A Short Review of Cosmonaut

Scott Francis
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(Editors note: this is part product review, part examination of a new process emerging) Well, we know Steve Jobs was not a big fan of the stylus.  And I’m happy Apple didn’t design touch interfaces that required them.  But like many others, I still want to be able to draw my ideas on an iPad with more precision than my fingers will allow.  There are a bunch of these products on the market now, but at the time the kickstarter project for Cosmonaut was kicked off, I hadn’t seen one that didn’t look cheap yet. Marco Arment has done us all the favor of reviewing the Cosmonaut – “I’ve tried a lot of iPhone and iPad styli, and I haven’t liked any of them before. But this one’s very different.” and also trying out lots of other products.  I haven’t personally used any other stylus for the iPad, but I agree with Marco’s general sentiments:
  • First, that the packaging is excellent, and nice branding to boot.
  • Second, that the wide grip of the Cosmonaut is a big advantage – because you really do use it more like a whiteboard marker than a pen or pencil.
  • Third, that it is the first product I’ve used that actually feels good when you use it. The rubber tip requires just the right amount of pressure to register with the iPad, and glides effortlessly and smoothly across the surface (even if that surface has the sticky finger prints of your 2yo son on it).
  • It exudes quality.  And since we were part of the kickstarter project, we know why.  The creators were meticulous about finding the right materials.  They switched manufacturers more than once.  Getting the right grip, the right aluminum core, and the right tip were all quite time consuming (to, I think, the frustration even of the creators).
Choice quotes from Marco’s review:
There’s no foam anywhere in it. The soft rubber tip gives slightly when pushed, because there’s a small air pocket between it and the solid aluminum core.
and:
It doesn’t feel like a brick of solid plastic writing on glass, and it doesn’t feel like a flimsy sponge on a stick. It feels like a marker, as designed.
I forgot to bring it with me on vacation (I switched laptop bags) and I’m actually annoyed.  I was hoping to try out additional drawing applications. I’ve used penultimate and a few others. But the feature I really want is an “infinite” canvas, or at least a canvas much larger than the screen.  That way I can use rough handwriting with the stylus, then shrink the whole thing down to fit on a screen and reduce to “normal” writing size.  Hopefully I can find an app that does this without too much trouble – it would make a perfect companion to the Evernote note-taking app (though truly, I wish Evernote would just solve both problems… a rare case where you want the app to do two things well, rather than just one). At the end of the day, the team at Studio Neat worked hard to produce something that looks deceptively simple.  It just looks like a rubber stylus.  But it has the right heft, the right feel, the right size.  It takes a lot of work to produce the right, simple, product. Good news, you can now buy your own here. No doubt the Cosmonaut will come in handy for me when I need to sketch an idea or process while attending a meeting.  But my daughter’s first contribution to the blog is a bit of artwork… what surprised me is how much better it is than what she usually sketches with her finger, and the process she used to draw it.  First she colored everything blue, by hand (she could have done this by changing the background color, which I’ve seen her do before… she told me she liked the texture).  Then she drew the clouds and flowers on top… green shoots first, then flowers, then a bit of yellower grass at the bottom.  This is a process that works much better in software than it works with pen and paper, though you can do something similar (with some mess) with crayons.  But try drawing white on top of blue in almost any medium – it doesn’t work too well!  Her work is already better than some of my process drawings! An Early Masterpiece

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