One of the subjects which has fascinated me for the past few days, is note-taking apps for the Android operating system.
As long as the tablet does not possess active stylus technology – which would need to pair a specific stylus-type with a specific tablet model, so that the hardware will be compatible – software that aims to allow input via a passive stylus works against a handicap. That handicap exists in the fact, that people will want to rest the side of their hand on the tablet’s screen, while also using the stylus to draw. In turn, the most basic touch-sensors, which are based on capacitance, cannot inherently distinguish between these two, simultaneous forms of contact.
In an earlier posting, and due to failure years ago to find suitable solutions, I had declared this aspiration to be a lost cause. But since that recent posting, I’ve found some software solutions that actually seem to work well, and that have hit the Google Play Store more recently. One such app is called “LectureNotes“, and is being published by the company named “Acadoid”.
This app requires configuration before use, which must at least state what level of hardware support the device provides. Thus, its higher modes will recognize a ‘Samsung S Pen’ – an active stylus, which will never create any ambiguity with the resting palm, and its lowest level of compatibility seems to
use an API, to declare a rectangle on the screen to be a ‘Safe Zone’ , as the app calls it, or a ‘Palm Guard’ , as it might generically be called. This lowest compatibility level is likely to be supported by all the tablets, which have Android 4.1 or later running.
(Edit 1/03/2019, 16h10 : )
Actually, this Palm Guard feature does not use an API after all. Instead, it simply accepts points of contact from the O/S and ignores ones, which are either inside this safe zone, or outside an active input zone, if that has been configured in the app.
The reason I claim to know this is the observation that if the app is installed on a Samsung Tab S, First Generation, which can only input two points of contact, and if the palm already causes two points of contact to appear in the safe zone, then a third point of contact on the document, from the stylus, will simply fail to register…
(As of 12/28/2018 : )
I, personally, have just given this app a spin, on the Android 8 -based ‘Pixel C’ , using the lowest, passive stylus, compatibility mode, and discovered that the Palm Guard / Palm Rejection works well.
One detail about this app which I particularly like, is the fact that it offers many features in one place, that all have in common, suitability either for taking notes while a lecture is being given, or for giving lectures. And when one is using the app in sketching-mode, the rectangular Palm Guard region can either be resized and repositioned using two fingers, or have its position arrested, so that it doesn’t move around contrarily to the user’s intentions.
Additionally, as long as we may assume that the tablet has a working camera app, and a working file-manager app, photos can also be imported into the notebook. This means that a photo could be taken of a classroom whiteboard, or that an image from a file could be inserted, either of which may be resized and positioned, before the addition to the notebook is finalized…
At the same time, its tool-bar, which shows “action buttons”, defaults to displaying only a few of these buttons, the first few of which have fly-outs. But the tool-bar can be reconfigured in the settings, to display a much larger set of action buttons / icons.
The Cutter Icon allows for versatile cutting and pasting, out of the box.
At the same time it should be noted, that some of the more advanced capabilities of this app are only enabled, if certain satellite apps are installed, that include:
All from the same developers. Each of the extensions presently costs less than CAD 3, and they add:
- The ability to import an existing PDF File – into the current notebook or as a new one,
- The ability to record audio as the user is also recording notes – which I imagine might be very useful, if the speed of note-taking causes some details of a lecture to be missed; the audio can be played back while the notebook is being read later on,
- The ability to record a video of oneself while creating a notebook, which is also referred to as creating a ‘screen-cast’ , and
- The ability to cast one’s use of the app live, as long as a compatible projection device can be detected, using the ‘Android Presentation API’ .
Obviously, this would all be too much for me to test in-depth and quickly, especially since I’m not likely to be given an opportunity to cast myself live. But I have tested the features, up to the ability to record audio, while also taking notes. The fact that the app’s capabilities may need to be extended with more apps, is compensated for in the experience, by the fact that all the capabilities can be accessed from one place: The main app.
The standard format in which a Notebook or one of its pages may be exported, is as a PDF-File, but exporting to:
- ‘Evernote’ , or
- ‘Microsoft OneNote’ ,
Are supported, as long as LectureNotes detects that either app is installed on the tablet (separately, from different developers). Also, if the user has recorded a screen-cast, that screen-cast can be exported to:
- MP4 (Video) Container File,
But, the support of video encoding requires that the satellite app “LectureVideos” be installed, as well as the “Android CODEC Media API”, which will only export to 3GP-File format under Android 4.1. Support for MP4-format requires Android 4.3 and up, and might need to be tested for just Android 4.3.
It strikes me as a well-programmed, robust piece of software.