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The Apple iPad, Samsung Galaxy tablet and touch-based Microsoft Windows 8 PCs all offer handwriting-based tools that enable a full range of functions from simple note taking to email management to sophisticated sketching and photo manipulation.
If your business could benefit from digitally capturing handwritten notes, consider these suggestions for finding the right app and for using a stylus:
The apps: Regardless of platform -- iOS, Android or Windows -- handwriting apps abound. For example, Evernote users can use Penultimate (free, iOS), which was upgraded recently to sync with the popular note taking and data storage app. Users can sort and search their handwritten copy alongside other data captured in Evernote.
For others who don't already use Evernote, the Note Taker HD ($4.99, iOS), Notability ($1.99, iOS) and Note Anytime (free, Windows 8, Android and iOS) all offer tagging and sorting options, as well as the ability to annotate PDF files and sync with third party services such as DropBox.
Another app, called PhatPad ($4.99, iOS, Android and Windows Phone), has an emphasis on brainstorming and presentations. It can also be used to create handwritten slideshows of sketches and notes that standout from traditional typeset presentation slides.
Related: Should Your Business Go PC-Free?
The stylus: Not everyone likes using a stylus -- a digital writing tool that usually resembles a small pen. In 2010, when talking about iPad rivals, Steve Jobs had this to say: "If you see a stylus, they blew it."
But the stylus is making a comeback, and a number of new devices come equipped with them. Not everyone wants to use their fingers to access digital handwriting tools. A stylus can let you control text more accurately, draw with variable darkness or thickness and retouch images.
Low-cost, touch control styluses can be found at many office supply stores, but higher-end units can be easier to use with extra features. Take for instance The HAND Stylus ($29.95), which comes with a small rubber tip that is well suited for accurate note taking.
Keep in mind that some apps may have quirks -- when using a stylus or a finger. Some might have variable lag time between touching the screen and the rendering of the line, or less than perfect character recognition for search. That means some might require some practice. But once you get the hang using it, a digital handwriting app can be a significant upgrade over a keyboard that acts like a mouse that fits in your pocket.
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