Paper: Making Notebooks Beautiful Again

From time to time, software can surprise us. Once meant only as a tool, software can take us places we never dreamed, and help us do things in ways we never thought possible. But in some cases, software does even more than accomplish; sometimes software is simply beautiful.

Paper is beautiful software, created to give us something we lost when we moved from notebooks to tablets. The design and function of Paper is unlike any iPad app experience I’ve yet had, giving back so much of what I remember from years of filling up Moleskine journals. To see what beautiful software like Paper can do, read on past the break!

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Welcome Back to Your Notebooks

The second I opened Paper for the first time, I knew I was looking at something special. I haven’t seen an iPad app with this level of effort and detail put into something as simple as the category selection screen.

Paper was created by a team of developers known for their efforts in creating the long-expected but ultimately unreleased Microsoft Courier, a product expected by many in the tech world to totally revolutionize tablet computing. Courier never saw the true light of day, but the developers at Fifty Three were clearly undeterred in their goal of replacing paper notebooks without replacing the notebook.

Not a lot to say about the interface. Other than wow.

Greeted by a collection of a few notebooks on the main screen, I found myself instantly wanting to dig in and start writing, drawing, and creating. People often criticize apps for seeming to care more about aesthetics than utility, but the brilliance of Paper is that because it is so beautiful, it makes you want to use it in a productive way!

Act Natural

A lot of apps open with tutorial screens showing you how to move in and out and get the most from the interface and features. Paper is not one of those apps. Instead, the focus is on getting in and getting creative. Using Paper made me feel like those 4-year-olds we all see on YouTube playing with iPads for the first time. No one had to tell me what to do. Intuition was enough to let me explore and discover the ins and outs of Paper. I was amazed at just how natural everything felt.

Everything. Makes. Sense.

I couldn’t figure out how to turn the page without drawing a line, and then it struck me to start with my finger on the iPad’s bezel and swipe inward from there. Page turned. Mind blown. I couldn’t see anything onscreen to take me out of a page and back to the previous screen. So I pinched two fingers together. Back I went. Even without detailed instructions, using Paper just felt so natural it was like using an honest-to-goodness notebook again.

Write It Down

As much as I was floored by the look and design of Paper, my real joy was in filling empty pages. I didn’t have an iPad stylus handy when I started playing with Paper, but even so I found the handwriting to be remarkably accurate and responsive.

That actually looks like my writing, only better.

Not only did the handwriting actually look like mine, Paper made my handwriting look beautiful.

Pick a Tool

Paper is not for everyone, at first. By default, you scribble, draw and write on the pages of your notebooks with the Draw tool, which acts very much like a fountain pen. You can always change the color of ink, and grab an eraser to wipe out mistakes. But, when you find yourself needing a pen for writing, a marker for marking or a pencil for sketching, you’ll need to purchase the proper tool via an in-app purchase.

Try it. Buy it. Use it. Love it.

Each tool is demoed for you inside of the app, and can even be tried out live before making a purchase. Each additional tool costs $1.99, or you can purchase the whole set for $7.99. At first I wasn’t too sure about the model of pay-per-tool, but with Paper being totally free to download and start using, it makes total sense to let people pay to use Paper the way they need most. I can’t draw for beans, so Sketch wasn’t high on my “must-have” list. But with the amount of writing I do and how much I miss my Moleskines, $1.99 for Write was worth every penny.

Oddly enough, buying the tools individually is cheaper if you get the US version, but the whole set option is cheaper for most other currencies!

Fill Your Shelves

Paper lets you add notebooks from the main screen by simply tapping the plus sign. Each notebook can be renamed, given one of 11 gorgeous covers, or even adorned with a photo of your choosing. Again, Paper isn’t about shifting paradigms and abandoning the past; it’s more about reclaiming something we all know and love.

Cover your work.

Share Your Love

Paper comes out-of-the-box with the ability to email out pages of your notebooks, as well as send them up to popular social sites like Tumblr, Twitter, or Facebook.

Tell the world how much you love Paper.


If you love your iPad but miss the experience of filling real, physical notebooks, let me assure you that Paper is the closest thing to a real notebook outside of a real notebook. It’s just plain amazing software, from the accuracy of the handwriting to the drop-dead UI design. Nothing looks quite like or feels quite like Paper.

Paper is a safe place for all your ideas. Even the weird ones.

Paper is free to try out, but does use in-app purchases if you want to expand your set of tools.

Download a copy today and start filling up notebooks of your own.


The most beautiful notebook app for your iPad.