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Getting started with Evernote's iPad handwriting app Penultimate

Penultimate leaves out many of the features of competing apps and instead delivers a simple and still-useful way to sketch and takes notes on the iPad.

Penultimate is a 99-cent handwriting app from Evernote for the iPad. It's like Paper without artistic aspiration. You won't find any pencils or watercolor brushes here -- just pen and paper. But like Paper, Penultimate is simple and intuitive.

Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

Penultimate organizes your notes into notebooks. When you first launch the app, you'll see a Welcome notebook that steps you through the app's various features. Tap the New Notebook button in the upper-left corner to create a new notebook. At the bottom of the screen are three buttons to share a notebook (via e-mail or send to iTunes, Dropbox, or Evernote) or open in another app, duplicate a notebook or merge it with another, and delete. You can give a notebook a title but you can't change the cover as you can with Paper; all of your notebooks will have a brown faux-leather cover.

Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

Tap on a notebook to open to the first page, and then tap on the first page to view it in full-screen mode. Swipe or tap the lower-right corner to page forward, and swipe or tap the lower-left corner to page back. If you tap the lined button just to the left of the spine of a notebook, you can view thumbnails of all the pages in a notebook.

The only writing instrument Penultimate provides is an ink pen. It features three pen sizes and 10 colors. You can access these pen options from the pen icon at the bottom of the screen. Next to it is an eraser tool and a scissors tool for cutting and pasting part of one note into another note. The X button lets you clear an entire page. To delete a page from a notebook, go to the thumbnail view and tap and hold on a page. Unfortunately, there is no zoom feature for finer control or writing smaller on the page.

Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

At the top of a page are undo and redo buttons; I prefer Paper's unique rewind dial for undoing edits. Also from the top, you can choose blank, lined, or graph paper, and you can also create your own using a photograph. Next to the paper button is a button for inserting photos into a note. You can easily resize and reposition a photo on a page, and once inserted you can write on the photo.

Penultimate is a simple app for jotting down notes on your iPad, but I prefer the look and feel and added features of Paper. And for an all-purpose note-taking app, Notability remains at the top of my list because it lets you write, type, and create voice memos.

What do you use for taking notes on your iPad? Please enlighten us in the comments below.