Beautifying your penbooks

New themes for adding color and style to your notes

After almost a year of honing the layouts of Penbook’s stationeries, we’ve turned our attention to the app’s “paper”. In the latest update to Penbook 3, you can customize the design of your stationeries by choosing themes and colors for your work.

We picked 11 color combinations for each of Light Mode and Dark Mode, and you can pick your own background color, too.

The update includes three new themes that apply to all the existing stationery:

  • Avenue: Workmanlike, buttoned-down, pre-post-modern. Does not believe in separation of content and presentation because it does not see the distinction. Caps lock has been stuck ‘on’ since June 2019. Types in Dvorak; isn’t embarrassed. Grandfather was the hallway signage for a 300 sq. ft. conference room. Father dreamt of being an offramp sign, but life got in the way and ended up working as a Starbucks drive-thru menu item.

  • Correspondent: Fantasizes about being printed out, bound in thread, and laid flat. Works nicely with all color choices, but sulks if you don’t choose raw umber paper with oxblood lines and saxe ink. Will tell you that your iPad is compatible with Monteverde pens. Don’t believe its lies.

  • Saint–Germain: For those who are unafraid of beauty, and the power of their own potential. Centered, although it can show a left- or right-aligned margin when necessary. Captcha on first use requires you to identify en dashes. Dreams of Penbook someday having a Pinterest integration. First hour of each journal page automatically populated with recurring appointment “Decorate my journal”.

Like all of Penbook’s stationeries, these upgraded design options are free for everyone. Here’s how to use the new options:

  1. Swipe up on a page to reveal the stationery editor (or tap its icon in the top-right menu)

  2. Then, tap the paintbrush button that’s hovering over your page

  3. Tap the theme name to change it

  4. Tap a color choice to use it as the page’s background. Or, tap the color picker to choose your own color.

That’s all for now! Happy customizing.


Team Penbook

Penbook turns your iPad into a magic notebook. Download it now on the App Store.

New beta feature: Widgets

In case you still needed a reason to upgrade to iPadOS 14

Good news, loyal beta users: the latest Penbook beta gives you snazzy widgets that let you get to your notes right from your iPad’s Today View.

There’s a nice variety of configurations: you can instantly add a page to any of your penbooks, create a penbook in one tap, see your most recent notes, and more, right from your home screen.

Need some guidance setting up widgets? Check out Apple’s official documentation, here:

How to use widgets

And if you’re not in the beta, don’t worry! We’ll release this to everyone soon enough.

Bye for now,

Team Penbook

It's Beta Time

Penbook ❤️ iPadOS 14. Do you?

In the dim past – a petit eon ago, in June 2019 – our founding team of two was at a crossroads. Should we write our own inking technology for Penbook? Or should we let Apple, this upstart, not even a trillion-dollar company, do it for us, for free?

And if so: should we then let Apple keep adding features to our app’s ink tech, also for free?

Even though we felt we were well-positioned to do it in-house – our competitors were only a decade ahead of us, and we already had a week of experience with the Pencil API – we let Apple take the first crack.

Our trust was rewarded. Apple’s inking technology is getting a major update in iPadOS 14, and Penbook is taking full advantage of it.

We’re almost ready to launch Penbook’s iPadOS 14 beta. Read on for the full rundown, but the short version is that if you want to join our iPadOS 14 beta, just click this button:

Edit: sorry, the beta is now closed! Thanks for all the interest.

Manipulate ink without changing tools

Now you can select and manipulate ink without changing to the Lasso tool. Just long-press on ink with your finger, and your work gets intelligently selected. Expansion handles automatically detect text and drawings. It’s like a word processor’s Ꮖ-beam, except for your ink.

And when you select ink, you get a powerful new option in the context menu: “Insert Space Above”. Ever written a bunch of notes, and needed to squeak in another line in the middle of the page? Now you can make room with just two taps.

Choose (and save) your favorite colors

The custom color picker gets a major overhaul in iPadOS 14. The grid of comfortable defaults remains, but you can also pick from the complete color spectrum, or use RGBa sliders and hex codes for both the P3 and sRGB color spaces.

Best of all, any color you pick can be instantly saved to an iPad-wide palette of your favorites, which you can use in other PencilKit-enabled apps (like Apple Notes).

