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Concepts – unleash your note-taking and drawing

The constraints of a traditional notepad or sketchbook disappear as Concepts empowers users with its infinite canvas

Price: Free (supported by IAPs)
Version: 5.3.2
Size: 103.6 MB
Seller: TopHatch, Inc.
Platform: iPhone and iPad

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Concepts is arguably one of the most interesting apps on the App Store. It’s a note-taking and drawing tool on the surface, ideally powered by the Apple Pencil and used on an iPad. But Concepts differentiates itself from its competitors in two ways: first, it offers an infinite canvas which adds a refreshing and exciting dimension to note-taking; and second, it arms users with all the sketching and drawing tools they could possibly need.

To infinity, and beyond

As a note-taking app, Concepts really excels because of its infinite canvas. Drawing out mind maps or flowcharts is a pleasure because you don’t have to worry about hitting the edge of your notepad: instead, you can use a finger to keep on dragging to the side and new space will appear, allowing your notes — and ideas — to grow as organically and naturally as possible.

Starting out with notes for this article in Concepts. Here, the shape tool has been used to add a precision-drawn rectangle.

You can use familiar gestures, like pinch-to-zoom, to either zoom in or out and get an overall view of your evolving, sprawling notes. There’s a stunning array of drawing tools that complement the note-taking experience — pencils, ball-points, and fountain pens are all on offer and aim to replicate the feel of good old fashioned pen and paper. While the app is best used with the Apple Pencil, over in Concept’s settings users can configure alternatives like FiftyThree’s Pencil or Adonit and Wacom styluses.

The infinite canvas means your notes can grow in whatever direction you like.

You can also configure the background in Concepts, adding lines, squares, or dots for a more traditional notepad feel. To maximize efficiency, gestures for two-, three-, and four-finger taps can also be configured to help users speed around the app.

The notes you make in Concepts are saved as Projects but unfortunately, these don’t sync with iCloud Drive. Part of the reason for this is the app’s default and native file format, which is proprietary — you’ll need to export to PDF to get your Concepts-designed notes onto another device, and this functionality requires an IAP of $4.99 (£4.99). A number of other IAPs are available in the app, including brush packs which enhance Concepts’ use as a digital drawing tool.

A comprehensive drawing app

When it comes to crafting drawings in Concepts, the app’s pencil palette is a real boon. With a tap, it dynamically expands to reveal a wheel of colors and pen options: features like line density and opacity can be configured on the fly, and colors can be cycled through effortlessly in order to get the exact shade.

It’s a joy to watch the color palette spring open in Concepts — the range of colors available is perfect for artists.

The Brush Market is a nice touch, offering user-created brush packs for a price — although many can be tried free of charge in sample packs. Also locked behind an IAP paywall are shape imports: a $1.99 (£1.99) fee lets users add circles, triangles, and more into their drawings with a tap.

Pro artists will be pleased to learn that Concepts supports five layers free of charge, and infinite layers are added in a one-off $9.99 (£9.99) pro purchase. This also brings brush customization and a range of export options, like SVG, DFX, and PSD, but not PDF export, which, as mentioned, carries an additional $4.99 (£4.99) charge. To go all-in, Concepts users can unlock everything the app has to offer for a $4.99 (£4.49) monthly fee.

A premium service is available, alongside one-off purchases. You’ll need to check the small print to be sure of exactly what you get for your buck when making an IAP in Concepts.

If there is a criticism of this app, it’s Concepts’ somewhat confusing pricing structure — you need to really check the small print to be sure of what’s included with its various pro packs. Granted, this is a comprehensive app, but it might be easier to offer users a simpler array of pro upgrades instead of the current mixed bag.

However, that doesn’t detract from the brilliance of this fine app. Concepts is a great utility and one you should try for yourself — especially if you have an iPad and an Apple Pencil.