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OneNote is an underrated note taking app, that doubles its usefulness on an iPad Pro

Notability, Good Notes, Apple’s own Notes app. The list goes on for decent note taking apps on iOS that are convenient, user friendly and most of all, store notes simply so users can not be afraid of lost data

Search “Note Taking Apps for iOS” on Google and YouTube, and you see a common trend between those three apps, they come up often and are quite popular. Why? Because they are easy to use, have syncing for multi device use on the Apple Ecosystem and are very powerful for pro users. But the less commonly mentioned underdog is OneNote, it is mentioned not as much as the others on line (most commonly Notability and Good Notes go head to head often) and isn’t really brought up often aside from lists online that go for more than 3 to 5 apps, where writers need some variety for comparison against the likes of Apple’s Notes app, or even Evernote’s Paper app.

The current landscape for apps of choice for note taking is generally fairly competitive in the top 5 for this category, and then a miraid of smaller apps that fill the role of note taker and that’s it – hell even Square Space makes a note taking app.
But really, what makes a good note taking app that folks want to use?

You look at the way the developers of these apps have designed them and iterated them over the years and it comes down to four key elements:
1) Easy to use UI
2) Tabbed notes feature and easy to organize content
3) Handwriting conversion & Apple Pen Support
4) Cloud Syncing

Now I did swap for a short time to Apple Notes a little while ago, and I had over 100 notes to import by hand to the platform. I gave up halfway through, as iCloud let me down severely and had a prolonged delay on the syncing of content, as such my Elder Scrolls Blades launch review was lost and I had to re-write it. I did so on OneNote.

A lot of long term iOS users who generally aim for simplicity stick with the Notes app, it does the job, it takes text input…. That’s it (on the simple side). But for note taking power users who use note apps as their physical notebooks, then these apps should (and Can) do more.
I live in an all digital paperless world. I have every bill, invoice, contract and component that could be sent digitally, sent that way. I sign everything with PDF Pen (Thanks Myke Hurley for the recommendation on Upgrade last year), buy all my books (including technical books) on Amazon just to make full use of the Kindle app, and use Duolingo for my language learning on these devices, no physical books in sight, I even cut the cord and use Amazon Prime/Netflex/YouTube/Twitch for all my entertainment.

But that’s the thing. I haven’t always been a long term iOS user until recently, and was primarily an Android user and on Windows for most of my personal & professional life. When I made the switch last year to being a full iOS user (I have had a few iPads over the years, but not had an iPhone in a long while) as well as owning a MacBook Pro, my note taking app of choice was available on all three devices so I installed it and took full advantage of the syncing feature I loved on the Windows & Android counterparts to bring EVERYTHING over, and formatted correctly.

When you have all your content over, the macOS version does look a fraction different to the newer looking Windows and iPad versions, but otherwise all the features are still here however. The Notebook can be selected at the top, adding sections to the notebook for different categories and such, and then adding pages to those sections for content.
Microsoft also fully supports Apple’s Pencil and gestures on the iPad, so double tap to swap between your pen type and the eraser, tilted gestures for writing and drawing, as well as annotating images that you can scan in with the iPads camera or if you brought them in earlier from your iPhone.
OneNote also supports widgets in iOS for easy access to notes, as well as the scanning feature and photos or a new list, which comes in handy for short notes like a quick to do or for a shopping list.

The app however didn’t always support these features out of the box and as a result copped some criticism for the community however Microsoft and the OneNote team do push frequent updates to the app on all platforms to further advanced its features and keep performance at good level for what it can offer users..

OneNote has been a consistent pleasure to use, and with its full features (and free price) can be used as a full writing suite replacement since it supports multiple export types, including PDF and sharing to other OneNote users. On Android as well, you have a feature called chat heads, where similar to the Facebook feature, allows a floating widget to quickly access existing content and write newer short notes, like the widget on iOS.
I keep my entire life of notes and ideas, even writing, inside of OneNote and it has supported my workflow for years (even as a swapped back from Notability a few years ago and then left that for Google Keep). Its more capable and refined than Apple Notes, as feature rich as Notability and words like Microsoft Word. The only feature I would appreciate is an import feature from other apps or import file formats to help move content over.

