For the last two months I have been using both my iPad (3rd generation) and my Nexus 7. I really like the Nexus and I am probably spending more time with that device than with the iPad. It’s smaller, lighter, easier to hold in one hand and has reasonably good screen resolution. Like the iPad it will tun for most of a day on a single charge. I have installed apps for treading ebooks (and PDFs}, calculators, online magazines, a few games and of course noter taking. The dilemma is all about note taking.
Unlike the single simple keyboard with limited features that Apple offers on the various iOS devices, Android allows the installation of third party keyboards. There are many to choose from. Some popular choices are Swype, Swiftkey, and the Perfect Keyboard. These keyboards are provided with special features including, but not limited to, gestures and word completion. With these features enabled text entry can be accomplished at a very rapid speed that is not possible on Apple iOS devices. The dilemma is that , at this time, there are no really good Android note taking apps that can that are comparable to iOS apps such as Notability, Notes Plus, or my favorite, Note Taker HD. Oh yes, for short, one page notes or simple lists there are some good choices including Handy Notes and Note Everything, but for making a draft of a term paper or a blog article like the one you are reading, the available apps are far too limited in features. On the bright side most of these apps are being actively developed and some contain non-functional buttons that only display a message to that effect. Handwrite Pro is a good example. I hope that developer makes the mystery button into an add page feature that is sorely needed in this particular app.
I did find an app called Quill that comes closest to providing a notebook like writing experience. Quill can output handwritten notes to Evernote which can then be printed out from a desktop computer. The app is an open-source project. It’s free if downloaded from the developer’s web site or $1.00 if downloaded from the Google Play store. The downside of this app, as its name implies, is that it solely supports pen and pencil like input with no option for text entry and all the goodness of Android keyboards.
Android has some vey good PDF readers with annotating functions. It occurred to me that if one had a notepad with nothing but blank pages in PDF format than that pad could be opened with a PDF app and all the annotating tools would be available including text boxes and free drawing. It was a good idea except I could not find a way to create multiple blank pages with any Androd app. I was able to do this easily with Note Taker HD on the iPad after which I opened this pad with the Android app Repligo Reader. Admitterly, this was clumsy but it did work and resulted in a pretty good tool. I was able to create text boxes and line diagrams. What’s more they could be resized and moved around the pages.
Originally, I had planned to draft this article on the Nexus. After an hour or so of frustration I completed the work on an iPad as I usually do. Also, the original intent of this article was too demonstrate that an Android device might be a good choice for a college student. At this time I would be reluctant to make that recommendation but things to change quickly in the computer world. Yes, most of what a student needs is there, but the lack of a really good note taking app could br a serious problem.