I try to adapt No Paper policy in my workflow. I'm a student of EECS and most of my daily job is doing some research and designing mathematical algorithms, Communication Networks, Math, Ideas,.... I've free myself from pen and paper except when I like (or need) to quickly draw some sketch about an idea/concept on the paper. These are usually some shapes, text and formulas...I like to replace this with sth digital.

I don't just think of Vector based apps any other alternative is welcome. I've not tried sth like Visio but I've used Inkscape and It doesn't have all features I need (e.g. not easy way to insert TeX formulas or being able to insert couple of text paragraphs or notes). MyPaint another open source app (and completely from different domain) has some features which I like (free hand brush, quick sketch) but It lacks text or formula support and not easy to use with Mouse (Maybe some Wacom product make it what I want).

I've tried Inkscape, LaTeXDraw, TiKz (Great but not quick and easy), ipe, xfig, jpicEdt,MyPaint,... but none them was quite satisfactory and much behind of paper experience. Ipe was good to some extend. Currently I've decided to draw on papers and then take pictures of them and import them to my project but I'm searching of good alternative with more digital capability e.g. taking pictures as has two major drawback first it's slow second the taken image is not editable (yes in PS,Gimp,...) and I cannot easily add new concepts, text to it...

p.s. I've also tried freemind, Docear(not relavant), XMind,..but these are mind-map software and just use tree-based mindmap which I don't want. I've tried UML yet.


I don't have enough experience yet but the best solutions are (In my opinion):

  1. Local App (i.e. PC) + External Tablet (e.g Wacom). My personal choice is:

    • Xournal + WACOM Intious (Pad and Paper) : Medium Size

      -However this is a bit overkill.

      -Xournal is Opensource and support PDF annotating, inserting image and shape recognition,...Just like Xournal, Cournal is also available with some realtime collaborative features.

      -Xournal++ is new rewritten app (in C++) with extra features incluing LaTeX. It's an great app and I believe that this is almost what I want but still to come (https://github.com/xournalpp/xournalpp)

    • MyPaint or Alchemy or Inkscape are also opensource apps which can be used with any of these devices, I think Wacom tablets are good choice there are might be some cheaper and better suited Input devices since I'm not a digital artist and I don't pay that much attention to pressure level or resolution...

  2. Tablets + apps

    • iPad + Stylus pen and some app e.g. bamboopaper (http://bamboopaper.wacom.com/) or IdeaSketch which has been mentioned in the Random O'Realy post.
    • Android Tablet (e.g. Xperia Tablet Z2 or Sumsung Galaxy Note Pro) with sketch/S Note or any other app such as bamboopaper

      -It seems that Xperia Tablets work with regular pencils also (very good feature).

      -Tablets usually comes with non-standard file format which are not easy to use with other PC apps...

  3. Inkling

    • With this, It's possible to draw on the paper but simultaneously the sketch is being digitized and stored in the pen then whenever you reach a computer you can send the sketch to the computer using different formats. I think this is very interesting.
  • 3
    The best tools for sketch ideas are pencil and paper.
    – Ilan
    Commented Apr 20, 2014 at 15:53
  • For graphic sketching. No undo. al.chemy.org
    – allcaps
    Commented Apr 20, 2014 at 16:01
  • 2
    @ilan, but the worst medium regarding "Maintaining/Editing after/Organizing/Searching/ Flexibility" is paper ;-)
    – SddS
    Commented Apr 20, 2014 at 16:02
  • @allcaps, Thanks I'm downloading it now for further tests.
    – SddS
    Commented Apr 20, 2014 at 16:04
  • 3
    This question appears to be off-topic because it is about shopping for a product. (It's a good question, just not one that has 'an answer' as there are a plethora of software options out there to handle this.
    – DA01
    Commented Apr 21, 2014 at 16:30

2 Answers 2


I can see that the options you are thinking about are all a little clunky for conceptual doodles in the planning stages.

This is perhaps not entirely what you had in mind, but there are some pretty nifty apps for iPad (and I am sure, other touch devices).

Personally, I have only used Idea sketch and that works pretty well for relational concepts. You draw a box, the app "clean it up", you write something in it, pull lines to a new box etc.

The other one I have heard good things about is Concepts smarter sketching

This was just from the top of my head. I am not trying to sell you an iPad, but I think that for the spontaneous element you need going from paper to digital, touch is the business.

  • I think it's the best solution. Initially I've thought of Wacom Pen and Pad which connects to the computer (It seems overkill). Yes Tablets are better solution and there is no decent software (on PC) alternative to this (even with current technology of Touch screen enabled monitors). Besides iPad, Xperia Tablet (Z1 and Z2) seems to have very good writing capabilities. I've worked with Galaxy S Note 8.0 before and S Note software doesn't fit my desire completely but It feels more natural...p.s. Initially I'm fond of TeX and HTML5 based solutions since they're better fit my project style.
    – SddS
    Commented Apr 20, 2014 at 18:15
  • Glad to be of help. I am a great fan of pencil and paper, it is the fastest method yet. Or charcoal on cave walls if you like :) You need tactility and speed. I am not sure if we will ever have anything equal, without touch. A great fan of whiteboards too, but i see the hassle in digitising. With handwriting recognition getting better and better, touch is the way to go.
    – benteh
    Commented Apr 20, 2014 at 18:35
  • Yes! This is the reason none of the programs so far has come close to what we have in hand already! But digitization has great promises in the other side: Maintainability, indexing (search), editing, organization, portability, space, collaboration, archiving (e.g source versioning),.... the problem is with not mature enough digital interfaces and it's not just the input but also the display! we even don't have a decent tool (at least for reasonable price) that comes as ergonomic as Whiteboards or pencil and paper!
    – SddS
    Commented Apr 20, 2014 at 20:01

I would use OneNote.

It supports pretty much everything you're looking for, including full support for text, math formulas (just press Alt+=), drawing and sketching.

OneNote automatically OCRs any handwritten text on the fly and indexes it for searching. It also does this for screen clippings and PDF printouts that you insert into it.

You can use any input device you like, but the Microsoft Surface Pro is the obvious choice.

  • Yes, but it's on windows.
    – SddS
    Commented Oct 1, 2015 at 8:51
  • And also on OS X, Android and iOS Commented Dec 8, 2015 at 16:53
  • Not surface pro, but now I've two options and currently use them: 1. Galaxy Note + Onenote 2. Linux+Xournal/MyPaint/OneNote and a wacom tablet
    – SddS
    Commented Dec 14, 2015 at 9:05

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