Paper has taken the metaphor of your standard duty sketchbook and packed it up into a tight, fast, fun-to-use iPad app. You organize your work into different sketchbooks, which you can name and (within tight limits) customize. You swipe through books that have dimension and texture. Surely a list of titles or a grid of books would allow you to show more books at once, but hey, this works out just fine.
All this book-ness is a gimmick, but it’s a fun one. It works well, and when you’re immersed in the experience of actually drawing/writing, it all disappears. “Drawing mode,” as I’ll call it, is one big, warm field of virtual paper. Swipe from off the bottom of the screen screen to gain access to the limited but very capable tools—brushes, pencils, markers and a fixed palette of colors.
Like swipe-to-show/hide tools, most interactions in Paper are intuitive, either pulling from the assumptions you’d make based on actual paper journals (turn pages for more space; the eraser erases everything), or conventions in recent Apple interfaces.
There’s one interaction that’s not as obvious: undo. To undo recent actions, you take two fingers and rotate them across the surface as if you’re doing a “wax off” motion. The rationale seems to be that this is like rewinding or turning back time. While not intuitive at first, it’s a nice interaction and looks far less goofy to see someone do compared to the Etch a Sketch–like shake-to-undo that’s part of iOS. I hope this interaction gains traction elsewhere.
A friend described paper as “an app that makes you better.” I’m not sure it makes anyone better at drawing, but the limited color palette and overall aesthetic that is forced by limited tools certainly makes all of your sketches more unified. Paper’s best design choices are what to leave out. Some might find it limiting. If you’re the kind of designer that thrives on constraints then you’ll disagree.
I’ve been having a great experience using Paper day-to-day, as a primary sketchbook replacement. The “share” feature allows you to save images straight to the photo library on your iPad. If you’re an iCloud and Photostream user, these images end up in iPhoto moments later.