A stylus is a very useful accessory if you want to take notes on an iPad or annotate a document. I often use the Wacom Bamboo Stylus duo, an excellent stylus with a soft tip that is 5 mm in size — smaller than other styluses which are often 6 mm. A smaller tip is better because it allows you to be more precise. I was impressed when I reviewed the Adonit Jot Pro stylus back in 2012 because the company had come up with an innovative way to put a sharp, tiny tip on a stylus by placing a clear disc on the end of the tip. Your eyes see the small tip making it easier to write, but the iPad senses the larger, clear disc. I still think that Adonit's Jot Pro is a great stylus.
For the last few months I've been testing another innovative stylus from the smart folks at Adonit called the Jot Script. This stylus has a sharp tip that is only 1.9 mm. That is much too small for an iPad to normally sense it — remember, the iPad was made to recognize something the size of a finger tip — but Adonit found a workaround, a technology that Adonit calls Pixelpoint. The Adonit website explains Pixelpoint as follows: "Touch screens emit a capacitance signature. Each of the iOS devices has a slightly different capacitance signature coming from their touch screen. When Pixelpoint detects the unique signature of a particular screen, it inverts the signature and sends it back. Just hit the power button and start making."
So in other words, the iPad senses not just the tiny tip of the Jot Script but also the signals emitted from the pen itself. Pretty cool. As long as the Jot Script is turned on, the iPad recognizes it just as it would recognize your finger tip. With other styluses you sometimes feel like you are using something with a thick tip like a crayon or a big marker to write on the screen, but with the fine point of the Jot Script you feel like you are using a pen to write on the screen. You can look at where the tiny tip of the Jot Script touches the screen and see where the digital ink will appear on the screen.
So what do I think about the stylus? Frankly, I'm conflicted. The Jot Script has advantages over every other stylus that I have tried or read about, making it easy for me to understand why some people consider it the very best iPad stylus on the market. Many attorneys told me at ABA TECHSHOW last month that it is the only stylus that they use. But it also has some big drawbacks as well. Here are the pros and cons.
[UPDATE 5/12/14: Today I posted a review of the Cregle ink, another powered fine point stylus that fixes some of the shortcomings of the Jot Script but also has its own weaknesses. If you are considering buying a Jot Script, you should also read my review of the Cregle ink to compare the devices.]
PRO: Fine tip
I really cannot rave enough about the size of this tip. It is far smaller than the tip on any other stylus, and that makes a big difference. Whether I am taking notes with a note-taking app such as GoodNotes or drawing with an app such as Paper, it is so nice to have the extra precision that comes along with a smaller tip. Going from a regular stylus to the Jot Script is not quite as dramatic as going from writing on paper with a crayon to writing on paper with a ball point pen, but it is that type of difference.
Here is a comparison of the tip on the Adoint Jot Script and the tip on the Wacom Bamboo Stylus duo:
The only real problem that I've noticed when drawing or writing with the Jot Script is that if you try to draw a diagonal line and you move the Jot Script very slowly, the line becomes wavy. My understanding is that this is not Adonit's fault and has to do with the way that the iPad works, and other active power styluses have the same problem, as noted in this review of the LYNKtec TruGlide Apex Fine Point active stylus by Julie Strietelmeier of The Gadgeteer. In normal use, however, it is very unlikely that this will be a problem for you.
PRO: Ignore unwanted strokes (with some apps)
The full name of the Jot Script is the Jot Script Evernote Edition. When I first heard the name, I thought that the stylus only worked with the Evernote's Penultimate app. That's incorrect. You can use the Jot Script with any app on the iPad, even if Bluetooth is turned off on your iPad. If an app recognizes your fingertip, it will also recognize the Jot Script.
However, when you turn on Bluetooth on your iPad and use an app that is designed to talk to the Jot Script, you get extra features such as the ability to ignore unwanted strokes. I don't use Evernote or Penultimate, but I do use GoodNotes 4.0. Once you pair your Jot Script to GoodNotes (Tap ... in the top right corner, then tap More Options, then tap Smart Stylus), GoodNotes becomes smarter.
