At CES this year, one major trend is the shifting tablet scope toward pen computing. This term once sent shudders down the spine of any product development team, as "Pen Computing" was equated with handwriting recognition and that was spelled doom for early products such as the Apple Newton that used a pen, not touch, as the primary input. Now iPad Apps software maker Readdle wants to move back to the pen with its release of the new Remarks software that targets handwriting capture, note taking and PDF annotation.

It offers the promise to "...replace paper for writing notes, making sketches and drafting ideas. At the same time Remarks is a powerful PDF annotation tool that can be used to review documents, make comments in textbooks." 

Some technologists believe that part of what made the iPad such a glowing success is its lack of a pen (no handwriting apps) and the focus on touch (and now voice) for primary navigation and input functions. But the prospect of replacing pen-and-paper input and using technology to bring these tools into the digital domain is still a vision for many as well as a challenge.

CES Hardware Moves Toward Pen on Tablet

Case in point is the recent release at CES of the Samsung Galaxy Note, with its beautiful 5.3-inch AMOLED display that includes a precise Wacom pressure-sensitive pen plus capacitive touch screen, and also offers handwriting recognition (HWX) mark-up and drawing software. Some speculate the company may be using the pen to help differentiate its tablet products from the Apple offering. 

On the iPad side, Alex Tyagulsky, Readdle CMO of Readdle, said, "Many iPad owners are using the device in class and at work. In some cases, they want to make notes on the iPad, in others they want to comment on existing documents, so what they need is a product that can do both [and] that makes Remarks exactly the application they have been looking for." 

Collaboration is the Key

Tyagulsky believes what sets the software apart is using it as a collaboration tool. Notes that are shared via email can be opened and changed by any other person who uses Remarks, and those notes can be edited using Adobe Reader or Apple's Preview application either on the Mac or PC.

The combination makes for a mobile tool that helps bring pen and paper interface in sync with the desktop productivity model. 

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Other key functions of Remarks include: 

  • Add Notes Quickly: Only one tap is needed to start new a note
  • Exchange files with Mac/PC: Use a USB cable and iTunes File Sharing to copy notes
  • Edit your notes on the Mac/PC: Make changes into your notes using any PDF editor such as Preview or Adobe Reader
  • Annotate Email Attachments: Open PDF attachments directly from the Mail app to annotate them
  • Share Notes With Your Friends: Email notes to friends with remarks and they will be able to edit it like their own
  • Import PDFs from Dropbox: Use "Open In" to transfer documents from Dropbox, Box.Net, Safari and other applications

The company said its Remarks app is available online for $4.95 through the Apps Store in the Productivity category.