The iPad needs a Preview-like app


All I wanted to do was quickly annotate a screenshot from the iPad. The Posterous bookmarklet, which I use to start 95% of my posts, had an error I’d never seen before, and I’d captured a screenshot to markup.

On the Mac this is a task for Preview, the PDF reader, image viewer, and annotation tool included with Mac OS X. I love Preview, and wrote about the Snow Leopard version here.

On the iPad, however, my choices were limited. I found a couple ninety-nine cent paint/draw apps, but they proved clumsy. One lets me draw straight lines and shapes, but has no undo function, and you can’t see the shape until you lift your fingers. The other might be a nice tool for an artist, but not so easy to use, and overkill.

I ended up using Adobe’s Ideas app, but with a twist. Ideas is easy to use, fun to play with, and let’s you pinch in and out, which is a big help for writing the text with your finger. It also smooths what you draw, which also helps with the text. It’s also free. One complaint in actual use is that it’s kind of sluggish, more so than the others. Biggest complaint is that Ideas has no facility to save to the iPad’s photo library. Bad Adobe! Only output is via email, and it’s a PDF that, when emailed to Posterous requires (surprise, surprise) Flash.

So how do I get around this? Well, with yet another app, and another screen shot. Once it looks good in Ideas, I take a screenshot. Open the screenshot in the excellent Photogene app and crop it, then save to the iPad library. Now I have a picture to post anywhere, no plug-in required.

The problem is that to get the image above I needed two screenshots and two apps, and I don’t even have straight lines or typed text. I could have used a third app for straight edges, and probably a fourth for typed text, but I need something more all-in-one.

With such a small screen, the iPhone didn’t cry out for an app like Preview, but I think the iPad does.