comfortable to hold.
Best Handwriting App for Kindle Fire
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, one way to use handwriting is to swap out the default on screen keyboard for Graffiti. Unless you are a former Palm user, you need to learn the pen strokes but this is a way to use a stylus (or your finger) in every app. While I was a longtime Palm user, I find myself typing faster in many cases.
If all you want to do is save handwritten notes you can refer to later, Handrite Note Pro is still my favorite option. It allows you to write text in a larger size and then shrinks your writing to fit the screen as if you were writing on a continuous line on paper. The graph paper or lined paper backgrounds both make my writing highly legible, which translates to effective OCR. You can see how I use Handrite Note in combination with Evernote in the video embedded below, but I have a new favorite handwriting app.
The best handwriting app for Android tablets is definitely Smart Writing Tool 7notes Premium. The app handles my scribbles like a champ, automatically converting them to text. Just like keyboard input, the app suggests words based on your input, which makes for a quick writing experience. I find that using either my finger or a stylus with 7notes Premium is faster than trying to type on the Kindle Fire keyboard. It’s fairly easy to correct any mistakes you make by simply deleting the last thing you entered. I like that my handwriting is converted to text because it’s easier to reuse what I’ve written, without having to type based on my notes. Anything created in 7notes Premium is easily saved to Evernote, which means I get the convenience of handwriting coupled with the fully reusable text that’s searched without needing OCR. I paid $9.99 and am happy with the results, but as I write this, the app is currently $0.99. Not sure how long that will last.
Combining the Kindle Fire, Just Mobile AluPen, and Smart Writing Tool 7notes Premium creates the ultimate digital handwriting tablet for carrying around in a purse or cargo pants pocket, which means I almost never take a notepad with me anywhere.