A Jot review with some flair over at AppsforIpads

Maggie over at AppsforIpads just wrote a review on Jot (thanks, Maggie!). In the review, she also created just as an example one of the most vibrant whiteboard sketches that we’ve seen. We designed Jot to be a way to get ideas out of your head and on a whiteboard as quickly as possible, but Maggie shows that even those quick ideas can still have quite a bit of visual oomph.

(Definitely prettier than the sketches we create)

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Happy New Year 2011

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged and I apologize for the long silence. I’ve been enjoying the holidays with friends and family. I hope you had a great holiday as well and I wish you the best in the new year. The holidays are a time to reflect and to look forward and I’d like to share my perspectives on the past, present, and future of Jot!

2010 was an amazing year for us by all accounts. We launched Jot! in June, we were featured under New & Notable in the App Store in November, and we grew to over 50,000 downloads across all versions. We started with Jot! for iPad and added Jot! for iPhone as well as a plethora of features suggested by you. There have been ups and downs, but we easily doubled our expectations for the year. We’d like to thank each and every one of you who have tried our app. We especially appreciate all of you who have written to us with your feedback and input. This has truly helped us to create Jot! as it exists today.

We’re currently working hard on the next iteration of Jot! and we are very excited for the next release. We’re adding more collaboration and sharing features and several drawing features in the next few releases. We believe that Jot! will replace the whiteboard in your collaborative working environment and we can’t wait to unveil our next rounds of features.

As we look to the future in 2011, we hope to bring our app to near completeness. We won’t sacrifice on our principles and we’ll keep Jot simple and easy to use, while adding critical new features. We believe Jot! will be the best collaborative whiteboarding app out there this year.

Again, thanks to all of you for trying our app, emailing us with your feedback and suggestions, and for following along as we continue to build the future of computing.

May 2011 bring you fortune and happiness and we’ll deliver the best that we have to offer in Jot!

Happy New Year!

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Announcing Jot! 1.3 for iPad and iPhone: the iPad is mightier than the whiteboard

Since the iPad was announced and I started thinking about what was to become Jot!, I wanted an app that would let me produce diagrams and sketches that were better on the iPad than on an actual whiteboard. Since Jot 1.0, we’ve supported the addition of text to drawings. In Jot 1.2, we introduced subtle line smoothing to clean up choppy lines. And now, we are very excited to announce that Jot! 1.3 has been submitted to the app store, our most significant improvement yet. We’ve been listening to your input and advancing our vision to create the ultimate iPad and iPhone whiteboard app and with Jot! 1.3, I now believe I can create better sketches on my iPad than with an actual whiteboard and just as fast, if not faster.

Copy, paste, and duplicate

In our own use of Jot!, we’ve wanted to copy and paste drawing elements for a long time and we’ve had several requests from you as well.

Let’s say you’ve perfected a particular piece of a drawing:

Instead of re-drawing it, you can now multi-select it and copy it to the clipboard:

Then tap and hold outside of any drawing elements to paste it again where you need it:

For quickly reproducing elements, you can hit the duplicate button:

Then move the duplicated object to where you want it:

Better zooming
We’ve improved our zooming function so that pinch to zoom behaves much more naturally. Use the standard pinch gesture to zoom in or out on specific areas of your jot and you can also scroll while zooming.

Print your Jots
iOS 4 provides support for printing from your iPad or iPhone and we’ve implemented this in Jot.

Now you can take your jots with you on paper.

Other notable enhancements

  • Email a Jot as a .pdf file
  • We’ve made it easier to 2-finger tap to select existing text for editing

We’ve also fixed several bugs that we’ve found and were reported by you. As excited as we are about this release, we’re already looking forward to the next one and even more excited about that. Please let us know how we’re doing and what new features you’d like to see. We look forward to hearing from you and, as always, we’re continually working to improve Jot!

Posted in Jot on the iPad, Jot on the iPhone, Our Products | 1 Comment

Create digital signatures on your iPhone with Jot!

I always love to hear about the creative ways people are using Jot! Today, I heard from my mom, who has admittedly downloaded Jot! for her iPhone only because she’s my mom. Nevertheless, she found a way to use it at work to create signatures for a letter she was sending out.

She used to ask the authors to put their signature on paper. She would then scan the signature as an image and use image editing software to create an image she could insert into the document. It worked, but it was a painful process.

Now that she had Jot!, she asked the authors of the letter to create their signature with Jot! on her iPhone. Creating a signature with a finger on a touch screen took a little bit of getting used to, but I think they came out well:

She then emailed the jots to herself as images and included them in the Word document for the letter she was sending without the scanning and editing she had done previously:

This was much easier than the old scanning process. I thought this was a very cool and creative use of Jot!

