App Review: Digital Notetaking With Creaceed’s Carbo App for iOS

Handwritten notes go digital

Taking notes used to be easy; you grabbed a notebook and a pen, and you started writing. Then along came the era of the smartphone and tablet, and suddenly people had the idea that you could write legibly with a finger or a stylus. Writing with a stylus usually required an app that would reject the force of your palm on the display of the device, and for many people that didn’t work. Well, a new iOS app from Creaceed called Carbo (launch price US $3.99, regular price $7.99) wants to bring your handwritten notes into the digital age, and it does that very well.

You’ll go back to the old way of taking notes; using your handwriting, adding diagrams or drawings, even doodling in the margins. Once your note is done, launch Carbo and use the app to capture a picture of the page. The app has tools to stabilize your photo and get rid of perspective, so there’s no worry about whether or not the page is perfectly aligned in the app.

Once captured, there’s a slider that’s used to adjust the contrast of the image. With one more tap, the image is saved onto your iPhone or iPad and then the magic really begins.

The image is turned into what Creaceed calls a hybrid render, “halfway between bitmap and vector”. That image can be expanded in size with absolutely no pixelation, even on a Retina display. Notes stored in this format are small — only about 400KB compared to 2.5MB for a simlarly-sized JPEG.

Next, the image can be edited. There’s a lasso tool that uses your finger to outline an element that you want to move, scale or remove. Lines in any element can be made thicker or thinner, and there’s even an eraser tool for removing those sidebar doodles you made.

To organize and search your notes, Carbo has a way to set tags and add text annotations. Once the tags and annotations are set, the note is stored locally or in the cloud — iCloud, Evernote, and Dropbox are currently supported.

The fun part of Carbo is sharing those documents. The app comes with seven different export styles with a number of variations. Your black on white image can be turned into a blueprint (white on blue), look like it’s on a chalkboard, or even turn into pop art. Through the usual iOS share sheet, the end product is sharable with Twitter, Facebook, Messages, email, and any other services you may be fond of using.

Rating-Bar5Ease of Use

Carbo has a very well thought out user interface, and can be used quickly with almost no training. I found it much easier to take handwritten notes and then “Carbo-nize” them than to use one of the many iPad or iPhone notetaking apps.

Rating-Bar5Image Quality

When you’re ready to export an image, it’s done at a whopping 1,200 dots per inch. I found that printing handwritten documents that were cleaned up and edited in Carbo was an amazing way to create very personalized printed reminiscences for friends and relatives. In the app, the pixel-less rendering looks amazing on a Retina display.

Rating-Bar5Organization and Searching

All of your notes are organized chronologically, but the ability to apply multiple tags with different colors is another way of organizing notes. In one view of the notes, the bottom of each note is marked with the tag colors for easy identification. Likewise, searches are made very easy with the ability to search on annotations.


In the few short weeks that I’ve used Carbo, I have deleted all of the traditional “write on your iPad” notetaking apps that I had. Not only is Carbo providing a way for me to easily and quickly capture, edit and store handwritten notes, but I’ve also gone back to old notebooks to capture pages that either had brilliant notes I wanted to keep or items that were of sentimental value.

I recommend Carbo to anyone who prefers the speed of taking notes by hand, but wants to bring those notes into the digital age.