Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Note Taking Device Attached To Your Arm

POWERCAM_IMG_0000When the Note Taking Device Attached To Your Arm Isn't Good Enough To Meet Your Demands…   Where Do You Turn?

Smile 12 a
Smile 12 a (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
My original, tried and true note taking app is  not really what comes to mind when you hear "app" because it's attached to my arm: I'm talking about my hand!!!  Technically you put a pen in your hand and APPLY it to the paper to write, right?  So it can be called an app...  Anyways...

So, writing by hand is slow and it’s difficult to go back and edit what you have written without completely re-writing it all.  With all the notes I take I would have to carry around a ton of paper or binders or notebooks to be able to access needed notes whenever I required the information. 

So instead, I take notes on my computer.  I used to keep notes in Word but those files are large and it’s difficult to keep it all organized in different files and folders and such.  So, I use two note taking applications religiously; one being Microsoft's OneNote and the other being SpringPad, a browser based Notebook.

Each has their own strengths and weaknesses. With both apps the strongest point is also the weakest point, It’s silly to say it that way but true. OneNote is run locally Its’ strong point is that it’s a desktop application and has all the functionality that entails but it also slows down when you have stockpiles of notes and the mobile apps are awful.   Or they were when I was using Android (I have since switched back to using a Blackberry, not by choice).  OneNote can be accessed online or off but it has it’s limitations.  Springpad is online only and lacks the comfortability and features of a desktop app but has a surprisingly user friendly website and is visually pleasing.  Therefore, I use them both concurrently to bridge the gap in my note taking needs.
OneNote is a program run on my computer with data stored locally (on my computer) and backed up to the cloud at regular intervals (synced).  Whereas SpringPad is a browser-based application; meaning no data stored on your machine, no software to install and accessible from any computer with a data connection.  But SpringPad isn’t accessible offline, so if I happen to be somewhere where Internet is not available I can't get to my SpringPad notes which is a major downside to using it.

Using OneNote also has it’s downside, often times when I have OneNote open on my laptop (or desktop) I also have three Chrome browser windows open, Outlook, Live Writer among other programs and things get bogged down. Especially considering how much information I store in OneNote and how large the local data files are. So the fact that one is online is a draw and a downfall and visa-versa.


I love the fact that OneNote's data is stored locally on my machine, that allows all it's notes to be accessible offline and when connected to data, it automatically syncs to my SkyDrive on Windows Live Website.  I can use the program on many different machines simultaneously and all changes will be logged and synced. Any conflicts would be flagged and I am later notified and able to reconcile any issues.

When my consulting business was at its prime, the ability to access the same notebooks from different computers and locations and edit in real time became extremely handy, I would go so far as to say absolutely necessary. In the office I had OneNote open on my desktop, I would then leave to meet a client and have it open on my laptop while in the field, also used my Android phone (At that time I used Mobile Noter to make or edit a note from anywhere (a 3rd party app to read/edit/create OneNote files but not associated with Microsoft or android) as OneNote was not available for android yet. All the while my assistant could still input whatever was needed and access my data immediately from her machine in my office or from her home on a laptop.

Image representing Windows Live Writer as depi...
Image by None via CrunchBase
I originally started looking for an alternative to OneNote when I upgraded phones about a year ago and installed the OneNote App. The Android OneNote Application didn't live up to the standard I was used to.  Using the desktop version I can take video and voice notes right there in the app, I can copy, paste and insert text, pictures, mp3s, videos, PDFs and pretty much any other files, take screen clippings from inside the app or from other programs or the browser.  I can actually convert text in pictures into text and paste it into notes. 

Image representing Android as depicted in Crun...
Image via CrunchBase
The desktop version is versatile and has so many great features, so needless to say, I was upset to discover that the Android App was pretty much worthless.  Basically I could only view and (kind of) edit my existing notes form the cloud and more often than not my notes didn't even show up correctly and had major viewing problems and  scrolling issues). The stupid application wouldn't even allow copy or paste functions and didn’t utilize the built in share function of the Android OS.  I couldn't believe that Microsoft wouldn't take full advantage of the most comprehensive feature of the Android OS that allows applications to share information, media and such so easily and seamlessly. 

Image representing Springpad as depicted in Cr...
Image by None via CrunchBase
On top of MS putting no effort into the development of Android Apps, the fact that they made you pay for the app if you had more than 500 notes made me seriously mad. I had already purchased a volume license for Windows OS & Office on a three year contract (that isn't cheap) and now I am supposed to pay for a stupid mobile application that sucks! 

SpringPad Notebooks Cover View
Screenshot of My Springpad Notebook Covers
I was ready to ditch the program all together if I could find another that could come close to the same functionality as OneNote on the computer and also had decent features in a mobile app.  I wanted to be able to replace all that OneNote does with one application and hopefully find one that expands that scope a little as well.  I scoured the Google Play store and tested several note taking apps on my phone and their pc browser counterparts and the only one that I found to be functional, useful and mostly intelligently designed was SpringPad!
I love how my notebooks look when viewed online, each has a patterned or solid cover (you customize what color) and a contrasting colored spine and each shows up to four image thumbnails of photos contained inside the notebook.

Springpad also has browser extensions that allow you to "clip" pages while browsing online.  This basically just adds a bookmark to your Account that you can file in a specific notebook or just leave for later filing.  Springpad doesn't have a screen clip feature like OneNote (OneNotes Screen Clip Feature doesn't save the source, which would be incredibly helpful) but for that I use Clipular.
Bord view of kiddie notebook
Screenshot of my KIDDO Friendly DIY Projects Notebook.  The is the pin board style view where you can drag and drop stuff anywhere.  They also have list view and gallery and so on.
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