How are you using Jot? Send us your jots to contact@TabulaRasaLabs.com, email us your thoughts, or just respond in the comments. We love to hear from you about the creative ways you use Jot!

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Introducing Jot! for iPhone

I’m excited to announce that we’ve just launched Jot! for iPhone.

We’ve ported the same drawing engine you know and love to a smaller form factor. If you already use Jot! for iPad, the iPhone version should be quite familiar.

The major changes are to accommodate the smaller screen:

  • “New Jot” and “Open Saved Jot” are moved to the action menu
  • No more undo/redo buttons: shake to undo and redo

Scrolling and zooming are much more important on the iPhone. We included those features from the iPad version and enhanced them slightly, such as adding a percentage indicator on zoom. I can’t believe how great the app looks on the new iPhone 4 retina display.

We think it’s the perfect companion to Jot! for iPad, for reviewing jots and for making quick edits on the go.

It’s also great for use by itself when you need to sketch something quickly wherever and whenever inspiration strikes. You don’t always have your iPad with you, but you’ll probably have your iPhone.

Check it out in the app store and let us know how you use it or what you’d like to see next in the app.

Posted in Jot on the iPhone, Our Company, Our Products | 1 Comment

How we use Jot: App Mockups

There’s an industry term for using your own software, unfortunately called “dogfooding” or “eating your own dogfood”. It was originally coined by Microsoft and while it conjures up a less-than-pleasant image, it really just means “using your own product”. I won’t call it dogfooding hereafter, but this is the first post in a series about how we use Jot! ourselves to get things done.

Sketchy Mockups

We think Jot! is a great tool for simple mockups. There is a growing movement for creating wireframes that are “sketchy” (or not quite polished) for laying out the gist of an interface without focusing too much on specific details. Historically, when creating a prototype for an app or user interface, it was common to use some of the actual tools to create the mockup: e.g. HTML for a web app, Visual Basic for a windows app, or Objective-C for prototyping screens for an iOS app.

The downside of building the mockup using the actual tools is that the review and editing process becomes too focused on the UI itself and not enough on the big picture. For example, if I use HTML to mockup a web form, it may look so much like the working application that business users reviewing the functionality become too obsessed with nitpicking the details of the design rather than focusing on the big picture of what the app or form does.

The solution to this is to create sketchy mockups that just look like a rough sketch of the app so that business reviewers can focus on the big picture functionality without getting bogged down in the details.

Since Jot! is really a sketching tool, it fits perfectly within this paradigm of creating sketchy mockups.

App Mockups

We use Jot! ourselves to create sketchy mockups of new features that we’re building. Here’s a sketchy mockup of a new feature to create a marketing prompt for upgrading and/or rating our app:

This mockup provides enough information to get the idea of what we’re planning to build, but is sketchy enough that we wouldn’t nitpick at this point about the exact details of what the prompt looks like. We can focus instead on high level things like what pieces to include in upgrade options or what buttons should be present, without worrying about details like what color the buttons should be or where exactly the design elements should be displayed.

Furthermore, we can use Jot! to refine the sketchy mockup once we’ve made some of the high level decisions in order to focus on some more of the details:

Now we can start to ask questions about what images will be displayed, what color the buttons should be and what the button text should say.

Finally, we have the end result, where we can now nitpick away on the finer details:

Hopefully at this point we’ve already solved for the major big picture issues during the sketchy mockup phase and the final design phase becomes trivial.

We think Jot! is a great app for creating high-level sketchy mockups and we hope you do too. Let us know how you use Jot! We’d love to hear from you.

Posted in Design, Jot on the iPad, Our Company, Our Products | 4 Comments

Jot! version 1.2 submitted to the app store

At around noon today (August 26th) I submitted the Jot! 1.2 update to the Apple app store for review.  We are really excited about this release – we added features that we had envisioned since we first conceived of Jot!, and also some of our most common user requests.  We believe that this release makes Jot! more of a pleasure to use and opens up new possibilities for productivity.  We hope you will like it.

It usually takes the folks at Apple about a week to approve our app updates.  So while we are waiting, I thought I’d share a preview of what’s in store.

UPDATE Sept 3, 2010:
Jot! 1.2 is now available on the app store.  Enjoy!

