Tablets used to be synonymous with styluses (or stylii). These ancient writing utensils made a big comeback in the day of PDAs, Windows Slates, and pre-smart cell phones.
Then the iPad came along. Sans stylus. Designed to be used without one. An aesthetically pleasing, functional machine that works by personal, intimate touch. No stylus needed. Still, as with many things that Apple probably did not envision would happen with the iPad, manufacturers started making styluses for them. And so the question: to stylus or not to stylus.
I’ve always maintained that I don’t need a writing aid for the iPad. I thought it was for sissies and besides, we were sure to lose it soon. Then the husband expressed interest in one, for sketching purposes. So we shopped around and decided on Wacom Bamboo Stylus for iPad (for €34,44 from amazon.de). Pricey, but I wanted to make sure we had something that was quality.
Now, a few weeks later, my husband is very happy with it. He keeps it carefully in his work bag. I decided to test the stylus, to see how I would feel using it for normal surfing and work activities on the iPad. He allowed me to borrow it, and admonished me to return it to the bag as soon as I was finished.
My conclusions surprised me. Essentially we do three types of things with the iPad. We direct: in the sense that we browse, navigate or trace paths that allow us to read or play; we write: usually by keyboard and we draw: freehand or with a stylus.
For browsing, the stylus replaces a finger nicely and has the added advantage of not leaving greasy marks all over the shiny screen. It swipes, it taps, it scrolls. Websites, books, games – all work nicely. Even though clicking on links is very accurate, I have the feeling that I have to look exactly where to hit the mark, whereas with the finger it feels more intuitive. I don’t think about where to put my finger, I just lay it where I think it should do its job. Writing an email using the stylus was surprisingly quick. It was almost as fast as with my fingers. And of course, sketching is a breeze with the stylus. Wacom has produced a companion iPad app – Bamboo Paper, which lets you jot down notes, sketch mindmaps or simply draw. Other drawing apps like iDraw, UYH or Tactilis work as pleasantly, although the slight delay in rendering takes a bit getting used to. The path drawn by the stylus always takes a few nanoseconds to appear on the screen, although some apps are faster than others.
You should know that the stylus can also be used for the iPhone. It’s the same as with the iPad, just smaller.
So what do I think? I think the stylus is very useful and stylish. If I’d regularly sketch I wouldn’t mind using it. Also, using the iPad outdoors in the wintertime (with gloves on) would be easier with a stylus. But I think in general I would miss having direct contact with the content. That is what in my view makes the tablet experience so enjoyable. It’s directly interacting with media, reading material and surfaces, with my fingers. I almost want to say magic. Almost. That’s not to say that holding and tracing paths with this writing utensil cannot be enjoyable. It’s just not my preference.
And yes, I’ve safely returned by husband’s stylus back into his work bag.
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