Penultimate: Handwritten Notes App for iPad

May 24, 2011 — by RG. Chew4



Penultimate: Handwritten Notes App for iPad

May 24, 2011 — by RG. Chew4

Penultimate for iPadI have always wanted to have a paperless note taking system.  I have relied on a scribbling pad on my desk to jot down notes.  These notes are usually ideas, budgets, reminders and other stuff I do on the fly.

Inevitably, I end up with a few writing pads that cluttered my desk which are then thrown away during my annual spring-cleaning.  Looking back, I wished I had kept some of these pads for reference or just plain nostalgia.

My experiment with electronic handwriting began with the iPad’s predecessor; the Newton (back in the day) and found that there wasn’t enough screen space, the iPhone shared the same problem.  However, with the iPad, handwriting software is back in style.

Handwriting on an electronic device has never been so easy with programs like Penultimate ($1.99).

Penultimate Keeps Writing Simple

  1. Open a notebook
  2. Write on as many pages as you like
  3. Open Another Notebook to do the name

You get to name your notepads, and write with different pen stroke sizes and colors.  Editing your scribbles comes in the form of a standard erase, undo last action, and clear page function.

Handwritten Notes using Penultimate

Writing is not all Penultimate does, here is what else you can do with your doodles:

  • Email a Page or Entire Notebook (PDF)
  • Save Pages as a Photo
  • Print a Page
  • Send a Notebook (or Page) to another Penultimate user for collaboration via email

Update 3.0.1 – Customized Paper

The latest update of Penultimate lets customize your own paper to write on.  There is a set of 7 free formats while the rest are in-app purchases.  I do appreciate the fact that they were thoughtful to give some out as Freebies.

Penultimate - Customized Paper

Wish List

While handwriting had been made easier dramatically some issues still remain and I really hope the team at Cocoa Box Design would consider these ideas.

Wrist Protection.  Penultimate has a Wrist Protection feature that tries to negate the smudges made by your wrist while writing.  Even with that turned on; I still had smudges (on the lower right hand of the page).  Although I can erase that, this can be improved upon.

Free to Write Note

Password Protect.  It would be nice to have the ability to password protect the program or a particular Notebook.  I don’t want to be snooped upon when I am writing my notes for the cure on cancer here.

Sync Features.  It may really be an added plus if you can sync your work to Google Notes and other Sync Services (SugarSync, Box, or DropBox).

Import Features.  This is really pushing the envelope but it would really be cool to import JPGs, PDFs and other formats onto Penultimate. Currently, Penultimate allows you to use a picture for a paper background (like a watermark).


All in, Penultimate is a nice App that I always revert to scribble something down.  While there are other Apps out there, Penultimate has that X-Factor with their great user Interface.  While the buzzword in this field has been handwriting recognition, I think that it has quite a long way to go.  Meanwhile, I’ll just stick to scribbling for now.

RG. Chew

RG. Chew is a pundit on all things related to the tech industry and enjoys keeping taps on the fast pace of technology today. He is constantly trying to bring a fresh look (or relook) into the latest tech news and happenings for his readers

  • Mike

    Hi! Simon,

    Nice application that i have been waiting for. Do you use a “pen” to do the writing? Any recommendation of “writing pen” for iPad? Thanks.

    • R Chew


      There are load of writing stylus out there you can use ranging from $2-$15. They all have a round rubber tip (capacitative tip) that mimics the touch of your finger. Personally, they all write pretty well for me. However, “purists” look into the size of the tip, the handling of the stylus for writing or sketching, etc etc. If you are particular, do try it out before buying one.

      • Mike

        Hi! Chew,

        Many thanks!

  • G. Gottlieb

    What is the URL where the user guide for Penultimate can be found?.

    Also, how do you rename a notebook in Penultimate?

    Finally, how do you set the order of the notebooks?

    Thank you.