iPhone App Review: Draw Pad Pro

iPhone App Review: Draw Pad Pro

December 23rd, 2011 by

Developer Fishington Studios has created a new, universal drawing app for all iOS devices that tries to give users a great free drawing and note-creating app, while addressing the ever-present usability issues that having a fat finger on a small screen brings. Organize notebooks, organize pages within those notebooks, choose a paper style for each and every page, then export entire notebooks or just individual pages as a PDF to share through email, Twitter, or even open it in iBooks or other installed PDF readers on your device.

How It Works

Draw Pad Pro has loads of features to help you create the perfect sketch-based note.

First, create a new notebook from the main screen. Give it a title, an optional descriptive note, and select a color for the “cover” and a default notebook paper (this can be changed on individual pages as well). There are dozens of different styles to choose from, my personal favorites being the blank music sheets and the “hangman” style. There are dozens here, so be sure to explore them all.

Once that’s done you add pages to your notebook, and this is where the rubber meets the road in any sketching app. In order along the bottom row are eight icons:

  • Magnifying glass: no, you cannot search sketches. This icon takes you to a screen where you can drag along the pages in the notebook and find the one you’re looking for. Sort of a manual search functions.
  • Pencil: select from dozens of colors and 6 different tip thicknesses.
  • Paper: select the paper style for the individual page you are working on.
  • Trace: select or snap a photo and use it as a backdrop for tracing. Adjust opacity to your liking.
  • Photo: available via in-app purchase or free if you Tweet about the app. Add a photo to your drawing. Scale and rotate to fit.
  • Giant X: clear your page of all drawings. Requires a confirmation.
  • Eraser: erases.
  • Strange road sign: tap this and you can either return to the cover of the notebook or return to the notebook itself. Yes, it’s a bit confusing.

Once you’ve created your masterpiece, you can export individual pages as a PDF, or even the entire notebook. Creations can be shared through email, Twitter, or viewed within the app and opened in PDF readers on your device through the “Open In…” option on the dialogue.

Pros And Cons

Draw Pad Pro is a very ambitious app with amazing potential, and serves as a highlight of the two different design philosophies for apps on the iTunes App Store. Comments on the app’s iTunes profile have compared it to a major competitor (which I won’t name here), stating that Draw Pad Pro is what this competitor should be, but isn’t. I tend to agree there in terms of features and sheer capabilities, but Draw Pad Pro lacks an overall level of polish that some more mature sketching apps possess.

Draw Pad Pro definitely has tons of features, styles, paper designs, notebook themes, and export options that most of its competitors in the App Store lack. It is also visually appealing, showing you attractive notebook covers and high-quality pages, as well as creating gorgeously rendered notes. Draw responsiveness is top-notch, and you can zoom in on your pages to let you draw details, two features that I would say are the two most important features in this app category.

On the downside is the overall navigation experience. On the main drawing page, some of the icons are questionable in how the picture represents their function. The magnifying glass, for instance, just doesn’t convey that you’re being taken to a screen full of thumbnails of the notebook’s pages.

There are also dialogues within the app that you can’t cancel out of. For instance, when choosing a paper style or a pen color, you cannot exit the screen without making a selection, nor does the selection dialogue give you an indication of what your most recent selection is. You also can’t make more than one selection on the pencil color/size screen, which is odd since you’re given two categories of things to choose from (the color of your lines and the line weight).

The last niggling issue is the lack of landscape, at least in the iPhone version. It’s not that I care whether there is a landscape feature, in fact I prefer sketches in portrait mode anyway, but it’s confusing because the thumbnail for the Hangman blank pages is actually in landscape mode, so I wonder if this feature was present at one time and then discarded, or if it’s simply a misused thumbnail.

Overall

Despite my list of issues with the app, Draw Pad Pro is overall my favorite sketching app in the App Store. It has features that other apps only dream about, and despite the user interface problems, the developers have ensured that the app does what it’s supposed to do very well: draw. You can draw and export notes very easily and very intuitively, creating high-quality PDFs with a multitude of sharing options. Hopefully this app has a long and prosperous update cycle to iron out the rough spots and make it a good contender in the Productivity category on the App Store.

Draw Pad Pro is available now as a Universal download, for $1.99.

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