Boris Mann

Open Source. Community. Decentralized Web. Building dev tools at Fission. Cooks & eats.


reMarkable Tablet First Usage

  • Created: February 14, 2021
  • Review

This is the second blog post I am writing on my new reMarkablereMarkable
The reMarkable is a “paper tablet” with a monochrome e-ink screen with touch support, and a non-powered stylus.

reMarkable Awesome list - huge list of apps, tools, templates, and more
RemarkableTablet on Reddit
ReMarkable Wiki
rmkit, a site about remarkable app dev

I bought one in [[February 2021]].
Sitting at the breakfast table writing what ...

First blog post at the breakfast table - reMarkable Tablet

It’s not quite a review, since I’m only a few days into using it, and haven’t explored any of the community tools for it yet.

It’s an e-ink “paper” tablet. I think the paper part is meant to talk about how it feels (like writing on a pad of paper), but also its capabilities. No web browser!

Here’s a picture of the templates selection screen:

Remarkable Template Selection Screen

I’m still investigating how to make my own and upload them. The blank one works just fine for me. Further down, there are music bars and guitar chord notation, and all sorts of stuff.

The Specifications page will give you all the speeds and feeds.

Why did I buy the reMarkable?

In part, retail therapy. Call it an early birthday gift to myself.

Spending a lot of time at home in my “Zoom room” means that I want to spend time with different interfaces than screens and keyboards.

The reMarkable means I can sit at the breakfast table or the couch, on a device that isn’t a distraction machine like my smartphone or iPad is. Right now, I see it as a deep work device for me. I can read, highlight, and take notes on white papers, books, and long articles. I can do the kind of diagram drawing and note taking that is thinking out loud with myself.

And I can write blog posts like this one, writing several pages in one go.

Of course, a device doesn’t make you do deep work, habits and patterns do. So we’ll see which patterns stick for me.

How open is the device?

I haven’t explored it, but I read enough ahead of time to see that you can ssh into the device and there is a community of open software around it.

Various people turn off the cloud sync, and just use the USB connection or connect their computer to it over local WiFi.

I think the company could go a lot farther in actively supporting openness, but some of that may be against their philosophy of simplicity for the device.

Should you buy one?

Well, several people have already messaged me that they have bought one, after seeing my breakfast table blogging post! I’m going to try and talk about use cases here, and how you might make this decision.

Dries messaged me after seeing the picture of the tablet and we chatted about his process and tools. He uses an iPad and Notability for note taking and research, including refering to things online and using colour for different types of notes.

For starters, when I say I’m reading a paper, that’s it, I’m reading, using the highlighter tool, and scribbling some notes in the margins. The remarkable has wifi (or USB) for syncing, but there isn’t a web browser on it. So if you want to refer to web resources while reading, this won’t work for you. I still have to figure out how to get highlights back out of a PDF.

If you don’t have an iPad or a Kindle, the remarkable might be a stronger fit for you, as it can be used as an e-reader. I’ve been meaning to convert my mostly Kindle ebook library to an open EPUB format, so stay tuned for further experiments.

Paper Replacement

I quite like writing on paper, especially nice pens and notebooks. Even in my Zoom room I’ve been occasionally using a notebook for notes during meetings.

Two things happened. One, I filled up my notebook. And two, I’m extensively using Roam for daily work logging and personal TODOS and follow ups, especially from meeting notes.

I haven’t yet used the reMarkable for meeting notes during Zoom calls. Other than note taky, sketching diagrams, systems, user flows and more is what I would fill my paper notebooks with, and I can definitely do all of that with the reMarkable.

In fact, the remarkable is awesome for this type of sketching and diagraming that I would mostly do on paper before. I’ve said before that big white boards is one of the main things I miss from shared office spaces. This isn’t really the same thing, but I do see many more quick sketches in my future.

At work, we use Whimsical for collaboratory on diagrams and user flows. I don’t know if these low fidelity sketches will end up being a first version directly, or just help me locally define my thinking. Same thing for presentations: dropping in some sketches is much faster than creating them with drawing tools.

To round out this paper replacement section, the stylus works well, including the feel of writing on screen. Dries told me he uses the Paperlike screen protector for the iPad to help with this, and Rachael just ordered it as well.

Handwriting to text

The first blog post worked out well, with just one or two mistakes. You select a page or pages and choose “convert to text and send”, and the tablet shows it as editable text before sending. You can use the on screen keyboard to make edits, but the main next step is to send the text as email.

I still end up spending quite some time doing editing, researching links, and adding Markdown formatting before publishing. But that’s always the case: writing long form takes a while.

Since I’m on blog post number two (two long form posts in 2 days!), I’ll say that so far reMarkable helps make the time for dedicated long form writing.

Remarkable Apps

This section is the one that is going to be mediocre at best in opinion.

The smartphone app seems mostly useless?

I can view all the synced notes and drawings, but I can’t figure out how to, for example, export a page to my photos. I ended up taking a screen shot! It also doesn’t show up as a “share” target on iOS, so saving a web page as PDF & sending it doesn’t work, and neither does sending any PDFs you come across.

I used the desktop app to add a couple of PDFs and it was fine. I’m not sure what the desktop should do? I guess it’s just basic file management.

More remarkable adventures

The reMarkablereMarkable
The reMarkable is a “paper tablet” with a monochrome e-ink screen with touch support, and a non-powered stylus.

reMarkable Awesome list - huge list of apps, tools, templates, and more
RemarkableTablet on Reddit
ReMarkable Wiki
rmkit, a site about remarkable app dev

I bought one in [[February 2021]].
Sitting at the breakfast table writing what ...
notes page is where I’ll continue to link resources as I explore. Lots of open source tools and community pages there that I’ve found so far.

With the cloud sync capabilities, I immediately think about how I can get this connected to my Fission file system. Your notes, sketches, PDFs, ebooks and more instantly available online, plus the ability to publish them to the web? Yes, please!

If you’re an existing remarkable user, I’d love to hear your tips and tricks.

And I’m happy to answer questions that anyone has – it’s a good opportunity to research the answers!

Addendum: Other Apps & Tools

Especially when I mention deep work, note taking by hand is a “tool for thought”. Muse App for iPad has a wonderful array of gestures and infinite canvases on iPad.1

I have used GoodNotes on iPad. I don’t remember why I liked it better than Dries’ pick, Notability.

Not a tool for thought, but I need to once again figure out the calibre tool chain for my ebooks.

  1. Adam Wiggins presented on Muse back in August 2020 right as it was launching. See the video on Vimeo »