SketchBook MobileX App

by Bob Schwartz

Two points.

Of the hundreds of thousands of mobile apps, free and paid, so many fail because of poor usability, lack of sophistication and polish, or because they are asking for permission to take over your phone and life.

The second point is that the idea of being able to sketch on your mobile display seems questionable. On a tablet, fine, but drawing with even the tiniest finger on eight square inches of screen may be like swimming in your bathtub. And yet, when the visual urge strikes, it would be nice to be able to realize it, however small and unoptimally.

This brings us to imaging and design giant Autodesk. From its beginnings with Autocad, the gold standard for computer-aided design, it is now a billion dollar company engaged in all sorts of digital initiatives. While most are commercial, it has been dabbling in consumer software. A few years ago it acquired Pixlr, a photo-manipulation app superior to Instagram, but obviously less well known.

Autodesk has also developed a line of drawing software called SketchBook. They offer a paid mobile version for phones and tablets. But they also offer a very capable free version for both platforms. The phone version is SketchBook MobileX, If you think that the world’s leading computer aided design company would create a mobile app reflecting that expertise, you would be right. While the paid app ($1.99) offers expanded capabilities, the free version should be enough for most people with an artistic finger and an inspiration.

The balance between capability and elegant, intuitive user interface is exemplary. Some users quibble about the learning curve, and there is an included tour and help function (here is the PDF of the user’s guide). But mostly, a little attention and adventure are all you need. The UI itself is a piece of design brilliance, and may be some of the best use of tiny digital real estate ever.

The final commendation for this should-have app is that Autodesk has done what every developer—multi-billion dollar corporation or one-person shop—should do: request only those mobile permissions needed to run the app (in this case, just network communication and storage).