GoodNotes knows whether you are touching the screen with the Jot Script or with something else, such as your finger. The app lets you use either a finger or the Jot Script to tap on menus, pinch to zoom the screen, etc., but when you are touching a part of the screen where you can draw, the app only accepts input from the Jot Script. Thus, if you rest your palm on, or otherwise touch, the area of the screen that is used to take notes, the app knows to ignore your hand and will only draw when you touch the tip of the Jot Script to the screen. Similarly you no longer have to worry about accidentally drawing a line on the page when you were just trying to swipe or you just inadvertently touched your fingertip to the screen. It's a great feature that makes a drawing program like GoodNotes work even better.
Adonit has a page on its website that lists Featured Script Apps which names ZoomNotes, Noteshelf, Penultimate, GoodNotes 4, PDFpen and Concepts.
So in short, you don't have to use a special app with the Adonit Jot Script, but if you do, you get some great extra features.
My #1 complaint about the Adonit Jot Script is that it is noisy to use. Every time the plastic tip touches the screen, you hear a tap — exactly the noise that you would expect to hear when a small plastic tip touches a glass screen. It isn't loud enough that the judge in the front of a courtroom will hear you taking notes, but it can be loud enough for people around you to hear it, and I find it annoying. Here is a very short YouTube video I created that compares using a Wacom Bamboo Stylus (which is essentially silent) and using the Adonit Jot Script:
I filmed that video in a quiet room. If you are in a noisier environment, it is less likely that you will hear the Jot Script over background noise. Also, note that I write in print; if you use script, your stylus will spend more time touching the surface of the screen and less time tapping the screen, so the noise is less of an issue. Finally, I realize that the noise that I am complaining about is not a very loud noise. Having said that, it is loud enough that when I go to a meeting with other attorneys, I feel more self-conscious when using the Adonit Jot Script then when using other styluses.
I know I am not alone in thinking that this stylus is too loud. For example, back in January when I mentioned on iPhone J.D. that I was starting to look at the Adoint Jot Script, I received an email from an attorney in Indiana who told me: "I have personally found the Jot Script Evernote Edition to be far too noisy (the clicking on the screen of my 5th generation iPad) to be able to use when anyone else is around and in a quiet environment, such as almost any meeting, court, library ... It calls attention to itself in an annoying way (to me)."
Is there anything that can be done about the noise? Adonit could change the tip to something softer, which is an approach taken by some other manufacturers of powered styluses with fine tips such as the Cregle ink (which I reviewed here). When I initially reviewed the Adoint Jot Pro back in August of 2012, I said that I loved the stylus but that it made too much noise when the plastic disc touched the iPad screen. Adonit then came out when a second generation Jot Pro that specifically addressed this problem by adding a spring to the tip. As I noted in my review of the second generation model, this was a huge improvement and made the stylus much better. If Adonit can find a way to also make the Jot Script more quiet, then I would be much more likely to use and recommend it.
I contacted Adonit to ask about the noise, and while I didn't expect the company to tell me about any unannounced products that they may or may not be working on in their lab, the response was simply: "Unfortunately, for any harder tipped styluses, the contact is going to generate some noise."
CON: Absence of a clip
The Adonit Jot Script doesn't have a clip on the side. A clip would of course be useful for when you want to put the Jot Script in a shirt pocket and don't want it to move around too much. More importantly, the clip would stop the Jot Script from rolling around. It seems like almost every time I put the Jot Script on a flat surface, it starts rolling. If I don't notice it soon enough, the next thing I know I hear the Jot Script roll off of the desk and onto the floor. The Jot Script is sturdy enough that this has never caused any damage, but this would never happen if the Jot Script simply included a clip.
I also complained about the lack of a clip when I reviewed the first generation Adonit Jot Pro. That is not something that was updated when Adonit designed the second generation Jot Pro. Indeed, none of the styluses sold by Adonit sells include a clip, so the company seems opposed to them for some reason. I wish they would reconsider, or at least make it an optional accessory.
The Jot Script uses a AAA battery. This results in a number of disadvantages.