Write instead of type

There are only two text input fields in Penbook (it’s not called “Keyboardbook”). But now you can write in them instead of typing in them, and near-perfect OCR will convert your handwritten input. Will this new power drive you to a rash act?

Make your notes perfect

Penbook’s new shape recognition means you can draw perfect rectangles, ellipses, and lines. No more need to use the finicky built-in ruler to draw a straight line. You’ll be astonished by how beautiful your now-tidy notes are.

We made it so you can transform your ink into perfect shapes without slowing down. Just tap with two fingers, and that’s it. No tool switching, and no long-pressing.

Augmented reality

This actually has nothing to do with iPadOS 14, but it’s very, very cool, and we’ll be sneaking it into the beta as soon as we can.

(It’s also a bit spooky - after you place your penbook up on the walls of your house, you might find that you keep expecting to see the pages where you left them, even without an iPad in front of your face.)

Get on the list

If you have an iPad running the iPadOS 14 beta, and you want the latest goodies, sign up at the link below.

Edit: sorry, the beta is now closed! Thanks for all the interest.

Don’t worry – if beta software isn’t your thing, all these great features will be coming to you soon enough (hopefully by October). We can’t wait to show them to you.


– Team Penbook

We're going streaking!

Everybody's doing it.

Habits, not choices, define the outline of our lives. Bad habits suppress potential; good habits are rare, envied, and fragile. You are what you do every day – and it’s easy to imagine that the sum of your daily habits isn’t flattering.

But it only takes 30 days to add another good habit to the mix. After a month of daily attention, a behaviour becomes close to automatic. Now, you have all the benefits of a new positive habit without having to exhaust your willpower to tackle it.

When you have a streak of 4 weeks of cardio fitness behind you, it takes a lot of willpower to skip a day. You’ve changed your default behavior from “not exercising” to “exercising”, and now the lazy part of you, the part that just wants to do the same thing every day, is stubbornly insisting that you go out for a run. It’s nice to have that part of you on your side for once!

Penbook 2.2 is in the App Store now. This release adds one of our most complex stationeries yet: a fully-customizable monthly habit tracker.

Use it to create your own month-long streak for anything from two to two dozen habits. You can lay it out like the classic ‘Seinfeld Calendar’, line it up by weekdays/weekends, or split it up so you have lots of room for notes.

This stationery is one of Penbook’s Live Papers. The accurate monthly calendar highlights today’s date and greys out the future, so you can focus on your trajectory.

The complexity of this stationery gave us the opportunity to improve the app’s performance. We made some optimizations that increased performance, especially on heavier stationeries. If you’re using a slower iPad, you’re going to feel the difference.

We haven’t even scratched the surface of the potential for Penbook, and our team is working hard to deliver more to you every month. We can’t wait to show you what we’re planning for next month 😉

Bye for now!

Team Penbook

Planning out the year

Now with the perfect stationery

Hello again! Penbook 2.1 is live today. It comes with three new features we think you’ll love: Magic Keyboard support, a really nice yearly planning paper, and a new screen for choosing stationery:

For Magic Keyboard users, the new keyboard shortcuts will really speed you up. On any screen, just press and hold ⌘ to see the full list. A few to get you going:

  • ⌘ shift ← / → to quickly move between the home slate, the book slate, and the page slate

  • ⌘ Z / ⌘ shift Z to undo/redo

  • ⌘ I to quickly pull up the template picker

  • ← / → to change pages in your penbook, and ⌘ N to make a new page.

With the Magic Keyboard’s trackpad, you’ll notice gentle hover effects on most of Penbook’s controls, and context menus where appropriate.

(Don’t worry, the Magic Keyboard features also work with Muggle keyboards and pointing devices.)

We’ve added a yearly stationery for long-range planning, like shift scheduling, project timelines, and other things that take longer than one month. Here’s a preview of it. You can line it up based on weekdays or days of the month, and orient it vertically or horizontally. It makes a great family calendar.

The new stationery picker will serve the app better as we shove in even more stationery. It gives more breathing room to each paper type, so complex papers with lots of options are easier to configure. To get the best experience, make sure you’re on iPadOS 13.4 or later.

Oh, also! We made some shirts. You can get them from Cotton Bureau here, priced at our cost. We designed them for ourselves, but then realized some of you might be geeky enough to want one too. Available in Light Mode and Dark Mode.

That’s it for now!

Team Penbook

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