iPad Pro pencil

Flattered that you would think Apple would be interested in purchasing Agenda, but it is too niche for them. They only take on software with broad markets. The Notes app is an app anyone can use. Agenda is much more opinionated.

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@drewmccormack is there any update on expected release date/road map for this feature ? Thanks.

We can’t give a specific date, but it is still one of our highest priorities. Certainly this year, but I can’t be more specific. Sorry.

I would be EXTREMELY willing to pay more than the current $9.99 for this feature. Seriously, I am so close to learning how to developing my own application. I am a neuroscience PhD student and need an application that integrates the two features. Perhaps you could charge extra for this feature?

If you mean the pencil feature, we plan to address that soon. Apple has just announced a way to add it easily, and we will do that. Sorry for the wait.


I saw! Allegedly it’s only 3 lines of code! How does this compare to before?

Before, we would have written several thousand lines to do this.

Unfortunately, it is not really a three line change. Yes, we could put something on the screen and let you draw, but it wouldn’t save, wouldn’t sync, wouldn’t appear in the text editor, etc. These things are always much more than just what you do on screen.


do we really want a Palm experience? Pencils are for sketching -and pointing.

You won’t be forced to use it. It will be quite hidden away, but available if you want to draw something or use handwriting.

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So here is my dream for the intersection between pencil based note taking and task management:

  • take handwritten notes
  • text recognition so that my handwriting becomes searchable - optional conversion from handwriting to typed text
  • gesture recognition for ToDo in handwriting - e.g. I draw a cectangle and write text next to it -> this is recognized as a task - maybe offer an interaction to accept the task.
  • live links between my handwritten notes and the emerging tasks
  • draw something

I can imagine several ways this is delivered - maybe in one single app or maybe via functional integration between two apps.

I bought my iPad Pro to be able to use the Apple Pencil in Meetings. There I mostly do 3 things:

  1. take notes
  2. manage tasks
  3. present or collaborate
    I want the best of both worlds - the ease of using pen and paper and the added convenience of computers. My calendar and ToDo lists live and die on multiple devices.

I’m afraid text recognition of handwriting is very difficult, which explains why Apple haven’t added it to the iPad themselves. There are companies that can do it, but only if they have the stroke information (timing of the writing), and the cost of licensing is prohibitive for an app in the price category of Agenda.

We will deliver on drawing/writing by hand, but not the text recognition. Hopefully Apple will put resources into that and we will get it down the track for free.

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@drewmccormack, I know you’ve done your homework and concluded that the best path forward for integrating handwriting into Agenda is to leverage PencilKit, start with embedded drawing and add HWR when Apple makes it convenient to do so. That us a well considered approach; but I beg your consideration of an alternative other than Nebo MyScript: Have you looked at Phatware’s Penquills SDK (https://www.penquills.com/handwriting-recognition-sdk)? It’s history goes back to the Apple Newton and has the most intuitive set of handwriting editing gestures of any handwriting engine and I suspect the pricing may be lower than MyScript.

I believe there is an untapped market at the intersection of note taking, task management and handwriting recognition. Those who comprise this market are serious note takers who recognize the productivity and cognitive benefits of handwriting vs keyboard input — managers, planners, engineers, architects, attorneys, researchers and other professionals.

Agenda already has two of the three elements covered (note taking with integrated task management) and can separate itself from competitors by boldly embracing and pursuing the third (HWR). I am accomplishing this by using the Phatware Penquills handwriting keyboard — which works very well and has confirmed my expectation for productivity and cognitive benefits.

The only issue I have with this arrangement is that the writing area is approximately 1/2 the height of the iOS soft keyboard which makes the writing experience feel cramped — though using the iPad in landscape mode can improve the experience. The benefits I see from direct integration include: (1) opportunity for full screen writing area or at least a writing area that is the same height as the iPad soft keyboard, and (2) the opportunity to utilize custom gestures for creating tasks, and invoking other Agenda featuresetc.features, etc.

I recognize this development likely involves up-front as well as recurring licensing cost — and I am willing to commit to a monthly subscription of up to $10 for the opportunity to benefit from this capability.

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Thanks for the feedback. This is useful. I don’t think we had come across this particular library before. We did look at a few others.

I think the problem here is that we couldn’t mix Apple’s stuff, which is very nice for drawing and writing due to advances they have made in performance, and the text recognition library. So if we supported the handwriting library, we would lose the great advances Apple have made, and any improvements Apple make in the future (…which may even include their own handwriting recognition).

So at this stage, our best bet is to support Apple’s PencilKit. Perhaps we can look at a separate handwriting recognition down the track, and this library is certainly worthy of recognition. A lot would depend on pricing, and there is no indication of that. You may be prepared to pay $10 a month for it, but I doubt many others would, and then it becomes an expensive investment for very little gain, and most people wouldn’t get any benefit out of it.

We really appreciate the heads up, and will consider it down the track. Thanks!


Understood @drewmccormack . Thanks for considering our suggestions and creating and maintaining a great app.

While you are working it out I will continue to use Agenda with a handwriting input method/keyboard. I’ve used Mazek, Selvy PenScript and Penquills with Agenda.

All work, but I have had the best results with Penquills (I bought the app but only use the handwriting keyboard). This was achieved after using the built-in Handwriting Sampler to train it to recognize how I handwrite certain letters.

The biggest issue I have with Penquills and all of the other handwriting keyboards is the limited handwriting space at the bottom of the iPad. It can feel cramped and make the handwriting entry more taxing – and distracting when trying to pay attention and capture notes in meetings.

Perhaps another option is an Agenda HWR keyboard with bigger writing area and custom gestures for task creation, task state, etc. :wink: I suspect this is as big a development effort as incorporating full-fledged Pencil support with HWR; but a guy can dream. :nerd_face:

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We do have a completely redeveloped keyboard accessory bar coming at the end of this week. Maybe that will help with entry.

Sweet! Also, I just saw the upcoming Ipad OS is going to provide the pencil dock as a standard feature developers can drop into their applications. Not sure if this solves many of the issues trying to develop this feature, but it sure sounds promising :slight_smile:

Yes, that is what we plan to use. Does make it a lot easier indeed.

I know this is quite a late reply, but if you’re looking for ideas on how I’d like the Apple pencil to work, take a look at Microsoft OneNote or Notability. Notation with the pencil anywhere and not confined to a special space like the stock Notes app. Also, unrelated but a feature request, would it be possible to have inline pdf printouts? or at least an easier way on iOS to open them up? Admittedly I’m a new user but it seems as though I can attach a pdf and then I forever have an icon that does me no good. Again, notability has this option.

What I like about Agenda is the tagging/search function and the calendar and reminders integration, not to mention the layout. Thank you for your work on this project!

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Our support for pencil will be much like Apple Notes to begin with. I don’t see us going the directly of Notability. That seems like a totally different category of app, ie, a free form not taking app. Agenda is much more text driven; it’s good to be able to add a diagram, but free form drawing on the app would require a completely different app architecture.

We will try to have PDF previews in future. They are supported by default on macOS, but not iOS. On macOS, the OS treats PDFs as images and can show them. iOS doesn’t. That explains the difference. We would have to convert the PDF to an image on iOS. Will see if we can add this feature in future.

Kind regards,


The pencil is used for more than that. Handwriting notes, or anything, is the big thing non artist use this for. That’s why this is such a big request, and a huge thread here.