Plumbago: How Microsoft is building new app for notes, stylus doodling

Microsoft appears to be preparing a new note-taking and doodling app that is designed to work with devices that support a stylus.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

Plumbago is a new note-taking app from Microsoft for stylus-equipped tablets.

Image: Microsoft Research

If you don't like One Note, the group of Microsoft developers behind its recent experimental iOS and Android apps could soon have a better note-taking app available called Plumbago.

"Whether you're writing, sketching ideas, or doodling designs, Plumbago offers the tools you need to easily capture them," according to Microsoft Research.

The app offers various writing tools, such as a pencil, highlighter, erasing tools, and different colors, on a circular or 'radial' menu -- a kind of painter's palette that can be moved anywhere on a page. To reveal more options, the user swipes to spin the wheel.

The app hasn't been released yet but Microsoft Research has published a detailed outline of its key features and functionality.

WMPowerusers reported the app after it was surfaced by developer WalkingCat on Twitter, who noted it is the latest product to emerge from Microsoft's Garage incubator lab.

Microsoft Garage is responsible for a number of cross-platform experiments, including the recent Arrow Android launcher, and its curious Mimicker Alarm, which can only be dismissed by playing a game involving mimicking an expression.

Mimicker was designed to show off the artificial intelligence APIs from Microsoft's Project Oxford.

Microsoft doesn't say whether Plumbago will be available for Android or iOS devices, but it does explicitly mention supporting the stylus on its own Surface Pro 3 and Surface Pro 4.

"Depending on the device and stylus you're using, you can use the end of the stylus as an eraser. For example, you can use the end of Surface Pro Pen for Surface Pro 4 stylus as an eraser. To use the end of the Surface Pro Pen for Surface Pro 3 as an eraser, click the left click button," it states.

Given Microsoft's continued focus on building software for Android and iOS, it's not hard to image a version arriving for iOS with support for the stylus on Apple's iPad Pro. Microsoft was quick off the mark to update its iOS Office products to support the stylus on Apple's new tablet.

Other interesting features including 'handwriting smoothing', which will allow the user to adjust the level of smoothing they want.

As Microsoft notes, the app is meant to be used to create and save many multi-page notebooks, which can all be given their own name and a customised look and feel.

"Plumbago enables you to create an unlimited number of notebooks. You can also specify the color of the cover, paper type, and name your notebooks. Editing your notebook screen enables you to name your notebook, as well as select the cover color and paper type."

ZDNet has contacted Microsoft for more details and will update the story if it receives a response.

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