It might just be possible that in order to move forward with our tech, we need to look at simpler, more natural ways to bring it to people. That appears to be what Stan Miasnikov, the principle behind the iPad app PhatPad ($4.99), has done.
PhatPad looks a little like if your Notes app had a late night with MS Paint and some photo editing software. Who knew your Notes app was so freaky?!
The app was conceived, according to Miasnikov, with everyone in mind. And it sort of looks like it. You could download it and spend forever using it just like a notes app, typing out your thoughts and then exporting them to PDF, or transferring them to other computers via iTunes and Dropbox.
But that ignores the app’s most unique ability in my eyes — the potential for PhatPad to function like an actual note pad. Here's a demo of the app in action:
When I spoke with Miasnikov he noted that it was conceived as a presentation tool, with its main feature being its ease of collaboration. That’s certainly fair because it offers easy Dropbox syncing and email sharing. But I think it actually touches on something that, although possibly unintended, is much richer.
Do you use note-taking apps? Create a list of your favorites here.
People don’t write in perfectly aligned, neat and precise sentences in a notepad. They jot ideas down, make a doodle or two, maybe even try to recreate a model drawing to explain to someone later.
That PhatPad attempts to create that freedom of the pen is such an intriguing gamble. It works like a bridge to make the digital environment slightly more physical and real. PhatPad attempts this challenge organically. It actually lets you physically write out your thoughts and drawings and then converts them into either legible text or digital shapes. It offers the freedom of freehand, but the legibility of someone who appears to have carefully thought out their writing.
Recently, my roommate has been playing around with the GarageBand app on his iPhone. Already musically-inclined and familiar with the Mac version of the software, he’s taken to it incredibly quickly in part because it works so organically. You don’t have to unnaturally tap a laptop keyboard or trackpad to make the music, you finger tap the drum pads almost as if you were playing real drums.
That same principle of organic creation through digital means is at work with PhatPad. The success of these two apps (and apps like them) could bring about something akin to a middle ground for technophobes who aren’t comfortable working with digital interfaces, and tech pioneers who are simply looking for more intuitive offerings. Maybe it’s time we head back to the future with our tech. I’ll gas-up the Delorean.