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Quick Review: Remarks

Readdle is today launching their latest iPad productivity app, Remarks. In some ways it is similar to their existing products such as ReaddleDocs or PDF Expert because it features full PDF annotation capabilities, but it is distinctly different because it is the first of their apps to really push the idea of handwriting and note taking as a core function. We’ve reviewed many of Readdle’s products before and by this stage it is clear to us that they make quality productivity software for iOS, so the real question I had when I downloaded this app was what exactly does it let you do and how might it fit into how I work.

What struck me almost instantly was that this app is clearly aimed at being a PDF creation tool, it isn’t like ReaddleDocs or PDF Expert which are more focused as being document management and PDF annotation apps. Remarks may have those same annotation tools but it wants you to create PDF documents, whether it be a handwritten note, drawing or diagram that you want to send to a colleague or perhaps a study note.

In its current form, PDF annotation may be useful but it’s a bit of a pain to get a PDF into Remarks, unlike PDF Expert and ReaddleDocs it doesn’t (yet) have support for cloud services such as Dropbox or SugarSync. Fortunately, this will only be a short-lived annoyance, Readdle plans to have an update ready within two weeks that adds support for cloud services.

Once you do get a PDF into Remarks, you won’t be disappointed - the same powerful annotation functionality that is in Readdle’s other apps is also available in Remarks. So you’ll get the tools to add text, draw shapes and write or draw in freehand on those PDFs, and as usual it is all editable in Preview on the Mac or any other PDF reader such as Adobe Acrobat.

I think for me, this app will come in handy when I need to take down study notes that also require diagrams or illustrations. Things that I can’t do in Evernote, which is very much a text focused note-taking app. In the past I have sketched them down in an exercise book and then for the most important ones I have subsequently drawn them up in Photoshop, OmniGraffle or OmniGraphSketcher, importing those into Evernote. Now I could just use Remarks to make an electronic copy of all my study notes, not just those that are in plain text. I’ll probably still use Photoshop or one of the Omni apps for some of my diagrams that are super important so they are a little neater - but its no longer a requirement.

Before I wrap up, I just wanted to make a quick mention of using a stylus with the iPad. The app does recommend using one and I must admit using a stylus in the context of drawing diagrams and general notes does make a lot of sense - using my finger wasn’t as effective as I had hoped and it soon got tiring. So I foresee myself picking up a stylus in the near future, to make sure I can take full advantage of what Remarks offers.

If you are just looking for an app to annotate PDF documents it might be a better idea to go for PDF Expert or ReaddleDocs. But if you want to do more freeform note-taking, drawing diagrams or creating your own simple PDFs, Remarks is the way to go. Remarks is available in the App Store for $4.99.

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