Pros: Innovative concept; Multitude of content-creation tools
Cons: Crashes frequently; Finicky touch controls; Interface is difficult to learn
Verdict: Tapose aims to breathe new life into Microsoft's nixed Courier concept, but ultimately, this app isn't ready for prime time.
Years ago, when Microsoft axed its Courier device--a 7-inch dual-screen multitouch tablet--legions of tech fanatics were sorely disappointed. But now, the Courier experience has been revived as an app on the iPad. Taposé has the complete Courier look, including the famous split-screen functionality and "true" multitasking. But is this $2.99 app's implementation just as brilliant as the concept that inspired it?
How it Works/Setup
Essentially, Taposé lets you take notes and collect Web clippings, maps, business cards and images, and share them with others in documents called Journals. After downloading and installing Taposé, we created an account by entering our name, email address and password in the Account Settings window. (It's found by flicking the button at the bottom of the Slide Bar upward.) By default, you get 400MB of online storage for free, but can pony up $29.99 a year for unlimited storage.
When you open Tapose in landscape mode, you're presented with two panels divided by the Slide Bar. With the Slide Bar in the middle, you get the familiar Courier-esque split-screen view, and it can be moved to the left or right, but only in landscape mode. In fact, we don't recommend using Tapose in portrait mode, as only one panel is visible at a time.
At the top of the Slide Bar is an icon for the Pen Cup. (Pictured) Tap on this, and seven more icons appear: Pencil, Eraser, Highlighter, Font, Sticky Notes and Lasso. At the bottom of the Slide Bar is a small button that, when dragged upward, reveals the Control Hub. Here are five apps: Browser, Maps, Contacts, Calculator and Journals. Dragging and dropping any of these icons into an open panel let us use the function (you can also tap on an icon). Double-tapping the Slide Bar button opened up our Journal Collection in the last active panel--either left or right--that we used.
To create a journal, you need to get to the Journal Collections interface (pictured) within the Taposé--either by dropping it in a panel from the Control Hub, or double-tapping the Slide Bar button. Here you can add a journal (or journals) by tapping on the plus sign in the top left corner. We typed a name for our new journal, selected a paper type and set the design for our journal cover. Collections arranges your Journals in a grid, styled similar to icons on iOS, and they behaved the same way too. When we held down a cover (or tapped on Edit in the upper right corner of the app), the notebooks started to wiggle. This let us rearrange their positions or organize them into folders. Here we could also duplicate, edit, share or delete journals.
With our journal stretched two pages across our entire display, we flipped through pages either by swiping or tapping on the folded page corners at the top, or applying a two-finger swipe on the actual page. Tapping on the page number indicator on the notebook's top right corner opened a drop-down list of functions including Undo, Search, Index, Share and Settings. Index showed us a list of pages within our active journal, and holding down on a page let us reorder them as we saw fit. Within Options, we chose from a collection of stationery -- ranging from notebook paper to plain, blank pages -- and wrist guard positions, which helped us avoid accidental marks on our journal pages.
You can write in a Journal by using one of the tools in the Pen Cup (pictured): Aside from the obvious (Pencil, Eraser and Highlighter) Font let us choose from a list of preinstalled typefaces and add text to our journal; Sticky Notes let us affix a post-it note on top of a page for comments; Media let us drop images, video and audio recordings into our journal (either recorded on our device or from our Camera Roll); and Lasso let us trace any region of the opposite panel and drop the cutout into the page we were working in. In Pencil Mode, a handy feature was the Zoom Box, which gave us a close-up view to scribble in big letters. We would have appreciated it, however, if we could also erase or undo our writing within Zoom Box.
Users can import Maps and websites in one of two ways: either through the Lasso tool, or by using the Export function. However, those elements--be it a URL or a map--will only remain interactive if you use the Export feature. Otherwise, they're essentially screenshots.
Journals are uploaded to the cloud, where you can share it with other Taposé users. We opened a journal in one panel, and loaded the contacts widget in the opposite panel. Afterward, we clicked and dragged the desired contact into the journal to share it with that person. (You can also share journals through the Share icon in My Collections.)
Unlike a Google Doc, only one person can edit a Journal at a time, and, for the moment, only other Tapose users can edit them. You can also export journals as a PDF through email, Dropbox or Evernote.
Tapose's performance disappoints. Big time. It crashed multiple times and often wildly misinterpreted our taps and gestures, making the overall experience very frustrating. Even the simplest of tasks, such as turning pages within a journal (a two-finger swipe) resulted in us inadvertently scribbling on the page instead. The animation of flipping often lagged, making us wonder if our gesture had even registered in the first place.
We weren't big fans of the drawing tools, either -- we've seen smoother and more responsive implementation in apps such as SketchBook Pro and Penultimate. The button at the bottom of the Slide Bar (pictured) was incredibly difficult to deal with, too. We tapped and dragged it upward with the intention of opening the Control Hub, but the Slide Bar moved around wildly, confused whether we were trying to open up the dock or slide the bar toward a particular position.
The idea of bringing Courier back to life as an app was a bold one, but its execution needs some work. At first glance, Tapose seems to keep the core functionality of Microsoft's never-released tablet intact, but the app is buggy, unresponsive and frustrating to use. We aren't ruling out the possibility that it could still make significant strides with future updates, but for now, it's best left buried.