Thursday, December 4, 2014

Two great apps for Android

Let me tell you about two great drawing programs for Android: Markers and Autodesk SketchBook.

Apple device users have long had access to a quick-and-dirty drawing app called Jot!, and a more complicated app from Autodesk, called Sketchbook. I was so pleased with both apps that I once wrote an article recommending them to you.

I've been looking in vain, for over a year, for an Android app to match Jot! which, unfortunately, is an iOS-only app. I think I finally found it.

With the unassuming name of "Markers," this app sticks to the fundamentals: it lets you do quick-and-dirty sketches. You can change brush sizes, styles and colors, but the selection is intentionally kept small, to keep the application simple and uncluttered. It's not really fair to do a feature-by-feature comparison of Markers to Jot!, because one only works on Android and the other only works on iOS.

(It turns out that Markers has been around for over two years. I don't know how I missed it, but I'm glad I finally found it.)

Some of the nice features of Markers:
  • It's pressure-sensitive, varying line width according to how hard you press on the glass.
  • The background is transparent, not white, so you can draw with a white marker.
  • If you draw with two fingers, you get two lines; three fingers gives you three lines and so on, up to whatever limitations your hardware imposes.
  • You can zoom and pan the drawing surface - very useful if you start getting complicated.

Markers - screenshot
A sample Markers screen. If you click on the green marker in the upper left corner, the menu disappears, leaving you with a full-screen drawing surface.

Jot! for iOS is available in both a free and a paid version; the paid version gives you extra exporting and sharing capabilities. Markers for Android is simply free. The author, Daniel Sandler, keeps a small website devoted to the project, at You can download Markers from the Google Play app store. Follow this link:

Now, let me tell you about SketchBook.

Autodesk knows how to follow the income stream. Their SketchBook app is available on both Android and iOS devices. As far as I have been able to tell, the app behaves identically on both platforms. SketchBook comes in three flavors:
  • SketchBook Express, free and good enough for casual users
  • SketchBook, also free but frustrating until you upgrade to Pro
  • SketchBook Pro, $3.99
For casual users, SketchBook Express will fill all your needs, but Markers is easier to use. Serious users will want SketchBook Pro. You don't download and install SketchBook Pro directly. You install SketchBook, and then you buy the Pro Tools inside the app. Installing the Pro Tools is what turns SketchBook into SketchBook Pro. Believe me, for four bucks, it's worth upgrading to the Pro version.

Autodesk SketchBook - screenshot
A sample SketchBook screen.
SketchBook is an entire Autodesk product line, spanning platforms from mobile devices to serious desktop workstations. Autodesk supports the product line at its own website, You can download SketchBook from the Google Play app store. Follow this link:

One little note about the reviews at Google Play: many SketchBook reviewers gripe, and with some (but not a lot of) justification, that the free version of SketchBook is more like an advertisement for the Pro version, and that they feel deceived in some way in having to upgrade to Pro to get the tools they need. Eh. Think of it as an evaluation copy. Avoid the disappointment and frustration that the reviewers experienced, by planning from the start to spend the $3.99 and upgrade to Pro immediately. That way you will know exactly what you are getting and you won't feel like anybody's trying to pull a fast one on you.

Besides, the SketchBook app is easily worth $10 or more. And the Markers app is worth $2 or $3. They're both bargains at their current prices.

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