First off I’ll say the new notebook app by Moleskine and Bonobo has one of the nicest and friendliest interfaces I’ve seen in an app. It was released in March and won the 2019 Apple Design Award for innovation and was recently featured on the App Store news page. It’s a note-taking app but it’s so much more than that in its glory. Flow is versatile in that it is great for any medium you throw at it, such as: drawing, jotting down ideas, storyboards, lists and so much more. It’s so well thought out that it felt as if playing with Flow’s interface was just as fun as creating something with it. It just made sense in an interface.
Flow’s call to action is its infinite canvas which uses Apple’s Metal GPU and gives you the freedom to focus on creating and not worrying about the actual document itself. Metal is also responsible for the photorealistic tools and moleskine paper that you work on.
Upon launching Flow, you’re greeted with a feature tour which then leads you to the interface of the app. You’ll immediately notice the colorful drawing tools on the bottom that contrast nicely with shades of greys and whites of the rest of the interface. Here you’re presented with a numerous tools to utilize, such as pens and markers with various tips, an eraser or pencils. I love that you can swipe left or right to cycle through all your tools or hit the plus icon to add more variety. This is beneficial because you’ll want to have all the variations of your sketch tools easily accessible.
One minor qualm I have with the interface is switching from portrait to landscape mode on my iPhone XR. I somewhat expected the tools to be on the bottom or at the very least smaller in size so they don’t take up so much real estate. This is minor though, perhaps in an update that option will present itself. It is worth noting here that the iPad version has split view which has more drag and drop functionality and of course more real estate.
You can pinch to zoom in or out of your canvas which, while doing so, shows you which portion of the canvas you’re focusing on. The sketching or drawing area isn’t limited by a set dimension that you input, rather you can 2-finger swipe left or right infinitely for an endless canvas. I wondered how that worked when you exported your creation, so I tapped on the export button at the top and was pleasantly surprised to see the options here. What Moleskine did with this is just brilliant; you can choose to export just the screen that you’re on, a portion of the page by drawing around it to select it, or my favorite part – everything. If your canvas is too long, Flow tells you it’s too large to be a single file so it divides up your work into separate files. You can even drag the slider for the export page range which shows you which pages will be exported. Don’t want to export the paper color or background pattern? Just deselect it, or deselect the high resolution if you want a smaller file.
Paper color and background patterns are adjustable at the top if you need a grid or specific pattern for your work. The circle with the line through it right at the very top-center allows you to hide the entire interface if you wish, and of course there’s undo/redo and a dropdown for more settings for things like gesture control.
Document organization is close by, just tap the left arrow at the top to see all your documents that are viewable by sliding up and down and long pressing allows you to rename or delete them. I’m not sure I understood the purpose of long pressing on a document, then moving it onto another one in the same collection. I expected this action to merge the two, but what this is meant for is moving a document from one collection to another.
Tapping a tool brings up the color and size slider at the top and tapping it again presents the ability to change the tip or the hue, saturation and brightness of the tool. While in this section of adjustments, you can adjust the HSB by sliding the tool up and down from the tip to the end, then sliding left and right to get your desired shade. The details are just amazing here; when you change the thickness of the tip, the tip itself changes accordingly and there are hundreds of color names that change on the tool itself as you adjust its color value..
The eraser tool couldn’t get any better. It permits you to just erase just the tools you used as parts of your drawing. Or you can of course adjust the size and opacity of the eraser. Finally, long pressing on the eraser will ask you if you want to erase the entire document – and it can’t be undone!
Flow generously gives you a free, 7-day trial, after that you’re looking at a modest $1.99/month or $11.99/month in USD. In addition to using the app after 7 days, you get access to cloud storage too.
Flow sets itself apart from other production apps in that it doesn’t complicate the creation process nor makes it too simple that it isn’t engaging. It hit the mark in making a super fun creation tool that feels good and just makes sense.