Frances Bea (frances_bea) wrote,
Frances Bea

He he. Also, New Android Tablet

Looking back at my last post (more than a year ago) where I expressed regret that I had been posting so infrequently, I can only say "Ha!"

Picture of UrsulaSo, whatever. My ancient cat is still going strong, though she's pretty skinny these days, and I really don't know how much time she has left. I drew a picture of her. I don't really draw, but I have an excellent drawing app on my Android tablet, and I've been inspired to try. As you can see, I spent most of my time on her face and didn't really finish the rest of her. It's probably not clear from the outlines, but that's both her left front and left back legs tucked under her chin. The green background is because I'm not really skilled enough for drawing white fur.

I've been loving my tablet. I bought a Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 back in February, so that's more recent than my last blog post, though still not terribly recent. I love the thing. I really do. If I could change one thing, it would be to have an option to move the system bar from the bottom of the screen to the top. That's not a huge thing, but it's one of those minor annoyances that keeps drawing attention to itself. Anyway, what I love about the tablet is that it has a stylus, and because it's actually designed to have one (as opposed to the iPad third-party styluses that trick the tablet into thinking that the stylus is a person's finger), the tablet can actually distinguish between my pen and my finger, and respond differently to both. The awesome result of this is that I can rest my hand on the screen as I'm writing. The app knows that I don't want to write with my hand, and disregards the fact that most of the side of my hand is draped across the writing area.

This is the one breakthrough that makes writing on an electronic device just as convenient as scribbling on a pad of paper. In fact, my desk at work has rarely been graced with a pad of paper since I've had it, and my notes are more organized and accessible as well. (It's quicker and easier to switch notebooks electronically than physically, so I'm better about separating notes on one project from notes on another.) This is all given the caveat of the system bar issue I mentioned above. That is, the system bar is always active, and doesn't care if the only reason you're touching its buttons is because you're draping your hand on the screen while you write. So, you can be interrupted randomly by items on the system bar getting activated. As a result, I try to scroll my notes so I'm writing higher on the device - so my hand is less likely to contact the bottom of the screen. This isn't a major annoyance, and is probably just the kind of oversight you can expect to see in a flagship device. When I need to replace my tablet, I hope I'll be able to replace it with a similar but more updated version that I doubt would have this same issue.

My top apps:

1. LectureNotes.

This really is my #1 app on my tablet, and it's the app that really convinced me I'd done the right thing investing in the tablet in the first place. The Note tablet came with a S-Note, an app for taking notes, but I was very unhappy with it. LectureNotes has the note-taking features I'll really use while lacking the one I wouldn't want anyway. It doesn't have handwriting recognition. Handwriting recognition is fine when you're writing an email or entering a URL - you can't easily do those just with handwriting. But when taking notes at my desk or in a meeting, or just scribbling to myself, handwriting recognition is an imposition. Sure, it would be great if I could do a full-text search to see any meeting notes where a particular term was used, but the truth is, I wouldn't use it. If I apply handwriting recognition I need to slow down what I'm doing and thinking long enough to proofread the text that has been derived from what I wrote, and correct it when it's wrong. Without handwriting recognition there's still the risk that I or someone else reading my notes will be unable to read my handwriting, but people are better at that than computers, so the risk is by definition lower than the risk that the computer will misinterpret my writing if it is doing the interpretation.

Anyway, the features that LectureNotes actually does have are awesome. I can get notebooks with blank, lined, grid or "custom" patterns. The paper color, line color, and line width are all adjustable, and that's without breaking into the "custom" paper options. I can write with any of the built-in pens, or design my own. I usually prefer yellow paper with black lines, but if you want dark red paper that'll work too - you will just want to get a light-colored pen for legibility. I like being able to drop snippets from web pages and emails into my notes both to keep a record in the notes and also to write on them.

2. Autodesk SketchBook Pro

This is actually #2 by a significant margin, at least for now, but I haven't had it nearly as long as LectureNotes. My opinion may change if I get seriously into art. I have never really considered myself an artist or done much drawing, and I've tried a few drawing apps on Android, but this is the one that really works for me. But it's a great app. A recent UI update added labels to a lot of the controls which had been just icons, really improving the usability. I have been reading tutorials and watching youtube instructional videos from a number of different artists to learn how to get the most out of it. The drawing I included above of my cat was my first, uniformed attempt. I had just bought the application, and found the cat "sleeping" on the bed and decided to try to sketch her. I put "sleeping" in quotes because she often seems to sleep with one eye partly open, and I am not sure she's really fully asleep.

Other apps:

* 10000000

This is a cute, fun game, and because it was designed to work on an Android phone, the buttons are big and accessible when run on a tablet. I had a run through, and my brother's elementary-age boys really liked it too. The challenge is a timed match-3 slider puzzle, and the format is run-till-you-die, then invest the proceeds to improve your chances on the next run. So the better you are at match-3 the more you make each time, the more you invest and the faster you win the game, but unless you're spectacularly unable to play the game you will continue to progress.

* Reduce Photo Size

This is just a utility app, but it really helps to have a quick way to compress and rotate images. The gallery app will do some but not all of that, and the Photoshop Touch app is entertaining but pretty limited.

* Aldiko

Nice reader app. There are other nice reader apps and I haven't tried most of them, so I'm not even sure this stands out of the bunch, but it's very comfortable. There are options for night/day mode (light text on dark screen/dark text on light screen), you can adjust screen brightness separately from the system controls (you may want it dimmer if you're reading for hours), very flexible font size, and some features I've never been that concerned about... margin and line spacing adjustments, different fonts and text alignment etc... It remembers my place, but still allows separate bookmarking.

* Pleco Chinese/English Dictionary

I've talked about this app before, though it has had some nice updates and improvements. It's only gotten better, and if this is something you're interested in I recommend installing at least the free version. It's now very a la carte with features, so the free version has only a shadow of what you can do with it, but you should explore on your own.

Other games: The Bard's Tale, Zen Bound 2
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