Paper by FiftyThree (henceforth, 'Paper') is how you make and sell an application for the iPad. Paper is a sketchbook with endless pages. Actually, you can hop into multiple sketchbooks which look like Moleskines with customizable covers. Tap on a sketchbook to open and then flip pages like Flipbook.
What I like most about Paper is what it leaves out. It is the limitations and simplicity that make Paper really appealing and usable. There are only a handful of colors, but the palette is beautiful and useful, and, depending on the tools, mix or interact with each other. You can't zoom, but you can't zoom on a physical sketchbook either, and zooming would complicate the physics of how the tools respond.
The fountain pen produces believable strokes without running out of ink, streaking or jittery hand movements thanks to a smoothing algorithm. The strokes are elegant and confident.
One nod to digitalness is a well implemented undo feature which will step backwards through atomic sketching events which is very useful for experimentation or correcting accidental strokes that arise from attempting to invoke other gestures like turning pages or revealing the tool tray.
Paper is free, but it only comes with two tools: a very nice pen and an eraser. Paper makes use of in-app purchasing where you can buy up to four new tools to unlock. I found the watercolors and pencil most rewarding. The pen and marker seem to be of limited usefulness without a stylus. I can sketch with a pencil without fine motor fingertip control, but I feel a stylus is really necessary for the pen/marker tools for visibility reasons. You can't accurately place dots with your finger.
When you try to invoke a empty tool, Paper prompts you to buy it, but it also provides a sandbox in which you can try the tool before you buy it. You can buy each tool individually for $2, or the complete set for $8.
The first time I tried Paper, I knew my daughter would love it. It provides a satisfying set of sketching tools, without the expense or mess. It is so easy to sketch something out in pencil, add some ink strokes and dabs of color with the watercolor tool. Facebook, twitter and tumblr sharing are integrated, which would easily allow me to fill with cat sketch after cat sketch.
I never found computerized sketching all that rewarding. Photoshop and Illustrator are powerful design tools, but they're not lightweight and simple. Wacom tablets provide fine motor control, but the action is decoupled from the result. Wacom made some tablet-on-display devices that addressed this, but they were way too big and expensive, not to mention tethered. Paper is to the iPad what MacPaint was to the original Macintosh, not in form or function, but in spirit.
I would like to make an app similar in spirt to Paper, but for music. One obvious example would be music staff paper and a transcription engine. Being able to simply draw notes onto a staff without switching to a whole note tool, half note tool, etc. Things like note step direction and measure boundaries are taken care of simply because you draw them in.
I've read through some of the comments on Paper and there are some good feature requests and some feature requests that seem to break the spirit of how the application is designed, like zooming, for example. So, here are some things I would like to see:
- More tools like a charcoal tool
- More paper types like graph paper or types that change ink absorption rates or offer texture
- More document sharing options like email or iCloud
- Portrait orientation mode
I don't want a dedicated undo button since this would mean bringing the tray up and down. I like the undo gesture as it is.