test : affordable iPad styluses compared

Recently I came across a very interesting handwriting-note-taking app for the iPad : Notability

(after reading a lot of reviews and testing a few alternatives myself, I found this was the most useful note-taking app when wanting to use handwriting on an iPad ; the only downside I’ve found so far is it can only export to PDF)

So after I had decided on the app I wanted to use, I had to find an affordable stylus that can be used for handwriting.

The most important selection criteria I needed to test on where :

1- is the stylus responsive and accurate enough for handwriting on an iPad ?

2- does the stylus feel like an actual pen when handwriting on an iPad ?

3- is the price tag affordable, so below € 20, but preferably even below € 10 ?

The 7 styluses I selected are :

Muvit (T-Mobile) iPhone/iPad Stylus [2-pack]

AmazonBasics “Executive” Stylus

Ozaki “iStroke” Stylus+Pen

Boxwave “EverTouch” Micro-knit tip Stylus

ButterFox Micro-knit tip Stylus+Pen

TeckNet “MT-238” Micro-knit tip Stylus+Pen

NewTrent “Arcadia Clickpen” Micro-knit tip Stylus [2-pack]

The main findings of the test :

– rubber tip styluses (AmazonBasics, Ozaki) perform okay in responsiveness, but are significantly less responsive than the ones with micro-knit tips

– since the ‘capacitive touch’ screens used in iPhones and iPads were meant to be used with a finger and not with a stylus, the styluses will always need to mimic a fingertip… that makes the stylus-tip rather bulky and soft… which is a sharp contrast to what you would expect from a handwriting pen : a pointy and hard tip… so ‘actual pen-like’ responsiveness will always be a (small) bridge to far…

– for handwriting a stylus should feel like an actual pen in your hand, so not too light and with a good weight-balance

So, based on these outcomes my preference is [from BEST to WORST] :

1. TeckNet “MT-238” Micro-knit tip Stylus+Pen

2. ButterFox Micro-knit tip Stylus+Pen

3. Boxwave “EverTouch” Micro-knit tip Stylus

4. NewTrent “Arcadia Clickpen” Micro-knit tip Stylus [2-pack]

5. AmazonBasics “Executive” Stylus

6. Ozaki “iStroke” Stylus+Pen

7. Muvit (T-Mobile) iPhone/iPad Stylus [2-pack]

My ‘best buy’ is the TeckNet, with the ButterFox as a very close runner-up, with both of them priced at about € 8 max. I prefer the length of the TeckNet over the marginally better responsiveness of the ButterFox. Like the two test-winners, the Boxwave and the NewTrent both have micro-knit tips also, and even though I really like the idea of the NewTrent’s retractable tip, I would prefer the Boxwave since the NewTrent stylus feels very awkwardly unbalanced in your hand when writing… The AmazonBasics stylus is just plain okay but when handwriting not as responsive as the styluses with micro-knit tips. The Ozaki‘s performance is equal to the AmazonBasics, but the price-difference was 4 times higher, which made the Ozaki “little value for money”… The Muvit stylus is a disaster to write with, it sticks to the screen like chewing gum and it’s way too light & short to feel comfortable ; you’re better of using your index finger for writing…


Happy note-taking !

Enjoy !

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fixed : place a picture behind an Excel chart or graph

Question :

I am using Excel (from Microsoft Office) and I want to put the chart I’ve just made on top of a picture. How can I do that ?

Answer :

In Excel v14 (from MS Office 2011 for Mac), this can be done like this :

1- create the chart

2- select the chart area (you will see a bold, light blue frame around the entire chart area), then click the “Charts>Format”-tab (the purple tab in-between the green tabs), then in “Current Selection” click the “Format Selection”-button

3- in the window that opens select “Fill”, then the “Solid”-tab, and set the “Color:”-dial to “No Fill” and click “OK”

4- select the chart itself (inside the chart area – you will see a black lined square with light blue dots on the corners around the actual chart), then again, click “Charts>Format”-tab (the purple tab in-between the green tabs), and again, in “Current Selection” click the “Format Selection”-button

5- in the window that opens, again select “Fill”, then the “Solid”-tab, and set the “Color:”-dail to “No Fill” and click “OK”

