Paper by FiftyThree by FiftyThree, Inc. icon

Paper by FiftyThree (Free) by FiftyThree, Inc. is one of the best free apps you could ever download for your iPad. Yes, it’s that good.

Now, normally, I don’t use sketching (or is it drawing?) apps like this in my workflow. However, I love this app so far, and I want to incorporate it into daily use. Even if my drawing skills are extremely poor, I don’t care – the app is just that good to use.

The FiftyThree team has a handful of people that were working on the ill-fated Courier project from Microsoft. Because of this, you will see some inspiration from that project here in Paper.

Once the app launches, you’re presented with a gorgeous interface. The first thing you’ll see are a few notebooks (think of Moleskine). The app provides you with two empty ones to start with, and included a bonus one from the developers themselves called “Making Paper.” If you want to see the full potential of Paper, just take a look through this journal. It has a lot of interface mockups, plans, notes, drawings, and anything else you can use the app for! The possibilities are endless.

Paper by FiftyThree by FiftyThree, Inc. screenshot

To create a new journal, just tap on the + button. A new one will magically appear on the screen, and tap on the “i” button to start customizing it – give it a name and choose how the cover should look. Now, most other apps of this type give you only so many choices of cover appearances, and they can start to get old after a while. Paper allows you to import a photo from your iPad’s Photo Library, which is incredibly useful. The image can even be moved and scaled to your desire! This means that you will have endless options when it comes to customizing how your notebooks appear.

The coolest thing about viewing a notebook is how the app presents it. Because the Courier was a booklet-style tablet, you will see two “pages” at once, and you can flip through the entire journal in a style that is similar to pop-up books. It’s definitely done in a better fashion than the other Courier-inspired productivity app I also reviewed this week, Taposé.

As you view each page in the notebook, you have the option to delete that individual sheet, share it with others (Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, or email), and add a new sheet (two pages). It only makes sense that you would want to share your marvelous creation with your friends and family, right?

Now, the best part about Paper is the actual drawing (or handwriting, graphing, painting, etc.). The initial free download includes the draw tool and the eraser in the bottom tool tray, which you can hide and show with a simple veritcal swipe. There are other tools, but you will have to purchase them individually ($1.99) or as the “Essentials” pack for $7.99. The other tools are Sketch (pencil), Write (pen), Outline (bold marker), and Color (watercolors). When you have them all, you can pretty much unleash your creativity in ways you probably thought you couldn’t on an iPad. This is definitely an app that allows you to create content with your shiny tablet.

Paper by FiftyThree by FiftyThree, Inc. screenshot

There are no settings in Paper, which is actually a great thing, if you think about it. Just like other apps, such as iA Writer, having no settings means that you can just focus on whatever it is you want to create. There is nothing else to tinker with except what you need to do. Additionally, there are no buttons (besides the options when viewing a sheet in a notebook) — navigating in and out of notebooks and pages is done with pinching gestures. There is an undo feature (called Rewind) that you can access by doing a two-finger counterclockwise motion. Simple, natural, and effortless.

My favorite thing about Paper is the impressive ink engine that is used. This is a custom engine that reacts to your movements and optimizes the selected tool for the creation process. And the curves that this app produces when using the Draw or Write tools? Yeah, it’s pretty sexy.

Those of you with new iPads, don’t you worry! Paper by FiftyThree is also optimized for the new Retina display, so you get a full 2048×1536 canvas to use however you want.

I was able to use Paper without any problems with just my finger, but it is recommended that you have a stylus for a more precise experience when using the app.

It’s time to ditch the physical paper and go digital with Paper by FiftyThree – for free, why wouldn’t you?