The great “Pencil” debate

To me, there are two times when you use a pencil.

(1) Sketching

(2) Rough work: jotting down notes in class or in a meeting, doodling quick diagrams, and marking up documents

I haven’t got an artistic bone in my body – so when I am looking for an stylus that does the job of a pencil, I am looking pretty exclusively for something that will do those second tasks, really, really well.

I have been reading a lot lately about the new iPad Pro and associated “Pencil”. My iPad is definitely aging, and I have been wondering whether there is a reason to make this giant iPad part of my day-to-day workflow. What I have found online is a lot of debate about value of the Apple Pencil in a world that already has a phenomenal stylus called “Pencil,” the Pencil by 53.

I have a Pencil by 53, and it is pretty great. First and foremost, it works on my current iPad, not my imagined future iPad. The Apple Pencil only works on the iPad Pro. Second, Pencil by 53 it has an eraser, which to me is by far its coolest function.

But all the cool things they show you in this article on mastering the Pencil 53?

I’m never going to use them.

This debate about the two pencils makes a lot of sense in light of the advertising that Apple has been doing. Everything I have seen makes it look like the Apple Pencil is going to revolutionize drawing and sketching on the iPad.

I sincerely doubt it will. After all, the Pencil by 53 got there first.

But despite owning a super-cool Pencil by 53, I find I am still looking for the magic tool to help me jot down notes in class or in a meeting, doodle quick diagrams, and mark up documents – because try as I might, I cannot get used to taking notes with a “pencil” that has a squishy rubber tip.

From my experience playing with the Pencil at the Apple Store, it seems to me that those tasks are exactly where the Pencil has the Pencil 53 beat.

I don’t mind taking a few quick notes on my iPad with whatever stylus is lying around.  But when I need to take notes fast because I am in a class or sitting at a conference, I don’t want to miss something because I am fighting the resistance of the rubber nib of my stylus.

The Apple Pencil has a hard nib, which means you can write at more or less full speed – and based on my quick experiments seems to even produce results that look like your normal handwriting.

It seems to me that Apple may have missed the mark on advertising this one. Instead of marketing to “creative” people (read: illustrators and artists) who already have great tools like the Pencil by 53 at their disposal. The Apple Pencil seems like the missing tool that should be marketed at busy people just trying to keep all their thoughts in one place. As a student trying to organize my notes, keep track of hundreds of papers that I have read and annotated, as someone who sits in meetings, and travels for research and conferences, the benefits of the Pencil over the Pencil by 53 seem obvious.

Of course, I would love a chance to do a side by side comparison and see which one really works better for the university environment!


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