Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Write – A word processor for handwriting (styluslabs.com)
412 points by krupan 6 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 88 comments

Creator here. Although the site hasn't been updated in a while Write isn't dead - there will be a major update coming out in a few months.

Will this include an iOS app? This would be interesting on an iPad (although competing against GoodNotes will be tough). On a laptop, I haven't come across anything besides maybe a Surface Book for which there is a suitable input device for handwriting.

Apple Pencil support would be super cool on the iPads. Also worth noting, aside from typical handwriting inputs like Wacom digitizers, found in laptops like Lenovo's Tablet lineup, the MSoft Surfaces, etc, Wacom also makes pen tablets at a price point of less than $100USD, although they may be a little different to write on as they are just digitizers, and you'd be watching the screen to see what you're writing. Works great for art though!

Do you have any plans to make the code publicly available?

If not, I understand. This would be a really great open-source project that could be trained to automatically produce transcribed plain-text that could be copy-pasted into other applications.

I bought a Surface3 specifically to write notes and draw with OneNote. OneNote has its own big problems, and I would love to spend a good amount of moneyfor software that gets writing, write recognition and draw recognition right. To document software, I draw diagrams a lot. It would be great when a lowlevel api would be exposed to recognize specific types of diagrams (e.g. sequence, class, ...).

There's an application on the windows store called Nebo that does writing and write recognition and claims to do drawing recognition too (although I rarely use it; I wanted to use it for math but that is extremely dodgy so far; not sure why because detextify would give it ample training data).

Didn't Microsoft introduce some kind of collaborative OneNote-like program that also does recognition of common symbols (arrows, boxes, etc?). Similar to Google's Jamboard software? I thought I remembered seeing this in one of their Surface presentations but can't seem to find it now.

OneNote does this, but not very well. It can understand polygons and ovals. Arrows drawn in one stroke will convert to a line with no arrow at the end, and if you try to draw a > arrowhead as a separate stroke it doesn't understand to convert it to a shape.

Using a closed triangle as an arrowhead does trigger shape conversion, but I don't know anyone who draws arrows that way.

It's called "Ink to Shape" on the Draw tab.

Hello. Maybe we can talk. I started a handwriting app (ios and android) a few years ago that doesn't use MyScript or WritePad but didn't have time to work on it due to work responsibilities and getting a new education. C++, OpenCV. Perhaps my work can help you out. Happy to share it.

Oh, wow! Awesome to hear! :) All the best luck with the development. I'm still using the app occasionally. I miss some features, but it's useful to me as-is already.

1) do you surf PB? Just moved away fro SD, missing it badly.

2) if I could do this with PDFs, or have an engineering graph paper background, that would be glorious.

It does have an option for graph paper instead if lined. It's not engineering graph paper with the darker and lighter lines, but still better than lined or blank paper.

You can also set the pen to snap to the grid on the graph paper that makes drawing quick block diagrams really easy.

The original version of Microsoft's WordPad was called Write. Any concerns about trademark issues? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microsoft_Write

The word write is pretty generic.

Great to hear. I swap out your app and xournal regularly as I sort out a suitable workflow replacement for onenote.

I'm curious what sort of things are in the pipeline? Very grateful for the work you've done so far!

I found the app awesome for quick writing with a stylus on a MS Surface (probably works on other tablets/tablet PCs too). It seems the development has stopped a few years ago, unfortunately; I'm very happy the author still at least makes the app available for download. And thanks to the HTML+SVG format used, the documents created in the app are at least open and future proof!

It would be nice if someone wrote an extension/post-processor applying some OCR to the SVGs, so that plain text could be extracted. I tried to do something like this myself, but failed. What was most annoying was that the SVGs the app writes are actually outlines of the pen strokes, after applying "pen width". As far as I've seen, OCR systems prefer raw strokes as input, ideally with pen pressure information. I don't have enough experience in Machine Learning either to try to build a new model for this use case from scratch.

edit: A sample article draft/experiment I wrote with it:

- as a HTML+SVG: https://akavel.github.io/post/2018-05-31-stylish-elephants/2...

- as a PDF: https://akavel.github.io/post/2018-05-31-stylish-elephants/2...

I'm hoping to add some rough OCR to allow searching in the future. In the meantime, if you turn off pressure sensitivity (Pen menu -> Custom Pen), you'll get raw strokes in the SVG instead of filled paths.

Oh, cool, didn't think of it! On to different projects now, but maybe some day... if you don't do it earlier yourself ;) (Though I actually like the pressure sensitivity feature very much...)

Also, in case you'd come back to this reply at some point in future: one feature I'd also love (I think I even wrote an email to you about it at the time) would be easy pasting of images into the document, and a "knife" tool, which would allow cutting them to parts along drawn lines. (And then moving and processing them separately.) I don't remember what exact use case I had for this, but I remember missing it badly.

