Mobility

Take fast notes on the go with Quill

Jack Wallen takes a look at Quill, an inexpensive application that allows you to quickly write out notes or sketch drawings.

I recently examined the complex (but incredibly handy) BeNote application and found it to be an outstanding tool to keep your life and business day organized. But what about those users who want to take simpler notes, say for meetings? When you need to quickly write out notes or sketch drawings, there's a great solution called Quill.

For only $1.00 (USD), the Quill handwriting/note-taking app offers the following features:

  • Active pen (digitizer) support for ThinkPad Tablet, HTC Jetstream, and HTC Flyer
  • Fast response to pen strokes
  • "Fountain pen" mode supports pen pressure (requires active pen)
  • Pinch-to-zoom
  • Double-finger tap to zoom
  • Two-finger move gesture
  • Pen strokes are vector art
  • "Pen only" mode to disable touch input while writing
  • Android 3.x hardware accelerated graphics
  • Open source (GPL) format
  • PDF export (save to SD card, Evernote, Share)
  • PNG (raster image) export
  • Backup/restore your data
  • Ruled/Quad background paper
  • Tagging for pages
  • Easy switch between multiple notebooks
  • Undo/redo
  • Change pencil thickness/color

Obviously, the experience with Quill is made better with an active pen. With these, you get touch sensitivity and other features (depending upon the pen and tablet). Active pens that are known to work are:

  • ThinkPad Tablet Pen (N-trig digitizer) for the ThinkPad Tablet
  • HTC Scribe (N-trig digitizer) for the HTC Flyer / HTC Evo View 4G / HTC Jetstream
  • Samsung S-pen (Wacom digitizer) for the Galaxy Note

Even without an active pen, you can still use a capacitive pen (I've purchased these at drugstores for $5.00) or your finger. Regardless of how you interface with the app, Quill is a great way to take instant notes without having to dig through the features and steps of other, more complicated, note-taking tools.

Let's take a loom at how to install and use Quill.

Installation

As you would expect, getting Quill on your tablet is quite simple. Just follow these steps:

  1. Open the Google Play Store
  2. Search for "quill" (no quotes)
  3. Tap the entry for Quill
  4. Tap the price button
  5. Tap Accept & buy
  6. Let the installation complete

You should now see the Quill launcher in your app drawer (or, depending upon you tablet, the home screen). Now, it's time to start taking notes.

Usage

When you first fire up Quill, you'll find yourself on a fairly minimalistic page (Figure A). You can immediately begin writing, sketching, adding images, etc. Just place your pen (or your finger) on the screen and start writing (or drawing). Figure A

Quill on the Verizon-branded Samsung Galaxy Tab.
In the right half of the top toolbar, you'll find all of the available tools. If you want easier access to these tools, tap the red circle in the bottom left corner. When you tap this, you enable the toolbox (Figure B). Figure B

Quick access to the tools make for faster note taking.

You can easily switch between the fountain pen and the pencil. Unless you have an active pen, you won't see any difference between the pencil and fountain pen. The fountain pen supports pressure sensitivity (so the harder you press, the thicker the line).

You can change the thickness of the pencil by doing the following:

  1. Enable the toolbox
  2. Select the pencil tool
  3. Tap the drop-down between the color picker and the tool selector
  4. Choose from ultra-fine to giant

It's also possible to add an image to your note. This is great for annotating. To add an image to your note, follow these steps:

  1. Open the toolbox
  2. Tap the image tool (directly to the right of the eraser)
  3. Tap and drag the screen to size the image
  4. From the image selector (Figure C), tap either Gallery (to select an image from your collection) or Photo (to take a photo with the tablet's camera)
  5. If you're adding an image from your Gallery, locate it, and tap it to add
  6. If necessary, tap the Crop button to crop the image
  7. If necessary, tap the rotate button(s) to change the rotation of the image
  8. Once the image is exactly how you want it, tap the Save button
Figure C

If you change your mind about adding an image, tap the Erase button to cancel the action.
The image should now be in your note. You can draw or write notes about the image (Figure D). Figure D

Here you see notes added to a screenshot taken from BeNote.

To use the pinch-to-zoom feature, you must first tap on the zoom tool (top left tool in the toolbox). Once you've selected that tool, you can then pinch to zoom in or out, and you can move the note about on the screen. The nice thing about zooming is that you can make finer-grained notes. This is especially helpful if you have trouble writing smaller print clearly - just zoom in, write, and zoom out.

When you need a new page for new notes, simply tap the Next button. You can also create new notebooks (say for different departments) by going to the Quill home screen (tap the Quill icon in the upper left corner of the main window). From the Home Screen (Figure E), tap the Switch Notebook button, and then tap Create new notebook. Figure E

You can also filter pages by tags on this screen.
To add tags to a note, tap the Tags button in the upper left corner, type the tag you want to add, and tap either Done or Next (on the keyboard - Figure F). You can add as many tags as needed to a note. Figure F

When you type the first tag for a note, the keyboard key will say Done.

Finally, you can export your notes to various formats by doing the following:

  1. Open the note to be exported
  2. Tap the menu button in the top right corner
  3. Select Export
  4. Name the note in the resulting overlay (Figure G)
  5. Select the output type (PNG, PDF, Quill Archive)
  6. Tap Export
Figure G

From here you can also easily share the note.

Although Quill doesn't have all the cool features of BeNote, it does enable you to take very fast notes, quickly add images, and keep multiple notes and notebooks. It's fast, simple, and allows you to export your notes to a universal format.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

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