Phatware has been making handwriting recognition and note taking software for [what were called at the time] pocket PCs and smartphones since 1997. I’ve used PhatPad on my Windows Mobile devices for quite a few years now, and it’s often one of the first things that I install when I get a new device. When they announced their first products for the iPhone at the end of May, Phatware offered Gear Diary an opportunity to review their first three programs: WritePad Notes, WritePad Affairs, and WritePad Events. All three programs feature PhatWare’s handwriting recognition software for the iPhone, WritePad.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the functions of each program:
WritePad Notes – a notes organizer that allows you to create and edit notes. WritePad Notes allows you to import and export notes to and from Outlook Notes or PhatNotes.
WritePad Affairs – organizes tasks, jobs, and contracts. You can import and export WritePad Affairs items to Outlook Tasks.
WritePad Events – records meetings, appointments, phone calls, etc. Like WritePad Affairs, WritePad Events entries can also be imported or exported from and to Outlook Tasks.
I should note that while all three of these programs allow you to exchange files with Outlook, this is done via a CSV file and not through synchronization.
The WritePad text editor, the handwriting recognition portion of the software, is integrated into all three programs. I have to say that I’m pretty impressed with it. Using just my finger to write on the iPhone screen, WritePad managed to correctly translate even poorly written words, supporting both printing and cursive writing. One of the cool aspects of the WritePad text editor is that you can write over top of letters that you’ve already written in order to be able write more at one time. I didn’t find the handwriting recognition to be quite as reliable when I did this, but it worked fairly well most of the time. The only problem I had with the text entry was that the WritePad editor often inserted more spaces than I wanted it to, whether between individual letters within a word or between words, and there doesn’t appear to be a way to change that setting. I would like to be able to turn off adding any spaces between letters or words.
In addition to the handwriting recognition, you can use the standard iPhone on-screen keyboard. There’s also a cut-and-paste function. Selecting a word or phrase is easy, and then you choose copy, cut, or paste using the icons at the bottom of the screen. While writing, you can perform a spell check by selecting a word and tapping on the checkmark at the bottom of the screen. The WritePad editor can be set to provide suggested spellings.
As advertised, WritePad Notes is a quick, simple note-taking program. It allows you to color code the notes and categorize them. While viewing a note, you can add grid lines to the note background to guide your handwriting and make it more accurate. You can sort the notes in the main screen by date modified, date created, category, subject, or color. WritePad Notes, as with Affairs and Events, supports landscape mode and also gives you the option to attach a note to an email or share if via WiFi. For its simple purpose, I liked WritePad Notes. It was easy to use and navigate.
WritePad Affairs is a task/project organizer. PhatWare bills it as a “simple” task organizer, but that is probably not a fair characterization. Affairs allows the user to add quite a bit of information to each task listing: priority, start date, due date, category, % complete, and a more detailed note. Otherwise, it has much of the look and feel of WritePad Notes. I did not find myself using Affairs nearly as much as Notes. I tend to prefer simple, one-line style task lists, unless I’m working on a more complex project, in which case I want the ability to create subtasks or an outline, which Affairs does not have. Aside from my personal preferences, though, Affairs was easy to use and gives the user plenty of options for tracking tasks.
At first I struggled a bit with seeing the difference between WritePad Events and Notes. Ultimately, WritePad Events provides more options for adding information about an event – mileage traveled, related contact information, adding pictures to the event entry, billing information, and location data, if you’re using a 3G or 3GS. If your job involves calling on clients and tracking your expenses associated with those appointments, Events could be a useful tool.
WritePad Affairs and Events both allow the user to change the icon that appears next to the name of the note or task in the main screen. WritePad Notes does not offer that option.
MSRP: $4.99 each. Available in the iTunes Store.
What I Like: The handwriting recognition software, which is common to all three programs, is great. All three programs were stable, and the graphics were large enough to be easy to use on a small screen.
What I Don’t Like: I wish there was a setting to allow the user to specify whether spaces are inserted after handwritten word entries. Other than that, there’s not much to dislike in any of these programs.