Ah, and there was some problem with not being able to easily paste links into the document purely with stylus, i.e. without reaching for keyboard. I used Write once for writing a journal from a trip, with photos, and I think I might have had to edit the raw HTML/SVG to add links from thumbnails to full photos, or something like this.

For me, this would be perfect a perfect use for removing tablature from some guitar sheet music:


...basically be able to slice the above image into various rows, and delete the "numbers" part, but keep + rearrange the "music" part.

Seems like the ability to paste / rotate an image and then add in a "razer-slicer" set perpendicular to page or matching the image rotation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H6SuHTHoRd0&t=1m25s

It's a relatively common operation (even for text, maybe even especially for lined text) giving you the option to write single-space (or double-space) and then magically have extra room to take notes, edit, etc, then later remove those edits.

Actually it'd be very similar to "folding" handwritten documents (in the code-folding sense).

Other note-taking tools generally do it by breaking strokes into lots of little line segments, each with a different width coming from the pressure. It works pretty well, and if the program stores the pressure-location data, the stroke width can be adjusted later. I do this all the time in Squid on Android, and have extracted stroke data from PDFs it exports.

Even inaccurate OCR could be cool if it appeared on separate, correctable pane.

I don’t really like Evernote/too heavy for my needs, but the OCR feature for handwriting/transcribing whiteboard sessions etc, was top notch. It’s cool to search your notes and get results from random whiteboard text, very usable.

The size of that HTML page is 1.4MB...

Don't ever look at the size of handwritten pages from OneNote then.

I would love to see all of the Write functionality on a Remarkable tablet -> just tell me where to press "buy now"

That would be amazing. I've switched from text based notes to pen and paper recently, and sometimes I'll switch back to a text editor when I need to move things around a lot, figure out a sequence or structure.

So I was really impressed with Write's ability to combine the best of both worlds. If this could work on e-paper, that would be incredible.

Was looking for an electronic writing device and would have have done bought Remarkable if there were feature like this. Instead I got Sharp electronic notebook. It was WAY cheaper, and working out great so far.

Well, that may just be the least accessible website I've seen that ostensibly consists solely of text.

Granted, but I can see why they did it from an artistic perspective. They're going all in on handwritten text and being genuine to that idea.

Though they could use a font that looks handwritten, it's not the same and wouldn't reflect the product as accurately.

The website is directly exported from the app, as a directly useful demo. I think that's the point of doing it that way.

Arguably, it consists solely of drawings that happen to be text.

Turns out screenreaders do use title and desc tags from svg. https://stackoverflow.com/questions/4697100/accessibility-re...

> Turns out screenreaders do use title and desc tags from svg

This site has zero title or desc tags in its SVG.

Woah, this is cool.

The "Linux" download is x86-64 only; I know 32-bit x86 is dying, so maybe that's not worth your time (I'd tried to download it on an old 32-bit ThinkPad x60 tablet), but an ARM build might get some use.

As long as the download is free, may I ask why you chose to not also publish the source code?

PS: "JetNote" and "JetDraw" links in "JetNote and JetDraw are no longer under active development." on the support page both 404.

If this project interests you, check out GoodNotes.

I've been using GoodNotes for a year now on an iPad Pro with a Pencil and for me it's a killer app. Since I've started using it, my handwriting has improved. That's not something I set out to do, but it happened probably because I wanted to help out the OCR engine. It's pretty awesome to run a search and have your handwritten notes surface.

My worry is that the app only sells for $8 and that doesn't seem sustainable. The built in Notes app keeps getting better, so maybe the inevitable outcome is that the third party apps fade away as people switch to the core app.

I am using GoodNotes for most everything now-a-days and it does indeed rock. I was happy to pay $8 but if it was more money I might have hesitated to pull the trigger because if it did not work well there is no refund policy on the app stores still. No trial version. etc. Perhaps things will get easier for folks to try the higher priced apps for a few days before they pull the trigger to buy.

It's only for iPad, basically useless and inaccessible for everyone else

Goodnotes is amazing, but there's a couple of features listed on this "Styles Lab" page that it still could implement. Links/bookmarks would be at the top of my list.

I too use GoodNotes with an iPad Pro and Apple Pencil and feel just as you do—I take all my meeting notes on it.

No encryption though.

The entire device is protected with a passcode. Isn't that good enough?

What about inter device sync?

I don't think GoodNotes does that. You would have to use something like Dropbox for that.

Yeah well, there goes your privacy then.

OneNote actually does AES256 on their files. No passphrase - no content.

Woe to the screenreader user who stumbles upon this site.

