When the 12.9” iPad Pro was launched in 2015, it brought with it a compelling accessory few people believed would ever see the light of day. Steve Jobs did, after all, once claim that if tablet manufacturers turned to styluses, they’d as good as admitted failure.
The introduction of the Apple Pencil appeared to go against everything Jobs clearly held dear about mobile devices, yet was hailed a breakthrough development by the Cupertino company. And, when you dig a little deeper, it’s clear the Pencil is anything but a stylus.
The Apple Pencil is aimed squarely at creatives and those who want to swap traditional pen and paper notes for the digital variety. While you can navigate iOS with the Pencil, it really isn’t designed for that – it exists so that particular apps can shine.
InkFlow by Qrayon sits squarely within that bracket. An admirably simple note taking app, it promises to offer a “note-taking and brainstorming experience unlike any other”. But can it really foster creativity and help increase productivity?
That sounds like a challenge, so, naturally, we decided to put it to the test.
Look and feel
As soon as you’ve installed InkFlow, you’re ready to go. There’s no long-winded introduction or get started guide you’re unable to escape from – instead, you’re presented immediately with the ‘gallery’ and the option to create a new note.
InkFlow shuns vibrant interface design for utilitarian function, with a dark grey background the home for your ‘books’ (that’s how it refers to notes) and a simple bar across the top offering minimal functionality.
It’s about as barebones as you can get, but, then, so is a traditional notepad!
You can rename your books and duplicate them, although re-ordering isn’t currently possible.
Sketching and Apple Pencil support
Start a new book and you’re taken to a big slab of white screen, on which you can start writing or drawing. Again, it’s a no-frills experience, but intrinsically easy to get to grips with. The ability to choose different page styles – i.e. ruled lines, grids or musical staff – add a layer of customisation that enables you to put InkFlow to use in all manner of situations.
If you’ve got an Apple Pencil, InkFlow performs admirably, bar the slightest of lag in keeping up with your scribblings. It isn’t off-putting, but it is noticeable when compared with other apps such as Apple’s own Notes.
You can, of course, use your finger instead, although doing so feels somewhat unnatural and you’ll tire of doing so rather quickly. A Pencil or 3rd party stylus are therefore sensible investments if you’re to get the most from InkFlow.
In the free version (more on InkFlow Pro later), you can only write or sketch with one colour – black, which puts this particular app very much in the note-taking tool bracket. You can undo when you make a mistake, but there’s no eraser, which can prove a little frustrating at times.
There’s a neat selection tool which enables you to effectively grab anything you’ve sketched and either relocate or resize it. This is particularly handy when brainstorming with mind maps, but can be equally as useful if you just need to shuffle some notes around.
By clicking the + button in the top bar, you can add text or images that have been saved onto you iPad. You can even take a photo with the iPad’s camera and embed the results. Adding rich content like this can really bring your notes to life.
One of the biggest problems encountered when swapping pen and paper for a touchscreen and stylus is the unnerving ability to inadvertently draw with your resting palm.
InkFlow gets around this with palm rejection technology that works pretty flawlessly (only the odd dot or squiggly line appeared during our tests) and there’s an optional ‘wrist guard’ that can be pulled up from the bottom of the screen, preventing the user’s palm from touching the notepad.
Once you’ve finished your note or drawing, you can export it in a number of ways. Email is useful if you need to send some meeting minutes onto colleagues, while PDF and JPEG support will prove handy when you need a copy that can be viewed and edited in other applications.
You can tweet your work directly from InkFlow, too, which will be useful for artists who want to share their masterpieces with the world.
The more you use InkFlow, the more you’ll yearn for additional features. Happily, InkFlow Plus exists, and for £5.99, you can upgrade to a version that features a customisable colour palette, eraser tool, paintbrushes, highlighting and more page management options.
The full run-down of Plus-only options can be found in the handy getting started book included with InkFlow:
InkFlow is a fantastic option for those getting started with the iPad Pro. If you’re toying with the idea of going digital for note-taking, this app offers a no-frills experience that will enable you to get cracking immediately. It’s a little pegged-back, feature-wise, but that’s why the Pro edition exists, and the latter is absolutely worth its price tag.