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One year with a tablet, I’ve finally gone paperless

One year ago my wife got me an iPad for Father’s Day. While I wanted a tablet as a cool tech gadget, I also wanted one so I could accomplish a goal I’ve been chasing for a long time – eliminating paper – notebooks, specifically. I had tried other methods before but none of them lasted.

So getting a tablet wasn’t a complete waste but I still saw it as a luxury item. Nobody “needs” a tablet. I could continue to use piles of spiral notebooks to keep track of my ideas and sketches, and I could develop web sites without actually owning a device. Plus, tablets are expensive…at least the iPad is. Hovering around the $400 price for the “large” version, I had settled on not buying one at all but the wife really surprised me and for that I am very thankful.

This post is not entirely an endorsement for the iPad specifically. It’s the tablet I received but I’m sure any tablet would have resulted in similar results.

You’re only as good as your tools

There’s a lot of novelty value when it comes to new gizmos and the iPad was no different. I downloaded games, songs, utilities and all sorts of other apps I thought I’d need. But one app was more critical than any other for my tablet, a writing app. I needed an app that I could use to write notes and sketch. I didn’t need an “art” drawing app per se and I didn’t need something that offers audio, video and extras. I just needed something that felt good and got out of my way. I tried dozens of apps in my quest and while some boasted great features the one that I always went back to was Bamboo Paper.

Bamboo Paper is one of the more basic writing apps you’ll find without a lot of bells and whistles, but the one thing I needed it do to it does very, very well. Writing on Bamboo Paper is very fast with little lag between the time you move your finger and see it on the screen. This was the biggest flaw I found in all the other drawing apps, the lag was just a killer and ultimately led to me deleting the app.

Bamboo Paper App
Bamboo Paper, simple but effective writing app

With the app problem solved there was one more tool I need to complete my goal, a stylus. Yes, I know tablets are meant to work with fingers (and they do quite well) but when it comes to writing words I just can’t use my finger, sorry. I tried a few cheaper styli that I found at the store but none of them worked very well. Some broke after little time and others just weren’t responsive…and all of them felt cheap (because they were!). So I took the internets to see what other people were using. I read dozens upon dozens of reviews and decided on the Maglus as it got a high score from one Verge review. I bought this thing sight-unseen and for $25 it was somewhat of a gamble but I trusted the source and the reviews. Turns out I put my trust in the right place because the Maglus stylus has been the perfect compliment to my tablet.

The stylus might not look like much but it feels great when you’re using it. It’s heavy so you don’t have to push hard, and the foam tip is pretty firm so it doesn’t get all squishy. I writes smoothly and feels like writing with a pen or pencil. Even with the perfect note-taking app like Bamboo Paper, without a good stylus you’ll have trouble reaching your paperless goals.

Putting it all together to go paperless

So I had assembled my end-all-be-all digital notebook but would I actually use this expensive thing reliably beyond it’s novelty honeymoon? It got a little getting used to but after a year of use I can say that taking notes on my tablet has become invaluable. All my notes, ideas and drawings are now in one spot and with me all the time. No more need for multiple spiral notebooks or swankier Moleskine notebooks. No more running around trying to find the right book and no more worries about crumpling, spilling or having the dogs eat my notes. All of this has kept my notes organized and thus has kept me and my projects organized and on track.

Bamboo Paper notes
Writing, sketching…it’s now all in one place

And obviously a great benefit to digital notes is unlimited historical data. Without the need to crack open a new spiral notebook, I can look back at all my notes and sketches to remember ideas I had forgotten while also pondering the stupidity of some thoughts. You can easily archive things and export notes to other places, like Evernote and Dropbox, so getting to your information is quick and painless as well.

Sure, I have a stack of games on my iPad and have found that reading on it is a delight as well. Having a tablet has been the perfect thing for 75% of what I do with technology. The other 25% is still relegated to a computer with a proper keyboard but having that separation has been kind of nice. A tablet is still a luxury device for just about everyone. It might sound silly spending $500+ to eliminate the need for paper but in the long run (and even the short run) having a tablet has made a huge impact.