Perhaps I'm being dense and ignorant, but how much use would a blind person have for a handwriting application on a touch-screen device?

That's a fair question. If the website was accessible, we might be able to learn the answer:) From the perspective of HN, the usefulness of the linked content is far less important than a person's ability to participate in the discussion. The product might not be useful for a blind user, but there is no reason for the content that explains it to be inaccessible.

Not everyone who uses a screenreader is completely blind. Vision impairment is quite a wide and varying spectrum. Also the person viewing the site might not be the person who will be using the software. Perhaps it's not applicable here, but imagine a scenario where the person responsible for purchasing the software uses a screenreader.

Also the website is a showcase of the notes -> website feature, however the resulting website is not accessible.

Shut. Up. And. Take. My. Money.

This looks like the tool I've been missing for years.

edit: oh, development's stopped. Oh well, back to my side project.

See above — https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17859000 — apparently, the author has some plans for revival! :) And by the way, the app's actually already usable as is.

You know, that's a good point. It would be great if people simply finished things and called them good sometimes.

Hopefully they don't find a way to stick hand-written ads on the side for the free version.

Pay for software. Plz, plz pretty plz. I will easily drop $30-50 just to try a piece of beta software whose value prop matches a need I have. You have the money, indie devs need the money way more than you do, and they need to be rewarded for greenfield development.

$100-200 for a mature tool that actually solves the problem and is sufficiently hackable is well within the bounds of what I'm willing to spend.

Devs that don't have the money for these tools have a great way to get into the software world, use FLOSS tools to greenfield a new tool and collect $30-50 from anybody interested.

Can we make this happen? It would be amazing.

In case of this particular software, I actually wanted to pay/donate, but couldn't find a link for this IIRC. (Or it could have been via credit card, and I didn't have a credit card.)

I'm curious if there's some way for a dev to easily add a widget/button to get paid/donated for a piece of software. Ideally, with any tax etc. problems handled too. I also created some FLOSS software, and would be cool if I could just slap a button in the Readme, or in the app itself, and have a chance to get donations if someone wants to express appreciation this way.

Personally, for your use case, I'd just use Patreon. All the best aspects of donation and subscriptions with none of the downsides. Well, you do need to advertise, but that's inherent in any donation scheme.

Donation isn't the answer I have in mind. In the first place, there's no social onus placed on users of the software to provide compensation. I love the Free Software Foundation, and I agree with its goals. But I believe in the need for two ecosystems, three I guess if you include proprietary software. Free software and open source.

The main reason is I don't think the likes of SourceForge should be allowed to sully FLOSS with adware / malware and redistribute useful pieces of software. The business value of software needs to be accommodated. If you really do have a pure altruistic motive, coupled with the willingness to accept donations, then sure, knock yourself out.

But as an individual software developer with an economic motive, intellectual property is not a hostile concept, it's one that pays the bills. Idealism in this space isn't all it's cracked up to be when you're all by yourself.

If you have a profit motive, if you want to and are willing to treat your development activities as a service you're providing to the public, rather than artwork you release purely for public benefit, then you should use a standard dual-licensing scheme.

Note that my argument here concerns software tools. Tools aren't libraries. Tools are complicated, feature-rich graphical applications that can have business value as products all of their own. Tools may use dozens of libraries. Libraries generally don't depend on other libraries other than the standard one and if they do they typically vendor them in or statically link them.

It would be awesome if some of the work that went into this could be integrated into ReMarkable.

I love hand-note taking.

This reminds me of Note Taker by Dan Bricklin, the co-creator of VisiCalc, which I used a lot until I got a retina device and it hadn't been updated (it looks like that problem has been fixed). The UI for inserting involved dragging and dropping rectangular selections like in paint. Write sounds like it has a much more powerful editing feature. I look forward to checking this out when I get a chance! http://notetakerhd.com/

Wasn't "Write" the name of the word processor that came with Windows 3.1?

Edit: It was! https://www.google.ca/search?q=write+windows+3.1&oq=write+wi...

Edit 2: I actually love this name. Hopefully you don't get any headaches over the history of this name.

Imagine if you make a subset of these features available in text inputs (browser and apps) with a custom Android distribution. A step after that and you can make a big step in personal computing.

This is the first step towards something I've been thinking about. Maybe I really should just publish my ideas online instead of waiting until I'm ready to work on them.

I wrote a similar article, including a video of how the interactions work: https://medium.com/@eshan/the-case-for-the-stylus-28094a0abd...

I went on to buy a Galaxy Note tablet with the intention of trying to implement it somehow, but I never really got anywhere.

Awesome tool! God my handwriting is awful. Can it learn and convert it to text?

Maybe it can export bitmaps suitable for OCR libraries or services (like https://pixlab.io/cmd?id=ocr) to convert.