PaperLike review for iPad Pro 11 Inch

The iPad Pro’s have revolutionised how mobile computing works over the years. Apple has squashed competitor tablets of the Android variety, and made their hardware so powerful they are now reaching the limit as to what iOS can do for the Tablet, and if Apple don’t start iterating on the software to further develop the future of the iPad, the Pro area of the product line could very well become questioned if it really is “Pro” anymore.

That aside, if you find that you own one of the new iPad Pros or an older one, there are a few little necessities that every user should get:

1) A solid Case
2) A solid keyboard if possible, or Apple’s Smart Keyboard cover
3) A great screen protector

Screen Protectors as a whole can be a mixed bag, too cheap and it’s a lump of plastic or glass on your screen that can impede your usage, too expensive and folks just wont buy them unless they can turn your screen into being as strong as the man of steel.

I think I have found the goldilocks however of all screen protectors – PaperLike’s screen protector.

Paperlike started life funded on KickStarter, and has been seen globally by those who are generally heavy duty users of their iPads and want a paper style feel to writing and drawing on their iPads. 
Well, needless to say its mission accomplished. The PaperLike screen protector, once applied, is incredibly smooth on touch and smooth on use with a Pencil.

I cant draw well on glass, or draw well period, but I have slowly been getting into drawing my own Sprites & concept art of a project I am working on, so have been learning to do and I have to say the feel & accuracy on using the PaperLike over normal glass is phenomenal. 

PaperLike being used on an iPad Pro 11. Sorry for not horizontal video

have a view below on how it sounds, but using the Apple Pencil on the PaperLike makes it sound just like you are using artists paper out of an ArtBook and very fine pencils.
I owned a Derwent set of pencils when I was younger and drawing paper gifted by my parents and the feel and style of drawing with them has always stuck with me. This feels the same, but instead of 100 Pencils, you have 1 pencil being able to be 100, and 1 piece of glass, converted to a piece of paper able to be an entire artbook, whenever, where ever.

PaperLike also make the screen protector easy to apply as well. The videos online, as well as the included guide in the packaging are easy to follow and really ensure that users who aren’t confident at applying screen protectors (like me) can really apply it safely & accurately to get the most out of the protector.
The only negative I would say is the “polarized” sheen that occurs on the screen now when viewing content. The protector doesn’t change the colour the display puts out, so not darker or lighter or off coloured, however; there is an odd sheen that is applied  that on top of the colours from the iPad display, that can be a bit of getting used to when using it. After around a week, I forgot it was even there but figured it was worth mentioning.There isn’t much that can compete with the PaperLike Screen protector, the feel and the abilities that the screen protector touts cant really be matched in the current market, and its use case is fairly straight forward. There are a few cheaper alternatives and plenty of knockoffs that try to do what PaperLike does, but doesn’t hold up to the quality of the PaperLike protector.
I tried 2 other protectors before buying the PaperLike, and it is true what they say, third time is the charm.

I would recommend this to any buddying artist or writing aficionado. The feel and comfort the protector gives you does do what it says on the tin, and I can defiantly feel my writing skill as improved compared to writing on glass. Even my touch typing since it’s a more coarse surface to touch than glass, but still feels accurate and smooth all the while.

Elder Scrolls Blades starts roll out today

Bethesda’s previously accounced mobile based game based in the Elder Scrolls universe, Elder Scrolls Blades, has started its slow release out in the beta period for those folks who signed up for early access preview.

After a somewhat poor reception of a new Diablo game, Diablo: Immortal, based entirely on mobile from Blizzard at last year’s E3, as well as Fallout: 76’s rough start and poor upgrades post launch, Blades faces a potential lackluster launch to an audience that is growing more and more determined to get their hands on an Elder Scrolls 6 game, rather than a mobile counterpart.

Bethesda also already has their popular card game Elder Scrolls Legends, which is a direct competitor to Hearthstone by Blizzard and a number of iOS/Android Magic: The Gatheringgames.

I got to sample part of the beta before I could access the entire verion available, and the controls seemed fairly straight forward, however I tried it on a 11 Inch iPad Pro, and having only sampled one combat mechanic so far, slashing, it seems the game is better suited for a smaller screen.

As things get further along I will sample who the full beta handles.

You can see my initial preview below.

The IVSO Keyboard Case for iPad Pro

The new iPad Pros are powerhouses, and combined with the right equipment can be a true productivity tool for all kinds of use cases. The only true downside to the iPads are the cost of the first party accessories made by Apple. With the new Apple Pencil costing cost to $200 AUD and the keyboard case costing just over $200 AUD, that is a lot of coin for someone to put down especially after purchasing one these new tablets costing in the low to mid $1000’s and all the way up to over 2K for higher configurations.

So when I ordered mine I made a conscious decision not to purchase the keyboard folio for the time being, and looked at third party solutions to fill a gap for a few months. What did I come up with? It is by no means perfect, but it is definitely a contender.

The IVSO 11 Inch Keyboard Case for the iPad Pro lives by the mantra of Student of all, master of none.

The Keyboard case itself unboxes well and is clean in its design. It is covered in a PVC plastic that feels a lot like it is partially rubberised and close to the old type covers of the Surface Pro 2 and 3 days. However opening up the keyboard case itself shows a smaller key size, smaller palm rest and a full iOS function row. Inside the box is only an instruction manual and a USB A to Micro USB cable, and that is one of the drawbacks – the case charges through micro USB and not USB-C so you will need to carry an extra cable. The case works over Bluetooth, and pairing is actually super easy. You hold the function and C button on the keyboard and pair. That’s it, no fuss, no messing around.

Overall, that’s where the simplicity of the case ends. I’m not sure if it is my unit, but it doesn’t fit snug with my 11 inch iPad Pro 100%. There are instances where the top, left and right side of the case are sitting away from the tablet and not sitting on the tablet itself, after repeated attempts to get it to sit flush with the tablet, I have failed and given up with the not so sleek look. The case also relies a lot on the back portion of the top cover coming away from the centre of the unit to stand, which limits “lapability” and how long the iPad can practically sit on your lap. Also, because the connection from the top of the case to the keyboard is still this silicon/plastic/rubbery material, there is a lot of sideways flex on the keyboard when you move your legs, so your chance of getting 100% flat typing surface will require some fighting on the user’s end. Also due to the case’s design, charging is a pain too as since it isn’t sitting flush with the iPad, the USB C charger doesn’t sit correctly and doesn’t charge, which warrants you either removing the iPad from the case, or moving the charger around the USB-C sized hole, then connecting it to the iPad.

I also felt like my hands did cramp a bit when using the keyboard for longer period of time, which is no fault of the case and is more than likely me being used to a 15 Inch laptop or a larger keyboard with a num-pad.

Criticisms aide, the case itself, albeit thick and slightly heavy, does provide a solid amount of protection for the iPad. IVSO say on the Amazon advertisements as well that it can support solid drops on corners, which is why I assume the corners connect quite well in the case, but the edges don’t sit 100% flush. The keyboard is also quite comfortable to type on, even though the keys are smaller, once you adjust to the size the travel is reasonable and definitely nicer than the Butterfly 2/3 keyboards of the current generation of MacBooks.

Another nice touch, is the palm rest. For me, it is semi flexible, moves when I move my legs if I am sitting on a chair and is easily cleanable of sweat and grime, so for longer period of typing (say writing this review),  it is a welcome addition to the case’s compact stature fitting in as much as it can in a smaller form factor. Another bonus for users is a separate area under the screen to store the Apple Pencil when not in use, so you don’t have a risk of knocking it off in your bag if it is wirelessly attached. I found this case for $45.00 AUD on amazon and is fairly cost effective for the price. You defiantly get what you pay for, but is overall a clean solution to keeping the tablet protected and safe from the ruff and tumble daily use.

