iPad optimize

Penultimate for iPad: A must for IT professionals

Erik Eckel recommends a simple and low-cost tool for consistently collecting notes, creating drawings, and making diagrams that can be printed, emailed, and saved as PDF files.

Some of the iPad's power comes from its ability to replace paper and eliminate the need to re-enter notes, drawings and diagrams for permanent documentation within IT departments. Diagramming applications, such as Omnigraffle, offer tremendous capacity. Sometimes, however, all an IT professional needs is a simple note taking and drawing tool. That's where Cocoa Box Design's Penultimate for iPad, a simple two-dollar app, shines.

Simple tasks done well

I find myself frequently turning to Penultimate, one of the best-selling iPad apps, when taking simple notes and creating straightforward diagrams. Often, when using the iPad in the field, time is of the essence. Either a client is explaining business requirements, I'm trying to record important system settings, I need to map a basic network closet's connections, I have just a moment to record a network configuration, or I'm needing to sketch a diagram to help a client understand how a network or series of elements comes together (I'm a big believer in the power of simple images to communicate complex issues). Penultimate is simple, straightforward, and easy to use and helps technical professionals communicate complex processes and ideas succinctly.

Some applications prove popular thanks to numerous options and features. Penultimate's success is due to its simplicity. The app presents simple notebooks, similar to Moleskines in appearance, that can contain just one or many pages. You change pages simply by pressing either the lower left or lower right page corner. Sliding the corner grip icon displays all the notebook's pages as thumbnail images, allowing for easy review and repagination.

A simple toolbar displays just three icons. Pressing the pen icon enables the selection of six line colors and three line thicknesses. An eraser, for selective edits, and a clear page icon are the only other toolbar selections.

Page types are limited to three. Users can opt for plain pages, lined paper or a grid layout. I've found the grid layout particularly helpful when diagramming networks, server closets and server racks. When drawing anything requiring accurate lines, however, I have found Penultimate works best when paired with a basic iPad stylus, such as Pogo's Sketch.

Other than a Wrist Protection feature, which helps prevent unintentional screen contact from generating stray marks on a page, there really aren't any other capabilities. The sole exceptions are printing and export functionality, critical to any note-taking, drawing or diagramming app. With Penultimate, you can print (when using IOS 4.2 and later) directly from a notebook and export notebooks or pages as PDF or Penultimate files. Single pages can also be sent or saved as images.

Recommended for IT pros

There are numerous apps available to technology professionals. But one that's almost required for IT pros is Penultimate. The app provides a simple and low-cost tool for consistently collecting notes, creating drawings, and making diagrams that can be printed, emailed and saved as PDF files. That's a powerful combination, especially considering how often IT pros need to document systems, diagram networks, record notes and settings, and create simple mock-ups to help communicate complex processes.

About

Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president o...

9 comments
XLTR
XLTR

I found this on my own a few weeks ago. It's everything it claims to be, and incredibly easy to use. Get it. I wish there was an iPhone version.

carlstep333
carlstep333

For notes and diagrams I don't think I have come across a better app than note taker hd. It has a lot of great features but is simple to use. I use my iPad every day for taking notes, whether at conferences or meetings.

andrea
andrea

Your synopsis is this app is a must have for IT professionals. What features does this app have that makes it a 'must-have' for our profession and not somebody else's? Also why have you not provided any alternatives to the app. Have you done any research at all into other writing apps available for the iPad to compare this to? Such as UPad, which rocks, and since I'm not writing the article, I won't write one here - I'll leave you with my synopsis - UPad out does Pen Ultimate in every way possible.

grampadave
grampadave

The penultimate is by definition second to the best. I used 'penultimate' many times without realizing that it meant 'next to the best'. Someone pointed that out and that's when I found egg on my face...

elangomatt
elangomatt

I think the article says it is a must have for IT professionals because this website's primary audience is for IT professionals. If the audience of the website included a wider range of professionals, then I suspect the article would have been written differently. As for why penultimate was featured instead of UPad, I suspect maybe that is because UPad isn't as popular or maybe the author happens to just like penultimate better.

TexasJetter
TexasJetter

Dictonary.com defines penultimate as "next to the last", which may not be next to best. I am guessing that the creators took Pen and Ultimate and thought they were being clever. Perhaps they should have looked the word up, but then I would not have caught it except for your post....

andrea
andrea

... is that he can't write an article with relevant information and comparisons, then he is either A - advertising the product or B - not a good writer. But "you're entitled to your opinion" too. I guess because there are legalzoom ads on this IT web site, they are the best lawyers for IT related businesses too. I guess we can just apply that to everything displayed on the site.

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

When you just need to take a quick note, make a small sketch or create a simple diagram, the app is better even than a Moleskine notebook in my opinion because of the ability to print and email and even create pdfs for easy distribution. As a writer and photographer, the ability to take quick notes anywhere, any time, is important and many times my Moleskine is inaccessible when I most need it. No, it can't convert your handwriting to text, but if you can read your own handwriting, it shouldn't slow you down that much.

Ian Wright
Ian Wright

You pays your money you gets what you pay for. I thought the review was quite useful. It brought a product to my attention that I was unaware of and the author clearly expressed his opinion. No problem for me there. I think I'm intelligent enough to take this as a starting point to inform my own consideration.