I’ve just tested the Android app(s) ‘LectureNotes’…

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.

Continue reading I’ve just tested the Android app(s) ‘LectureNotes’…

I have just tested the Android apps, ‘Mazec’ and ‘MetaMoJi Note’.

One of the tasks which some people might assign their Android tablets, is to use for note-taking. And as I wrote before, trying to do this becomes entangled in some hardware-related issues.

I’ve just downloaded two apps, which work best together, but which don’t absolutely need to be used together:

  1. MetaMoJi Note,
  2. Mazec.

To my great surprise I found that they work very well on my Google Pixel C tablet. One reason they do work, is because during normal use, only a narrow rectangle near the bottom of the display needs to be touched by the passive stylus, which means that the user’s palm is resting below the actual tablet.

When MetaMoJi Note is being used in line-drawing mode, in addition to allowing the user to jot his glyphs directly at their destination within the document, a very small icon in the bottom-right-hand corner expands a lower rectangle for drawing input, which remains associated with a movable, smaller rectangle within the document. The position of the destination-rectangle can be changed.

At the same time, when the doodling app is in text-mode, and if Mazec has been selected as the device’s input method – aka on-screen keyboard – again, the destination rectangle can be repositioned within the document, and writing proceeds in the text-entry rectangle at the bottom.




I do see three basic cons to this combination of software:

  1. It’s not obvious to me, that the maximum speed at which most users will be able to enter text drawn in this way, can be made to catch up with the speed at which, for example, University lectures will typically be given. I found that I needed to increase the Word Spacing from 0.4 to 0.7 because the initial need to write letters very close together, was slowing me down…
  2. These two apps together, amount to a price-tag, that may be higher than what most users are used to spending,
  3. Finally, Mazec is one of those input methods, which will not work to unlock the tablet, after a reboot. Depending on how the device’s version of Android is configured, directly after a reboot, there may be no icon displayed to change the input method. If that’s the case, then the additional risk exists, that the device might just crash while this keyboard is selected. And if that happens, to unlock the tablet may become difficult. Therefore, the total amount of time this IM is selected should be kept to a minimum, just to reduce this risk.



The downside of trying to use an Android tablet for Note-Taking.

One of the applications for generic Android tablets which I’ve tried to find solutions to, mainly in the form of apps, would have been, for note-taking. And this quest has largely remained unsatisfied. I’d like to comment on Why.

When I wanted to use my tablet for note-taking, the way I visualized doing this, was to be able to jot down notes by hand, as if on paper. The idea seemed natural, that a tablet could store many pages of notes, without requiring that the user carry with him, stacks of sheets and binders.

But the main impediment I saw with this actually stemmed from the hardware itself, that is sometimes just referred to as the Glass of the tablet, or otherwise, as the Sensor. Most common tablets have a capacitance-based Sensor, which is best-suited, for detecting the proximity of a human fingertip. A necessary variation in its use is, a passive stylus, which does little better, than to focus electrostatic fields, as any shaped, conductive object would. This type of stylus requires no special hardware from the tablet to work, and can also be bought from virtually any manufacturer, and can remain compatible with the standard sensor.

The problem with that which ensues, is the fact that actual software – i.e., apps – try to implement a feature which is called ‘Palm Guard’, ‘Palm Rejection’, or ‘Wrist Guard’. This feature recognizes the fact that when people try to write on any surface, we usually have a tendency to rest the side of our hand on the same surface. The capacitance-based sensors cannot distinguish between contact with a human hand, and the point of the stylus. The ability of the software to make the same distinction is only as effective, as the ability of the sensor to be hugely multi-touch in the ‘contact-map’, that it inputs.

(Updated 12/26/2018, 12h00 : )

Continue reading The downside of trying to use an Android tablet for Note-Taking.