I should note, there is also a second version for $4.00 less on Amazon that is a more “Traditional” folio and has a kickstand and sits more like a Surface Clone when the iPad is docked, but I chose this version due to keeping everything fairly streamlined and having a not so shallow tilt on the case itself.
You can pick it up on Amazon, however, I would be mindful as to how much you really want to spend and look at something a bit more sturdy if you don’t want something too flimsy in your lap. The new Brydge Keyboard for the new iPads launches very soon as well which would be a more solid contender to the iPad Pro Folio keyboard and is cheaper as well.
However for $45AUD, this isnt a bad temporary solution in the mean time.

The iPhone XS in the hands of a former Android aficionado

A formerly critical, no longer sceptical convert

So the last time I used an iPhone as main phone was for an iPhone 6 Plus. I was a staunch advocate of not going to an iPhone or trying iOS as a phone experience unless the phones were bigger.
As the years moved on, I went back to Android happily, had a few iPads and then didn’t give it a second thought.
Until the new XS caught my eye.

The 2017 iPhone X was a move in an interesting direction. A smaller sized handset with the screen of a “plus” model of phone. It seemed compact and right up my alley, and with the chip upgrade & new phones of 2018, I figured why not upgrade! I had a Note 8 previously, and after a few years of android, I honestly didn’t mind going to iOS.

The Phone itself
The phone itself is super nice and clean. I don’t miss a larger screen at all. There has been a slight adjustment to the gestures on iOS (it took me nearly a month to realise that I can swipe on the bottom of the screen to swap between apps. But otherwise the two sides of the notch (left for notifications, right for control centre) I got right away with no issues.
I have super enjoyed using the simplicity of iOS. Things like the interface, performance and even things like the wifi call quality has been great coming to the phone. The older iPhone 6 Plus did suffer from bending and the unit I had also got hot with frequent consistent use as well. Since the XS has a glass back the phone stays cool under use (and also allows for wireless charging!)

Speaking of wireless charging, my old Note 8 did support this but I never took full advantage of it. I did buy a wireless charger with the phone when I re-contracted through my Telco and the only time I have charged my phone with a physical cable is when I am at my desk and use one of the USB ports and a traditional Lightning cable, but this is rare since I get 2 days battery life with fairly moderate screen on time usage.

One of the main gripes I had from moving to iOS from Android is mobile payments. This isn’t an iOS issue specifically, but my bank openly supports Android Pay/Contactless payments, but does not support Apple Pay. In order to make use of mobile payments I have been using my credit card; and Face ID to verify payments is super quick and easy. I have been using it for public transport, general payments and my gym membership through Apple Wallet for the gym card and it all works like a charm. I should mention that I was a huge proponent of using Google Pay (and tried Samsung Pay as well) wherever possible, so it is nice to know most days I can leave my wallet at home or buried in my backpack, and not need it.

Another main gripe I had (which IS the iPhones fault) is a lack of a headphone jack, which has been missing from most flagships the last 2 years now. With my Note 8, I did slowly start adopting Bluetooth accessories & headphones, which has served me well here with this phone. However, when I cycle I prefer physical buds and have needed to buy the $15 AUD Lightning to 3.5mm adapter to make use of physical cables, or using a wire on my headphones when they are flat. I can see myself losing this VERY small little adapter, so I will end up buying another less I land myself on a long flight or train ride, have a flat battery on my headphones and no other way to listen to music or podcasts on my phone.

The Apple Watch Series 3 and iPhone XS

I am a huge fan of smart watches as well. I have owned a TicWatch E, as well as a gear S3 and both were excellent on android. Unfortunately my gear S3 just didn’t work well enough on iOS, so I sold it and brought a used Apple Watch Series 3. That has restored my previous convenience of using a smartwatch on my wrist. Having a media controller, music selection tool, tracking workouts and health data is immensely useful. Since I also do a bit of cycling, the watch can be an adequate substitute for a cycling computer as well since the watch is tuned well for fitness, but isnt a full substitute for a traditional cycling computer, nor is the phone itself; but combined they are satisfactory.
As I said my series 3 is used, but combined with the latest phone there aren’t many features on the 3 that I would miss on the newer series 4. The screen size is fairly close to my older Gear S3, and performance is better as well – so I’m a happy camper in this regard!

