Note-taking apps for the iPad largely fall into two categories: those designed for typing, and those that support drawing and marking up PDFs. Simplenote (free to $1.99 per month) belongs with the former. As its name suggests, it’s simple, at least in its design and what it attempts to do, which is provide you with a place to take notes and sync them in the cloud so that you can access them via a Web app or supported third-party app. Simplenote is also rather unusual, though, in that it has one or two unique features—and yet lacks some fairly standard features.
Simplenote reminds me of Writebox in many ways. Both have iPad apps that sync with a Web app, all used for typing notes in a fairly distraction-free environment. They’re both rather plain without a lot of fluff, but Writebox syncs via Dropbox, whereas Simplenote provides its own storage. What’s unusual is that Simplenote doesn’t give you the option to use Dropbox—or Box or any other major storage service for that matter. The list of services that Simplenote does support is an eclectic little group, including Click.to, Scrivener, Tinderbox, and a list of few other apps that slightly favors Macs over Windows PCs.
The most powerful note-taking and syncing app in my experience remains Evernote (an Editors’ Choice), which blows Simplenote out of the water in terms of capabilities and features. Evernote does have a pretty clean and clutter-free view for typing new notes and editing existing ones. But it also has a voice memo recorder, photo upload functionality, and OCR for searching any text that might appear in your images.
In terms of note organization, Simplenote relies entirely on search. You can add tags, although it’s a little wonky because you can only add single-word tags. Hit the space bar, and the app kills the tag-creation process altogether. I learned that only through trial and error. Evernote, meanwhile, lets you organize notes into notebooks, and you can even organize your notebooks into “stacks,” which function more like projects or sections of your life. Simplenote’s search is pretty good, but considering its only looking at text and tags, it’s nothing to write home about.
There are two unique features in Simplenote that I found both quirky and endearing. The first is how it handles collaboration. You “share” any note by pressing a button that turns it into a Web page. You can send a link to that page to anyone you want, and if the recipient signs up for Simplenote as well, she or he can edit the very same note. Then, all the parties working on the note can see it any time via the URL. It’s a strange strategy, although I could imagine situation when it would be very useful.
The second oddball feature is a revisions history button, which works via a slider bar. Open a note, and you can revert it to an earlier draft by simply sliding your finger along a line and seeing the note change to its earlier state. Keeping a change history isn’t a wildly innovative feature in note-taking apps, but using a slider bar to move backward and forward through time isn’t something I’ve seen before.
Simplenote might be a good note-taking app on the iPad for you if you use one of the apps it syncs with, or if these unique features seem like they’d come in handy and you don’t need the other stock note-taking features you might expect, like integration with Dropbox or Box and note organization tools. If you want the whole kit and caboodle, go for Evernote. And if you need an app that supports handwriting and sketching, and lets you markup PDFs, you’ll need something like the Noteshelf iPad app or better, Note Taker HD, our Editors’ Choice in that category.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc