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Write or Draw on Your iPad’s Screen Using the Jaja Pressure-Sensitive Stylus

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In this article, Jason R. Rich explores an alternative way to enter information into an iPad using the Jaja pen-shaped, pressure-sensitive stylus from Hex3. You discover why you might want to use this type of tool when drawing, painting, editing/retouching photos, or handwriting directly on your tablet’s screen.
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One of the things that makes using an iPad so appealing is that to interact with the tablet, it requires little more than finger taps, pinches, or swipes on the highly sensitive touch screen display. However, some people can’t get used to typing on the tablet’s virtual keyboard, or discover that they need greater accuracy than what’s possible using a finger on the screen. In these situations, using an optional, pen-shaped stylus instead of a finger is often a viable solution.

Retail stores such as Best Buy or Staples, as well as online-based merchants that specialize in selling iPad accessories from third parties, offer many different types of iPad-compatible stylus devices. The majority of these devices are shaped like a pen, have a soft tip that can safely make contact with the tablet’s touch screen, and are priced under $20.00.

The Jaja Stylus Offers More Than Just Precision

Hex3 has taken the concept of using a stylus with the iPad a step further by developing the Jaja, a battery-operated, pressure-sensitive stylus that is approximately the size and weight of a ballpoint pen. It offers 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity when used with a tablet. Thus, you can use the Jaja stylus (shown in Figure 1) to handwrite, draw, or paint on the tablet’s screen with excellent precision.

Figure 1: The pen-shaped Jaja Stylus is pressure-sensitive.

The tip of this particular stylus is made from Teflon-coated metal on a 0.7 mm pin. Therefore, it won’t scratch the tablet’s screen or slip around on the screen’s surface when in use. Instead, the tip of the Jaja stylus is designed to glide smoothly and consistently along the screen (with no skips), based on how firmly you press down as you write or draw.

Priced at $89.99, the Jaja stylus isn’t cheap. However, it is compatible with all iPad and iPad mini models, as well as a growing collection of third-party writing, drawing, painting, and photo retouching apps. Replacement tips are also available from the company’s website ($19.90 for a four pack).

A businessperson can use the Jaja stylus to annotate PDF files or create handwritten notes by writing on the tablet’s touch screen when using an optional app, such as PDFpen, SIGNificant, Noteshelf, or NoteLedge.

Meanwhile, artists can use an app such as Procreate, SketchBook Pro, Zen Brush, or PaperDesk Pro to create or edit original artwork, sketches, or drawings directly on their tablet’s screen. When used with a photo editing and retouching app, such as Adobe’s Photoshop Touch, you can use the Jaja stylus to retouch or fine-tune even the most intricate digital photos.

Depending on the app, the Jaja stylus can simulate the ink of a ball point pen, a magic marker, a paintbrush, a fountain pen, or the lead of a pencil, for example. You can manually select the virtual writing instrument to simulate and then choose the thickness of the brush and the color of the ink.

What’s nice about this stylus, beyond its pressure-sensitivity and accuracy, is that it operates for up to 80 hours on a single AAA battery. Plus, it links wirelessly to an iPad (shown in Figure 2) using high-frequency sound waves, as opposed to Bluetooth. The sound waves are above what humans can hear but too low for pets to hear, yet they can be picked up and interpreted easily by the iPad’s built-in microphone.

Figure 2: The Jaja stylus communicates with the iPad using high-frequency radio waves, not Bluetooth.

The optional Noteshelf app ($5.99, https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/noteshelf/id392188745), which works with the Jaja stylus, for example, transforms the iPad into a digital notebook/sketchpad that offers users the ability to handwrite or draw directly on the tablet’s screen. In this case, the Jaja stylus can simulate a ballpoint pen, pencil, or a fountain pen for calligraphy, and the app replicates several different types of virtual paper on which to write on.

You can then save virtual handwritten notes within the app as a PDF or graphic file, which you can view, print, or share with others, or archive within the app for later reference. Currently, these apps do not translate handwritten text into searchable typed text.

Meanwhile, when you import a PDF document, such as a business contract, into the PDFpen app ($14.99 at https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/pdfpen/id490774625 or free from SIGNificant at https://itunes.apple.com/app/significant-signature-capture/id433375543), you can use the Jaja stylus to annotate the document, add handwritten notes, fill in preformatted forms, or to digitally sign business letters, documents, or contracts, which you can then incorporate into the PDF file, print, and share with others via email or using a cloud-based file sharing service, such as iCloud or Dropbox.

When used with a photo editing application, such as Adobe Photoshop Touch ($9.99 at https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/adobe-photoshop-touch/id495716481), you can use the Jaja stylus to paint or draw visual effects directly onto a digital image, apply a filter to specific areas of an image, or to select and work with individual image elements.

Ultimately, you can use any stylus to add precision and simulate a pen, pencil, or paintbrush when working with various apps. However, the pressure-sensitivity of the Jaja stylus impacts how an app’s virtual writing tools perform when they connect with the tablet’s screen. For example, if you take a magic marker and press lightly on a sheet of paper, the ink will be transferred to the paper in a different way than if you were to press down hard on the paper when holding that same marker. You can re-create these same effects when using the pressure-sensitivity feature of the Jaja stylus with a compatible app.

The Jaja stylus is available from the Hex3 website (http://www.hex3.co/products/jaja). The optional apps that it’s compatible with are available directly from the App Store. The stylus comes virtually ready to use after you install a battery.

How to Prepare the Jaja for Use with an iPad

Each time you begin using the Jaja, lift it away from the iPad’s screen, and then press and hold the lower of the stylus’ two buttons for about 3 seconds until you hear two beeps and the LED light that’s built into the stylus flashes twice. This indicates the stylus has been recalibrated to zero.

Next, press and hold the Jaja against a flat surface and apply what you’d consider “heavy pressure” when using a regular writing instrument. As you do this, press and hold down the upper button for 2 to 3 seconds to set the maximum pressure level. Again, you hear two beeps and the LED light flashes twice.

The Jaja stylus is now ready to use with a compatible app. For a complete list of compatible apps, visit Hex 3’s website (http://www.hex3.co/products/jaja). After you decide which apps you want to use with the stylus, access the Settings or Setup menu within that app, and turn on the Jaja Stylus functionality. Otherwise, the app won’t recognize the stylus when it’s used. You need to do this only once, the first time you use a new app with the stylus.

Based on the functionality of the app you use, choose a virtual writing instrument from the app’s menu to determine what type of pen, pencil, or brush the Jaja stylus will simulate. In some cases, you can also choose the type of virtual paper and ink color to use for writing, painting, or drawing.

Final Thoughts...

If you simply want to capture a signature or do basic handwriting on the iPad’s screen (using a related app), any inexpensive pen-shaped stylus can probably do the trick. However, if you need a precision tool for drawing, sketching, or painting, the Jaja stylus offers an innovative and highly accurate new way to interact with an iPad.

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