6- then de-select the chart

7- in the upper Excel menu bar that’s fixed in the Finder, select the “Insert”-tab, and from the drop down menu that appears, select “Photo > Picture From File” and in the “Choose a Picture”-window that appears, select the image you need and click “OK”

8- the image will appear on top of your chart, now first resize it (by dragging the light blue corner-dots) and place it over your chart area

9- select the image (again, if it’s not already selected), click the “Format Picture”-tab and remove the background color(s) of the image if you need (using the “Remove Background”-option from “Adjust”)

10- then, also in the “Format Picture”-tab, select the “Reorder”-option from “Arrange”, and select “Send to Back” from the 4 options that appear in the pulldown menu ; your image will now be behind your chart

11- for fine-tuning, if needed, you can now resize or rearrange the image and the chart until the align exactly as you need them to

12- if you want the Excel-cell-grid behind your chart to disappear also, select the area of cells behind and around your chart and select WHITE (or any other color you need) from small triangle-shaped arrow just next to the “Fill Color”-button (the paint bucket icon)

That’s it !

Enjoy !

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fixed : I get a Track Following Error using Roxio Toast

Question :

Each time I’m trying to burn a DVD+/-R in Roxio Toast, the DVD won’t get burned and I get this error :

The drive reported an error:


Sense Code = 0x09


I can read any DVD or CD on my Mac without a problem, but when I try to record a blank DVD (or CD), I keep getting this error…

…what can I do ?

Answer :

The solution to this Track Following Error is rather simple, even though I couldn’t find it available on the internet anywhere :

this just means your burning laser’s lens is dirty (even if your reading laser’s lens might be clean…)


just get a cleaning DVD of the type that las a small soft brush on it (either with or without cleaner fluid), use it to clean your DVD burner (a.k.a. your SuperDrive) and when done, try burning with Toast again…

that’s it !


some examples of the cleaning DVDs that you could use :

Hama CD/DVD Lens Cleaner

Allsop Ultra ProLens Cleaner

Hama DVD Laser Cleaning Disc

…but, you could also get one from you local electronics shop, just make sure on these :

– get the DVD-version, not the CD-only version

– get the version with the small brush on it ; no need to get one that also requires cleaning liquid, neither for multiple brushes, just make sure the brush is not too hard

– read the fine print on the product description, if it says “not for use in laptops”, it won’t mean that it will definitely not work, it just means it might not work (or even get stuck in) slot-loading SuperDrives like the ones in iMacs, MacBooks and MacBook Pros

– keep in mind that in this case, it’s not “more expensive = better product”, so get the cheapest one you feel comfortable with…

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fixed : this PDF will not print correctly

Question :

I’ve received an invoice from energy-provider Essent in PDF. In OSX’s Preview the PDF displays perfectly on-screen, but when printed, part of the text is messed up into unreadable text. I’ve called the Essent Help-desk and they told me that this is a Mac-problem that cannot be fixed…

…is that true and isn’t there any solution for this ?

Answer :

The Essent Helpdesk is wrong (I’m sorry…). The problem is that a non-standard font is used in the invoice for which a license of €500 is needed… (this actually is the FrescoSans font family…)

Even though Preview can’t properly print this font, Adobe Reader will…

So, download Adobe Reader (if you haven’t already done so) and open and print the invoice from there.

Simple as that !

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fixed : which fonts are used in this PDF I’ve received ?

Question :

I want to know what the exact fonts are that are used in a PDF-file someone has send me, but I can’t find a way to do that in OSX’s Preview and I do not have Adobe Acrobat Pro.

Is there any other way to get this info ?

Answer :

Yes !

Even though Preview currently has no solution for this and the Acrobat Pro is probably the easiest way of knowing which fonts are used in a PDF, there are a few alternatives :

Option 1

In Adobe Reader (the free, light version of Acrobat Pro), do exactly as you would in Acrobat Pro :

– open the PDF in Adobe Reader

– go to File –> Properties –> Fonts

that’s it

Option 2

Use the Terminal command-line :

– open the Terminal app

– type ” strings /path/to/document.pdf | grep FontName “, that is :

— type “strings” followed by a [SPACE]

— than drag & drop the PDF onto the cursor in the Terminal

— then typ another [SPACE], followed by a [VERTICAL DASH], another [SPACE] and “grep FrontName”

— then finish with a [RETURN]

that’s it !

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