The pairing and setup experience on iOS is stupidly simple so I wont rave on about it, but what I can comment on is being able to mute the phone from the watch (handier than you may think) and large number of apple watch apps that are available on WatchOS that are true companions to their iOS counterparts.

Locked into iMessage

A common theme you hear from people wanting to move away from iOS to Android is “I am locked into iOS, I can’t really move away. Everyone I message is on iMessage”. This for me wasn’t the case, but being most of my friends were on iMessage when I popped in to the iMessage club, I have thoroughly enjoyed being able to message even my international friends from one app and it not cost an international fee. I just wanted to side note this in here, as now I do work for an international company iMessage I have straight away found useful if I don’t want to use our Slack channel for conversation.

Camera and wrap-up

Most iPhone users know this now and the camera is phenomenal.
In the 5 or so weeks I’ve owned this I have taken some clean and super nice photos. Portrait mode is incredibly well done (albeit a bit wonky with some aggressive smoothing and choppy edges with the depth of field effect if you don’t align your photo correctly). The Final gripe I have is with the photos not being JPG or Raw, but HEIC which requires LightRoom to convert back to JPG properly (say if you want to upload them to WordPress as an Example?)

I have a sample gallery above, but I just have to compliment Apple on how easy the make their software work with the hardware on the phone, and make shooting great photos easy. Samsung and Google do this well with their flagships, and the Pixel 2 and 3 STILL have excellent photo quality, and arguably better than the XS, but putting an excellent camera into the majority of smartphone buyers hands only encourages better photos in general from users. I should also mention I did use the Note 8’s camera A LOT and took a lot of good photos on that phone, however I believe it was second best to the Pixel 2 and iPhone X last year, and there is a noticeable difference from some of my older photos to newer ones on the iPhone XS.

Overall I am happy with the change, it does compliment my remote lifestyle well and continues & improves upon a lot of the fitness aspects I liked in Google Fit, and are thoroughly advanced upon those to give me a lot of useful data when cycling and then when I do go to the gym. (I personally think the Watch & Phone combo has helped me beat some PBs when it comes to distance on my cycling rides too – which is a bonus).

What the iPad can do for the future of tablet computing

I shamelessly rave on Chrome OS a lot. As an Android user, and also an iPad fan, I use the best tablet that I believe can give me the most productive experience. 
Chrome OS I still believe can pave the way for a solid tablet/laptop experience to replace Android, but there are a fair few kinks to work out on the way to ensure a smooth experience for mass users and to replace Android on tablets but there is plenty of promise for tablet/laptop productivity machines running chrome OS.

Enter the other side of my brain, the iPad lover and advocate of using the iPad for essentially as much as humanly possible.
The last few years I have owned most of the major models of iPad Pro. The original 12.9 and then the 10.5 the following year. 
This year I’m interested in going back to the 12.9, purely for the extra screen real estate and having a slate that can now truly compete with other tablets and laptops.

Apple have been trying to pitch the iPad as true laptop replacement for years, but a limitation on the lightning port and the lack of a file system (to name a few things), has been severely limiting on the ability to be used on things like external displays, docking stations, read USB drives – so true desktop/laptop needs.
The current generation of iPad announced yesterday (combined with iOS 12.1) sets to improve on the existing shortfalls of the Pro iPad lineup and to prove that you CAN do everything on an iPad.

The New 2018 iPad Pro looks amazing

I originally fell in love with the idea of using a tablet as one computer for everything back in 2014. The iPad Gen 4 was the weapon of choice and combined with a wireless Apple keyboard, I did the majority of my uni work on that thing (aside from a 2012 Mac Mini).
To me this was the beginning of “how much can I really get done on this thing?” lines of thought and, fast forward to 2018 I’m still experimenting trying to really break the convention of what a tablet can do and how one slate can fill many roles.  

For example, Retro gaming on Android tablets is easy with DOS emulators, and deprived of decent games on the Play Store, I have 1996’s Blood from Monolith Studios, and MicroFortè’s 2001 Tactical hit Fallout:Tactics on my tablet. For me tablets come everywhere with me since having a slate I can write on, draw on, record audio, video, share notes, keep me entertained and do hard core writing on has been apart of my workflow for years. Hell right now I’m writing this on my Galaxy Tab S3 and waiting for the online pre-order option for the iPad Pro 12.9 through Optus (any day now…..). 