Nice. MS OneNote had exactly this functionality and it was super useful for taking notes in math/engineering classes. Good to see a non-MS product taking it on, and producing open output by default.

I think waaay too much about this.

Started when I took notes on my surface in onenote during a coding bootcamp. Between multi-color pen switching, ability to paste in pics of slides and screenshots of code, and type in code when necessary, it was the ultimate note taking situation. Made me realize the reason I was a shit student in college was straight up because I took garbage notes.

But, the surface/windows is not the ideal programming environment for me. I prefer linux flavors (Debian/Ubuntu usually). So I've been on this like three year quest to get the ultimate note taking, programming, plus misc task tool setup.

Ended up with a thinkpad x1 yoga, all the bells and whistles. Great machine. Tried having a VM running Debian so I could quickly switch from that to onenote, but the VM performance when closing and opening the lid was funky. So, dual boot time, and time to find a onenote replacement. Not so bad a deal because onenote offline mode and syncing are notoriously bad (not that I'd expect otherwise, it seems like a tricky problem to solve).

Deep down the rabbit hole turns up two apps: Write and Xournal. (Onenote chrome doesn't work because no pressure sensitivity and no offline mode)

Write is exciting because it works out of the box, has infinite scrolling, quickly can switch pen colors, and a very interesting save scheme. Their files are just HTML with svgs. I'm exploring and automatic upload system that simply renders all my notes as a GitHub pages thing somewhere, with links for directory's files. Open to suggestions, there.

Xournal is definitely a more configurable, heavy hitter app. It was easier to install, has way more configuration options (mildly annoying as you gotta tick a box to get pressure sensitivity on), and allows you to type text in or paste images. However, it doesn't have infinite, expanding page scrolling. You have to hit "next page" to be presented with a new blank canvas, or, set your page length to something absurd, which concerns me for memory management reasons.

Anyway, like I said, I think WAY too much about this, but I'm very open to suggestions/input.

Too late edit: Actually, I just checked, xournal doesn't seem to allow pasting in images. I could have sworn I did it before but I don't see any in any of my save files.

Aha, you can get images in! You must click a sort of msword type "clipart" looking icon, and then click where you want the image to go. Then, a file explorer dialog opens, and it's business as usual.

Not quite as elegant as Onenote's ability to paste in a screenshot super easy, but the functionality at least has a workaround.

Why can't I highlight / select text from the web page?

From what I can tell, all the text is rendered via SVG.

I have a Wacom Intuos pad. Between that input device and my bad handwriting my output looks terrible. Anyone have any suggestions on how to use it with this app properly?

Wow this is super cool. I wish I knew about this when I was still in school. It would probably pair really well with the PCs with built in wacom-style stylus.

I really like the looks of that, but the dates on the blog!

Is it dead, Jim?

The youtube video dates back to early 2013...

The last blog date is also July 2013... so I'm assuming the project was dropped for some reason.

Author says major new version is coming in a few months.

I am always on the lookout for new note-taking/annotation apps on my ipad. But so far no one could trump Flexcil. The 10$ is worth every penny.

Installed on Surface Pro 4, doesn't seem to work. Just draws weird patterns instead of tracking the stylus properly.

I've literally been brainstorming something very similar the past few months, as an iOS app. This is really neat!

The application looks amazing.

The music on the demo video makes me anxious, however.

This is terrible

This is not free/open-source, is it?

Please open source

But why?

I say this a little bit tongue in cheek, and I'm sure the DV's will pile on, but I once took some classes in handwriting analysis [yes, I know] and they actually turned out to be fascinating. Would do again in a heartbeat, all things considered.

Anyway the author's handwriting (or the font they picked), seen through that model, seems to indicate an (impressively) imaginative personality with a reduced preference for what you might call practicality. :-) Just thought it was amusing given your question.

This is a nice experiment.

But ofcourse not very usefull. For example you cannot copy paste the text.

But if you like something like this then you can use Inkscape for example to:

  Write all letter on a peace of paper
  Scan it and import in Inkscape
  Trace the bitmap to vector
  Create a font from all the character
There are a lot of tutorials online..

Edit: looks like the title changes. My comment is about the website not about the app which the title now refers to. The title was something like "a handwritten website"

The page describe copy/paste functionality towards the bottom. Would you mind saving someone the time to validate the two conflicting statements and explain the disagreement?

Ah I was refering to the website because the title is also about a handwritten website.

I'm using Firefox and I cannot select any text.

That's also why I commented about how to create your own handwritten font that can be used for a website.

The name choice is unfortunate, "Write" was the name of WordPad before Windows 95, even to this day if you write "write" in the run dialog in Windows it will open WordPad.

Applications are open for YC Summer 2019

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact