PhatPad v2.2

Reviewed by: Paul Schneider, PhD, July 2005
Published by: PhatWare Corporation
Requires: Desktop/Tablet PC: Pentium III/1GHz processor or faster, Windows 98SE2 or later, Microsoft ActiveSync 3.7, 15MB of free hard disk space for full installation, 128MB RAM, 16-bit or better video adapter, mouse; Pocket PC: Microsoft Pocket PC 2000-2005 or Pocket PC 2002-2005 Phone Edition or later with SH3, MIPS, ARM or XScale CPU, Windows CE 3.0 or later, approximately 800KB of free storage space depending on the device model
MSRP: US$29.95

Most people want their PocketPC to be able to do two main things: provide a convenient way to look up commonly used information, and to take notes or record new information. You would think a handy portable device like the Pocket PC would excel in both areas. Although retrieving and reviewing information is pretty easy with many well developed PocketPC applications, basic data entry suffers. The native data entry capabilities of Windows PocketPC just doesn't make the cut. Recording notes that can be read by a word processor or entering simple handwritten notes, while possible, is less than optimal. It is in this area that PhatWare steps up to the plate.

We recently reviewed PhatWare’s CalliGrapher, a nifty handwriting recognition program that really helps to solve the data entry problem. This time out I took a look at PhatPad, PhatWare’s answer to improved note taking capabilities. PhatPad is meant to be an alternative to the built in Notepad program that comes with Windows and in some ways can be thought of as Notepad on steroids.

PhatPad attempts to provide you with an all purpose scratchpad for taking notes on your Pocket PC. It has all of the standard editing features you might expect including multiple pen colors and sizes, different shape tools and drag, select and erase modes. With PhatPad you can also easily create multiple pages, flip back and forth between them and then zoom in or out of any page. While reviewing each of these features, what struck me most was how easy they were to use.

While ease of use is important, a high quality pen when taking your notes is essential. PhatPad really excels in this area. It provides you with high quality line rendering that leaves you with an ultra-smooth and fine stroke. If you doubt the quality you see, then zoom in closer and try to find the jagged edges. Unlike Notepad, they'll be difficult to see. If the ease of use and fine pen were all that PhatPad had to offer, I would have to give it a recommendation on these points alone but (you guessed it) there's more.

PhatPad also enables you to select portions of text in a note and run a handwriting recognition analysis on it as well as spell check. Granted you need to have Calligrapher installed for the PocketPC and PenOffice for the Desktop version, but this is a pretty slick extra nonetheless. Also, if your hand isn't the steadiest, just turn on the smooth capability or shape recognition tool when drawing letters or shapes. PhatPad will then do an excellent job of cleaning up your pen strokes.


Of course, after making notes at some point you will want to print, save or transfer them. With PhatPad your files are automatically synchronized with the desktop version each time you sync your Pocket PC. Using the desktop version, you can print any note as well as send it to other people in the native PhatPad format or in BMP, JPG or PNG image formats. Speaking of images, from time to time you might find yourself needing to take notes on top of an image or into a form that has been scanned in as an image. PhatPad lets you set any image as a background for your note. You can then write away on top of the image and save your work along with the image, later printing or e-mailing it.

Finally, one of the newest features in PhatPad is animation, very similar to the old style flip books. You create an image on a series of pages with each image moving or changing and then link them all together to form a single animation. Although I personally don't have a practical use for it, other than to amuse myself, I'm sure others will find this to be a nice addition.

I'm hard pressed to find anything wrong with PhatPad. It installs easily and works as promised. I first started taking notes with the native Notepad when I got my PocketPC years ago and while it was okay, I found simple things like scrolling, zooming in out, smoothness, and printing and transferring notes to be difficult and I ended my usage after a short while. With PhatPad many of these woes have been addressed, and I can certainly see some new note taking days on the horizon for me and my Pocket PC. As we embrace more and more hardware devices which claim to be truly useful personal and business tools, it's becoming apparent that a lot of the operating system makers seem to have given up on intensive handwriting recognition development. More resources seem to be going into the development and licensing of various thumb keyboard designs and implementations. That's all well and good, but for those of us who prefer writing and printing, Phatware Corporation is putting effort into PhatPad that will keep us happily scribbling away for a long time. Highly recommended.





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