I gave my 10.5 iPad Pro to my sister since she was starting uni and needed something substantial for her coursework, and I am proud to still say that is her daily driver and every day machine. Her iPad is her computer, and thats exactly what Apple wants you to consider it as. She is one of their target audiences (amongst plenty others), the iPad is portable, practical and powerful. The newer generation now seeks to advance on that and make it even more capable as machine, regardless of what hands it is in.

I have seen iPads at the forefront of my last work industry. Emails, task management, inspection notes, Real Estate related data input; you name it. In my last line of work it was my daily driver, an external display and I had it everywhere with me. Meetings, photo editing work, organising my day, reading books when the day was slow (shoot me, we all do it). It brings the power of the iPad relying on the apps that it is centered around, and one of the biggest showcases was the up and coming Photoshop CC on iOS coming in Early 2019. This is not very far away, and for professionals who already use Lightroom, Procreate and Concepts for illustration and editing work, this will come as a welcome arrow in the productivity quiver. 

It should also be noted that tablet computing, and tablets as a whole, have taken large strides forward in the decent amount of games available on Android & iOS in the last few years. Alot of developers are porting or even launching AA and AA titles in Indie and strategy style categories on the App Store and Play Store.
A few that spring to mind are FTL, Baldurs Gate 2, and more recently Stardew Valley on iOS. 
Apple’s AR experience last year and refined this year in iOS 12 is only improved on the new iPads. Their 8 Core A12X Chips and 7 Core GPUs, Apple compared the new iPads to having the same raw graphical power as an Xbox OneS. 

This is huge, and even with that comparison, I severely doubt that developers will folk to have the latest shooters and games available on iPad Pros, along side PlayStation and Xbox consoles (sadly…. One can drea though).

However the Tablet market, iPads and ChromeOS/Android slates, isn’t perfect. There is still a lack of decent app performance on Chrome OS, Apps on Android Tables are blown out phone apps most of the time still, the hardware is more and more expensive, and the amount of tablet sales has dropped in recent years. But, if the likes of Google & Apple keep creating more refined ideas on their existing hardware, like we have seen this month with the Pixel Slate and iPad Pro 2018, in a few years time we could be saying so long to laptops, and hello tablets that plug into everything and do anything we throw at them

Serif Launches Affinity Designer for the iPad

Affinity Designer is one of my favourite programs on Windows.
You don’t get Sketch, and if you dont want to pay for Adobe XD (there is a free tier now), there are few decent alternatives that offer as well featured and well supported programs like Serif has with Designer.

The Affinity suite stands to compete with the likes of Illustrator, Photoshop and Pixelmator. High quality photo editing for those who dont want to fleshout monthly fees for being able to design, draw, or edit photos.
The iPad has always been a creative tool and with the iPad Pro this has gone to a new level. Serif has their Affinity Photo app on the iPad already and the app is beautiful, functional and well made. Throwing their hat into the design ring, they now offer a very slick Graphic Design app that is a very smooth alternative to many other apps Graphic Design apps that exist on the platform already. Being accounced as well a day ago Adobe is apparently bringing Photoshop to the iPad. So the space is heating up for decent competition for apps like this, and Serif has gotten in first to stake their claim. Rather than bring a less than functional version of their app over and splitting it up into 3 or 4 different apps, they have done their best to port a near desktop version over to a mobile OS.

From watching videos and hands on reviews, the app has alot of the existing features that desktop app has. Such as fully customisable shapes, different shades of pens, layering. text input, colour gradients, as well as keeping the Pixel, Draw and Export personas which function as sub-menus to keep the interface minimal and functional, as well as keep appropriate tasks in the right areas.
The app also has intiuitive touch gestures, so for those who are coming from a desktop machine, the controls are looking like somewhat less of a learning curve than one would imagine moving to an iPad for your Graphic Design workflow.

A cherry on the cake? Serif is offering a 30% discount on their software suite as a bonus for the software being released! Who wouldnt want 30% off some slick software!??