Codex: Your New iOS Notebook

Just released to the iTunes App Store on Monday, Codex is a notebook app that strives to combine all of the best aspects of Moleskine with the iPad. Codex isn’t affiliated with the notebook giant but has definitely captured what makes them so special. Not just a place to jot down a to do, Codex is also where you can sketch out your art, write notes to yourself and your friends, or just do any of the things you would do in a paper notebook.

We’ll try out this brand new handwriting app and see if it has the features to get you to make the switch from pencil and pad to fingertips and iPad!

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Get It Out on Paper

Tap the plus sign to create a new note. A blank note will appear in your note thumbnails; that’s the one you need to select to get started. Your first stop is probably going to be the pen tool. You can just start writing, but if you tap the color palette, you can select one of a dozen colors and adjust your pen’s tip thickness. Next to the pen is your eraser, should you run into trouble, and you can undo or redo any actions with the Undo button.

Adjust the pen's tip width and color, or use your eraser.

Adjust the pen’s tip width and color, or use your eraser.

You may have a better experience with Codex if you use a stylus and write with the notes zoomed in!

The easiest thing to do is start scribbling. You can write out text if you like or draw images. The developer intends Codex to be a sort of replacement for Moleskine notebooks and has priced it at about the cost of a single Moleskine, so you should think of it that way. What do you use a Moleskine for? That’s what’s going to go in your Codex notebook.

Everything is saved as you go, so you don’t have to worry about losing progress if you exit out of the app too soon. Before you go, though, you can add a title and tags, called Topics. Codex Topics make your notes searchable by common theme and are handy since you obviously won’t be able to search the contents of your notes.

Add Topics to make your notes easily sortable.

Add Topics to make your notes easily sortable.

Add an image (or several) to your note, and adjust it to fit the space. Don’t worry too much about covering up all the cool stuff you’ve written and drawn, because the image is going to appear below all of that. That’s awesome, right? Because you can annotate pictures for entirely legitimate purposes, or act like a thirteen-year-old like me and draw mustaches on photos of your friends. There are some cool paper styles you can use, if you prefer lined or graph paper, and when you’re done, use the sharing tools to send your note to the recently mustachioed friend.

Tap Notes to get back to your notes thumbnails. You can sort them by date created or drag them into whatever order you like. Hit Edit to send a note, delete it, or even duplicate it. I hadn’t expected to see a duplicate function, but it can have a lot of good uses. For instance, create a template to do note and then make a bunch of copies or duplicate a note full of math problems before you start working on them to easily get back to square one.

Look at all of your notes or sort them by Topic.

Look at all of your notes or sort them by Topic.

Things I Want to Happen

I really wanted a couple of things in the app that weren’t there. The first was syncing. There’s no sync right now, and while it may be in the pipeline for the future, there’s nothing concrete as of yet. That really kind of sucks, especially if you work on more than one iPad. I can absolutely imagine pulling out my iPad mini to scratch out a note and then using an iPad with a larger screen to view it or edit it later. That’s not going to happen, at least not for a while.

I’d also really like multi-page notes. That would be fabulous. I’d love to create a three-page note about the scarf I’m knitting, with the pattern on one page, notes and any problems I ran into on a second, and annotated pictures of my yarn and the final product on the third. That just seems like the best thing ever, and obviously multi-page notes would have a lot of uses beyond my knitting. Right now, I can give everything a common Topic tag, like “scarf knitting project,” and that will more or less get the job done, but I think there’s a better way to do it.

Notebook Inspiration

Codex comes with a lot of notes already in the app. Sure, you can delete them, because, hey, they don’t have anything to do with what you’re trying to accomplish in a digital notebook, right? I’d suggest taking a look first, though, because I’m pretty sure they hired a professional notebooker or something, and I wouldn’t have thought you could make a job out of keeping a notebook unless you’re Samuel Pepys, but these are pretty snazzy.

This is what I came up with. The sample notes are way better.

This is what I came up with. The sample notes are way better.

They’ll give you lots of ideas on how you can make your own Codex notes cooler. The notes have lots of handrawn art, so often an integral part of a really interesting Moleskine. You’ll see lots of inventive ways to use colors and make the most of the pen thickness options. Sure, Codex can be a place to jot down to dos or quick notes, but it can also be a place to visually record your thoughts and feelings, and the starter notes can help both new and old journalers to remember that.

Final Thoughts

Codex really is a great app for creating a notebook about whatever you want. At $12.99, I’ll admit it’s not cheap, but similar apps usually require you to pay for all the cool stuff through in app purchases, but you’ll get everything for the price of the download. Codex is meant to replace, or at least digitally supplement, your Moleskine habit, and I’ll admit, the price of those little notebooks has kept me from jumping on the bandwagon. This is a nice stand-in for someone like me who prefers a life less analog, anyway.

Yeah, I’d like the ability to sync and create multi-page notes. At least some of that may be on its way, and I can create tag workarounds. Everything else about Codex is so spectacular, it’s hard to hold too much against it. I was immediately charmed by the fat and thin pen and lots of colors I could use, and I wanted to do everything I could to make my notes look like the amazing art that came with Codex. That’s what makes Codex so special; it’s an app that lets you express yourself completely, both in words and images.


Great app for writing or drawing and organizing your thoughts.

  • jbw

    9/10 for a very basic and overpriced app??? There are far better options for notebooks in the Appstore, most of which cost five dollars or less. With reviews like this the credibility of this site goes way down.

    • Paula DuPont

      With the apps I’ve tried, you usually have to pay for colors or to change your pen tip, so while the download price is cheaper, you still end up paying just as much after in app purchase. I looked at total cost. Hope that helps!

      If you have suggestions of lower priced apps with better features, please let us know! :)

      • Taylor Faucett

        Could you actually cite which ones. None of the popular note taking apps that I’ve used (Notability, Good Notes, Notes Plus, Upad, Note Taker HD, Penultimate, Bamboo Paper and Noteshelf) require in app purchases for anything except for Notes Plus’s ability to convert handwriting into text. This sounds like a classic case of lying on your part.

  • jbw

    9/10 seems a bit high for such a basic and overpriced app. There are far better notebook options in the Appstore, most of which you can get for $5 or less.

  • jbw

    Sorry, double post… Now triple post… :(

    • Paula DuPont

      Hehe, that’s okay!

  • Gerrit

    Finally notebook app without skeuomorphism – I like the clean toolbar.
    Other than that, I agree with jbw. For this price, I bought two top note taking apps: NoteShelf and Notes Plus. Both fully loaded with features, and no IAP at all (except for hand writing recognition in Notes Plus).