Cursive is an interesting surprise from Google – a handwriting and notes app developed directly by the tech giant that’s meant to complement HP’s new X2 11 Chromebook. It’s launching first on this new device and then later this year as a progressive web application (PWA) on other Chromebooks. At first blush, it looks very much like a competitor to Microsoft’s OneNote, and it lets you write and organize notes into “notebooks”. It’s not the first app of its kind, but it is the first web app of its kind to utilize low-latency pen input for high productivity.
When launching Cursive, users will be presented with what you see below – give or take an illustrated hand holding a fake pen – a ‘New note’ button at the top of the app followed by a row of user-created ‘notebooks’ which feature a hand-picked cover, title, and paper type. As with Google Keep, one can choose between lined, blank, or dot graph paper (for all of my bullet journal enthusiasts!).
Just below that, all of your notes will appear, sorted, of course, by those that are most recent. Just tapping on a note will launch it so you can begin making modifications using the app’s slew of annotation tools that occupy the top row. A pen, a highlighter, a marker, color selection, an eraser, and more – all at your
finger pen tips. There’s also an image insertion tool, redo and undo buttons, and a selection tool. Most importantly, a search function exists on the home screen so you can quickly locate notes – yep, it allows you to search for handwritten notes. That in and of itself is incredibly cool. Keep can do this too, with varying success.
The real selling point for Cursive, though, is its ability to utilize Google’s own handwriting recognition superpowers that already exist in Chrome OS and Android. Scribbling through a batch of text will erase it, circling things allows you to reposition them, and drawing a line creates a sort of page break and gives you more space to write without manually scrolling. Couple all of this with automatic cloud backup, and it’s easy to see why Cursive is compelling and is truly the missing link when it comes to data entry for personal and enterprise usage.
It’s rare to see Google create a whole new application just for one use-case, but it’s clear that the company has built this for the future of devices that use modern USI stylus input. It seems to believe that HP has a compelling enough product with the new X2 11 to warrant debuting Cursive on it, and that’s exciting to me as a productivity nut. My only hope is that the many Chrome OS developer flags built around palm suppression and handwriting will help the operating system come to resemble something as clean and usable as an iPad and an Apple Pencil.
The only missed opportunity, as pointed out by our friend John Sowash, who I’m inclined to agree with on this, is that Google didn’t integrate Cursive into Keep, or use this as an opportunity to completely revamp the older notetaking service to include notebooks and improved handwriting tools. Keep is already capable of so much, but it certainly has its limitations. Cursive even uses the same tool icons as Keep, so maybe one day they will combine their efforts, but this PWA is clearly aiming to provide a fresh and focused notetaking experience for Chromebook users.
I can’t wait to get my hands on it and to try it. I tried looking for a PWA URL to access it directly, but it’s being shipped preinstalled on the X2 11 Chromebook, so Google seems to have found a way to hide it for now. Are you a notetaker, or are you a manual entry type of person? Depending on your style, you may prefer Keep or Google Docs over Cursive when it fully launches, but I am certainly looking for a new journaling app to keep all of my thoughts in by hand!