Line smoothing

We’ve implemented an advanced interpolation algorithm to smooth out lines after you’ve drawn them.  It’s a subtle change, but really improves the feel of a drawing.  Here’s a before/after example:a line not smoothed


Our most requested feature!  In addition to moving and deleting lines, you can now use an eraser to make minor adjustments to your sketches.  The eraser will remove drawn lines and leave your text alone.  You can even use the eraser to split a line in two.  You can switch to the eraser like you would switch to another color by using the toolbar.

Export/import jots

Also new with 1.2 is the ability to send a jot file to another Jot! user.  This allows for a new level of collaboration using Jot!.  For example, you can send your colleague a web-page mock-up, and they can open it and make their changes and send it back to you.  Jots can be exported via the action menu with the “Email As Jot File” button:

and they can be imported from the mail app:

Also note that the free version can only export, but not import.  This will allow people who upgrade a way to transfer a jot from the free to the premium version – just email the jot to yourself.

Pinch to zoom

Another popular feature request has been the ability to zoom in and out on a jot.  Version 1.2 supports the common pinch-to-zoom gesture.

Rating prompt

We added a prompt to ask users to give us a rating or review on the app store (or to upgrade if you are using the free version).  We really like getting ratings and reviews from users – thanks to everyone who has given us review!  And don’t fret – if you click the “No thanks” button on the rating prompt you won’t see it again.

We’ve also made a lot of minor tweaks and fixes.  For example, we’ve reduced the sensitivity of the three-finger swipe and implemented several performance and stability improvements.  Note that if you are upgrading there will be a delay of a couple of minutes the first time you launch 1.2 – we need to go through your saved jots and update them for the current version.  Sorry for the delay, we hope you find it worth the wait.

As always, we love to hear from you – let us know how we are doing.

Posted in Jot on the iPad, Our Products | 5 Comments

How the iPad Changes the UI Game

I just read a great blog post by Rich Ziade on his frustrations with Safari on the iPad and how to rethink the UI design.

Safari inherits a classic window trait: controls and a healthy slab of chrome along the top.

I want an experience that takes advantage of where my hands are 90% of the time and provides feedback to what I’m doing that is within my line of sight. While having controls at the top of the browser “window” (it’s hardly a window anymore on the iPad) feels familiar, the main reason it doesn’t work so well is that the key controls are far away. Bookmarks, tabs and the URL bar are nowhere near what I would call the “hot zones”: where our hands grip an iPad

Reading that blog post now renewed my own frustrations with the iPad browsing experience. Back in April, shortly after I’d gotten my iPad, I summarized my first impressions and one of my conclusions was:

April 5, 2010
It’s heavy. Or, maybe just awkward.
Okay, this is basically the couch usability test. Personally, I’ve always felt that the immediate promise of this device was as a replacement for a laptop on the couch as a web surfing device, e-reader, or entertainment machine. It exceeds in all those categories, but is still a bit awkward to hold.

Furthermore, I think that some of the apps on it (Safari in particular) exaggerate this issue. Typically I am holding/supporting it with my left hand on the bottom or on the left and using my right hand to work stuff. Naturally I want the controls within easy reach of my right hand so I think that things along the top right side will ultimately be the desired location. With safari, all of the major controls are in the top left corner (bookmarks, back, forward, address bar), which is just hard for me to access while holding it in a natural way, and it’s annoying and cumbersome to use.

I realized that I’ve been using Safari on iPad for so long that I barely notice its UI flaws any more. However, it only took a small reminder to renew my frustration. If another developer decides to build a browser I hope they take Mr. Ziade’s advice and rethink the UI when they do it.

When we designed Jot, we wanted to avoid this exact problem and provide controls that were easy and natural to use when working with the iPad. Our solution was to always keep the toolbar anchored opposite the home button. This way you can rotate the device to get the toolbar in a convenient position for you.

For Righties, the landscape position, with the toolbar on the right side, is pretty convenient.

Now rotate the device 90° clockwise. Having the toolbar on the bottom works well if working with my iPad propped up on my knee.

Furthermore, going back to my sci-fi vision, my ultimate dream is for no toolbar at all.

Try hiding the toolbar in Jot and you can sketch, add text, move objects around, and undo/redo all without a toolbar (though obviously the keyboard pops up for text). That’s arguably more usable than a pen and napkin or a whiteboard. My take on rethinking the iPad interface is that we’ll need fewer traditional toolbars going forward and more creative use of touch gestures. Jot is our small contribution to that future.

The current Jot UI is definitely not the final solution to this. We’re constantly working to improve it and make it even better. Try Jot! Free in the app store and let us know how we’re doing.

