All you need in a note-taking app with some notebook flavor, iPad version available as well
Notebook for Mac has been the leading app of software developer Circus Ponies. Before that it was NeXTStep. The product got its new major version last month – v 4.0. This is a robust, all-round note taking app that has every note taking feature imaginable. It covers students and professionals and goes well beyond the typical “Note” or “Notepad” kind of apps. Version 4.0.3 is a major bug-fix update and we will now take a look at this scratch pad look alike.

When we say look alike, we really mean “skeuomorphic”. Now, it’s a bit tongue twister, but in this case it really fits the bill. Younger people, the paper note feel of the Notebook can be familiar, comforting or kitschy, but the idea is to have it behave like an old school paper notebook, but with some digital extras. It’s very similar to e-book analogy to paper books, but with some extra digital features. Newer generations have less and less contact with the old school, analog formats, in this case traditional note-taking and paper notebooks due to the increasing popularity of e-textbooks and iPads, but for us older people, the metaphor works as intended.

Subjects are divided by tabs – which have an entirely new meaning to former students – and each tab can have as many pages as the note taker wants, so they all stay in the same place. The latest version even uses XML format, which allows users to retrieve their content on another devices or programs. Pasting little sticky notes to sections for remind purposes is a working option which takes the notebook metaphor beyond the constraints of the page area.

First impressions of Notebook

Because Notebook is a software it comes with a huge benefit – users can attach audio notes to any part of the written note. A wide variety of fonts, colors and characters are at user’s disposal with or without automatic outlining. Diagramming feature is a great tool, allowing the user to make small, helpful diagrams that can illustrate those hard to explain concepts. The company makes an iPad version as well ($5) which is aimed at professionals who work with notes that are subjected to frequent re-visioning, correcting, adding information etc. The environment you’ll find in business briefings.
Related content (like documents) can be linked to a note so that all relevant material is at your hand. The program installs a “service” that is available from nearly any program so users can pick snippets from web pages, emails and multimedia and nest it into their Notebook, resulting in a complex and elaborate note-taking. To-do lists can be inserted directly into the note and synced to a Calendar all with reminders and alarms.
One of the best features of the new version is the “multidex”. It’s like indexing but way more advanced. It’s an organic and automated indexing of everything that went into the notebook, so users can quickly find content based on nearly anything they can remember about the content.
Automatically created index of all notes
To be honest, there are some odd things in the interface. For instance, once you switch into “sketch” mode, moving around is disabled until you disable said mode. Moving around can be done in the Apple-like manner, for instance lassoing, but when you draw something in one place, text didn’t always went over it like expected. “Float around” or similar layout setting should be enabled by default so users can jump and move from text to diagrams more easily.
Talking about down sides, there is one that, to be honest, is beyond Circus Ponies’ control. In the Mac App Store version of the app ($60), Apple’s “sandboxing” security messages prevent MAS version from “clipping” from inside other programs directly. Copy/paste still works as expected and copying images can be performed by simply dragging them from the browser. The company itself sells their own version ($50) that has this clipping available. Academic version costs $10 less and there are other licensing options.

The software’s strongest point is its ability to take virtually anything, stuff it into the note, make it work with a wide variety of note-taking styles, along with the “metadex” feature that will help you find anything and fast. Anyone who needs something beyond the basic note-taking options will want to look at this app. It’s aimed at students and business uses and its ability to make any line of note into an action item with Calendar sync, alongside its smart indexing system make this app a super useful addition to your device.

What the app lacks at the moment is the iPhone version. The iPad version (labeled v 4, but feels more like 3.1 and hasn’t been brought up to speed with iOS 7 design) is even more “skeuomorphic” than the Mac version and is also impaired with its inability to grab content from media libraries. What’s even worse, there is no automatic sync between iPad and Mac version of the program. However, syncing is possible through a work-a-round, as Mac notebooks can be synced with iPad manually via iTunes.
Who is Notebook for? For starters – students. People who would benefit from this app as well are brainstormers, mind-mappers and those who need to assemble a note from a variety of sources.

Who should pass on the app? People opposed to skeuomorphism, people who keep things in memory and those who are more towards minimalist approach to note-taking.

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