First, it means that the stylus is thicker than a standard stylus (or a standard pen) to make room for a AAA battery. (At least, I assume that the AAA battery is the reason for the large size; it could also be because Adonit couldn't get the electronics any smaller in this generation of the product.) The size is not a huge problem, and it is offset somewhat by the fact that the Jot Script is nicely weighted and otherwise feels pretty good in the hand. But it does feel more awkward to hold the Jot Script than most other styluses becuase it is thicker than a pen. Here is the Jot Script next to the skinnier — and perfectly sized, in my opinion — Bamboo Stylus duo:
Second, the use of a battery means that you have to worry about your stylus being charged. With a traditional stylus, you just pick it up and go, and it always works. With the Jot Script, you cannot tell how much power it has just by looking at the stylus, so you always want to keep an extra AAA battery nearby just in case you need it. (Apps designed to work with the Jot Script can give you an indication of the remaining battery life.) There is a small light next to the power button that is normally green but instead flashes red when the Jot Script is almost out of power, but you get no warning before that point, and when the Jot Script is without power, it will not work at all. Having said that, the Jot Script can go a few weeks on a battery (depending upon your use) which is good, AAA batteries are easy to find when you need to buy a new one, and the the Jot Script turns itself off to save power if you haven't used it in about a minute.
Third, the use of a battery means that you have to turn the stylus on in the first place. That shouldn't be a big deal, right? But the tiny button on the side of the Jot Script is tiny, flush with the stylus itself, and is very hard to find and press. I always find myself wasting a few seconds looking for the button whenever I want to use the stylus. (Indeed, in the above video, you can see that I had to fumble around to find the button.)
I wish Adonit had made the button more prominent so that it would be easier to find when need to turn on the Jot Script. You can also hold down the button to turn off the Jot Script, but in my tests the power save feature results in the Jot Script turning itself off long before I think to do so, so you really just use the button to turn it on.
CON: Multitasking gestures
When you have Multitasking Gestures turned on in the Settings app, you can use four or five fingers to switch apps. It is the iPad equivalent of Control-Tab or Command-Tab on your computer, and I use this gesture all the time to switch between apps. If you use this feature on your iPad, note that it is not 100% compatible with the Jot Script, and Adonit recommends that you turn off Multitasking Gestures. The issue, as I understand it, is that if you are using an app that is designed to work with the Jot Script and you touch your iPad screen with another finger or your palm at the same time that you are using the Jot Script, the app itself is smart enough to ignore the input other than that from the Jot Script, but the iPad gets confused and can start to switch apps on you.
I like Multitasking Gestures enough that I usually keep them on even when using the Jot Script, but this means that every once in a while I am annoyed by the iPad thinking that I want to switch apps when that was not my intent.
Beware of lemons
I normally don't take several months to prepare a review of a stylus, but it turned out that the first unit I tried was defective so I had to wait to get and use a replacement unit before writing this review. I started testing the Jot Script in January after Adonit sent me a free review sample. At times it worked great, but other times it would stop recognizing my writing while I was in the middle of a word. I thought at first that I was doing something wrong, or that the battery was low, or that it was the Multitasking Gestures, etc. When I could find nothing else to do, I contacted Adonit and they sent me a second free stylus. This second one has worked well and does not exhibit any of the problems I saw with the first one. I see that Warner Crocker of GottaBe Mobile had the exact same problem and he also had to request a replacement. His post even includes a video that shows the defective unit in action.
If you get a Jot Script and find that it sometimes stops working while you are using it, ask Adonit to send you a replacement unit. I don't know how widespread the probelm is, but apparently there are some lemons out there.
The Adonit Jot Script is at times the very best stylus that I've ever used with my iPad. I am truly amazed at what Adonit was able to accomplish with this device. But other times, the Jot Script annoys me because it is too loud or because of its other idiosyncrasies like the lack of a clip and the hard-to-find button. Of course I don't expect every product to be perfect at all times, but this is a stylus that costs $75 — much more that you pay for most other styluses. Paying that much for a stylus is fine if it is a great product, and in many ways the Jot Script is an amazing product, but in other ways it has some flaws. Ultimately, the advantages are enough for me to say that anyone who is serious about taking notes on an iPad should consider the Jot Script. But if you are on the fence, then this might not be the right stylus for you. In the future, I plan to review other powered styluses that have a fine tip to see how they compare. (Adonit was the first to come out with this type of stylus in late 2013, but other companies are now coming up with similar styluses.)
My hope is that Adonit will improve the Jot Script in a second generation model just like they did with the Jot Pro. The existing Jot Script is very impressive, and if Adonit could keep what is great about the Jot Script and address some of the shortcomings, then they would have something really special. As for this first generation of the Jot Script, I like it enough that I still plan to use it in the future when I take notes, and I know of many other lawyers who love theirs, but I'm sure that I will often instead reach for another stylus such as the Wacom Bamboo Stylus duo.
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