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The Vision Behind Jot

Do you remember your first touch screen experience? I remember mine. I got my first iPhone in September of 2008. I had been intrigued with the iPhone for a while, but when I lost my current phone while traveling, my loss turned into a gain as my iPhone dream became reality. I found an AT&T store and joined the millions of iPhone 3G users world wide. At first, I didn’t even quite know how to use the thing; the whole touch-screen interface was still a foreign concept to me.

I quickly learned how to use my iPhone and adapt my motor movements to the touch interface. Apple marketing is full of words like “magical” and “revolutionary”, but these are more than buzzwords. They describe how I felt once I first “got” how to use my iPhone. Using my fingers was such an elegant way to control a device and I got a rush from every new gesture I learned to invoke. I felt like I’d landed on Deep Space Nine and was living in the future. It was the same feeling as if I’d sat myself down in a flying car and taken off, or stepped into a teleportation device and whisked myself away to another part of the planet instantly (by the way, I still can’t wait for those technologies to become real). This was science fiction meets reality.

When I first used the iPhone, I knew I was glimpsing the future. This is now absolutely clear to me after watching my kids use it. My 3-year old son can use my iPhone and iPad like it’s second nature. When he sees a laptop he wonders why it does nothing when he touches the screen. Clearly the future of computing is evident in that our children can immediately and intuitively learn to use these devices. A keyboard and mouse in the future will be like a stick-shift Jeep: many kids will learn it because their parents are adamant to teach them about the tools of the “good old days”, but most people won’t have any need or inclination to ever figure out those old tools that predate their current technologies.

As a developer, I definitely thought about building an iPhone app, but never quite had an idea that stuck. Time passed and two years after I got my iPhone, I felt as if I’d missed the iPhone app gold rush. Yet, strangely, as a consumer, I had never even bought a single app for my iPhone. I was stingy and preferred the free stuff. Clearly there was a yet untapped market of people like me who had yet to see value in the device beyond novelty.

So, when the iPad  was announced, I was at the edge of my seat waiting to hear about the new Apple tablet. I immediately thought to myself: what app can I build for the iPad that will take advantage of its unique capabilities? The obvious advantage was the larger screen size. A few weeks later I was on a conference call at work. During the course of the call I had some ideas that I naturally wanted to put on the whiteboard, but obviously the people on the phone wouldn’t be able to see what I was drawing. That’s when it struck me that if I could jot my sketch on an iPad, I could immediately share it with those on the phone.

Once this basic light bulb had gone off, I started to have sci-fi visions of an app where I could create my sketch on a magic tablet and beam it across the globe to whoever was interested. I also wanted something extremely elegant. So elegant that I could draw better on my iPad than I could on a physical whiteboard.

My vision and venture with my business partner Geoff hit its first obstacle when the app store first launched for iPad. There were immediately dozens of apps that could be considered competitors. Some of them were quite good. I thought about giving up on building yet another app for sketching, but I didn’t want to let Geoff down. We stuck through it and released our app. Our first version was extremely minimal (we were both a little bit embarrassed by our first release) and we held pretty low expectations. Despite this, we received a lot of positive feedback and as a user myself I quickly realized that our app was the only one on the market that did what I wanted. We focused our efforts on quickly improving and launching a paid version of the app and are continuing to make it better. For the specific task it does (simple, easy, sketches and whiteboarding), we believe it’s the best app out there.

As we continue to develop the app I still hold the vision from when I was first dreaming about Jot before it was reality. I want to build an app that’s better for drawing than a pen and paper or a physical whiteboard. Just how the iPad itself is version 1, I feel we’ve only just begun. Here’s to innovation!

Posted in Jot on the iPad, Our Company | 2 Comments

Jot! 1.1 Launched

I’m happy to announce the release of Jot! 1.1. This update includes the following features:

Select multiple items in a jot by tapping and holding outside of any strokes to start a selection and then dragging to box in multiple strokes and/or text elements in the selection. Once selected, multiple items can be moved together or dragged to the trash to delete them.

First, tap and hold down your finger outside any shapes until you get the multi-select circle.
Multi-Select Step 1

While continuing to hold down, drag to form a square around the shapes to select multiple items.
Multi-Select Step 2

Release your finger to select the group of shapes.
Multi-Select Step 3

Drag the group to move it (you can also drag to the trash in the lower right corner to delete the group).
Multi-Select Step 4

Release and the group has been moved and is no longer selected.
Multi-Select Step 5

Text Resizing
When editing text, use the blue handle in the lower right corner to resize the text box.

Text Resize Step 1

Drag the blue handle to resize the text box.
Text Resize Step 2

These features are available on both free and paid versions of Jot!.

Posted in Jot on the iPhone, Our Products | 8 Comments