The tablet form factor is ideally suited for so many different tasks, but it would seem particularly well adapted for use as a note-taking tool. The touchscreen, coupled with an on-screen keyboard, is ideal for both typing and scrawling, and this is something app developers have been keen to use to their advantage.
Remarks from Readdle is another app designed to transform your iPad into the ultimate notepad, but rather than focusing on typing or handwritten notes, both options are made available. With the ability to add images and annotate your files, and a helpful selection of writing and drawing tools, things look good from the word go.
When it comes to taking notes, it’s often the case that you’ll need to get thoughts down on screen very quickly; if the option to create a new note is too deeply hidden, the moment can pass. Remarks ensures that a new note is never more than a tap away, no matter where you are in the app.
If you need to make a quick note of something, a phone number or address for example, just hit the + button at the bottom of the screen and you’re ready to go. For ultimate speed, you can write on screen with your finger, but typing with the regular on-screen keyboard is also an option.
Putting Remarks to Work
As well as starting with a completely blank canvas, you can also use images, PDFs and different types of e-paper within the app. This means that it’s not only possible to use Remarks to annotate existing files, but also for a wider range of tasks than many note-taking tools. Need to knock up a quick graph? You’ll be pleased to discover that there is squared paper that you can work with.
You’re not limited to working with a black pen or typing using a single font; when it comes to taking notes, Remarks grants you a lot of freedom. You can choose to use different colors and thicknesses of pen, and there are a number of fonts that you can choose from.
But it doesn’t end there. There is also the option of dropping pre-designed shapes into your notes, and these can also be used when annotating existing documents.
An App of Two Halves
There are main ways in which Remarks can be used – to either create notes and documents from scratch (be they hand written or typed), or to annotate existing files such as PDFs and images. Whether you are annotating or note-taking, using a finger – rather than a stylus – for handwriting, quickly becomes difficult as writing ends up either large due to speed of writing, or small and illegible in a bid to try to get more on the page. Zooming is available when writing in this way, but it is not something you tend to think of when taking notes.
Typing is a far better option when writing anything of any length, and seasoned iPad users will be aware that it is easy to build up an impressive typing speed when working in landscape mode. However, the finger-as-pen option is great when it comes to adding notes to PDFs, highlighting areas of an image or drawing maps and other diagrams.
The overall look of the app is friendly and approachable, but it’s interesting to note that it shies away from the polished, professional look that most recent iOS apps opt for. Here everything is fairly big, bold and colourful, giving it a very home-user feel.
This does not really detract from the overall quality of the app, but this is an app that has potential as a handy tool for businesses, but the decidedly un-business-like look may be off-putting to some users.
Any app worth its salt needs to offer some form of cloud support, and Remarks does not disappoint on this front. Files can be imported from Google Docs, Dropbox and Box.net as well as the Mail app, and there is full synchronization of files available with Dropbox and Google Docs.
The notes and documents you create can be easily shared with others, and any shared files can be annotated on other iPads.
Remarks is just $4.99, there’s nothing to complain about when it comes to the pricing of Remarks.
A comparable app is Alfons Schmid’s Notebooks for iPad but, while this is a very capable piece of software, it is somewhat less flexible that Remarks. There is no support for freeform note-taking, and weighing in at $8.99 it is priced at the top very end of what most people are willing to pay for iOS software.
It is fair to say that while Remarks is an accomplished app, it doesn’t really seem to have decided exactly what it is. On the one hand it’s a handy tool for scribbling down notes or making doodles for design ideas, while on the other it’s a useful tool for collaborating on documents and sharing ideas with work colleagues.
Ultimately, this could have been transformed into an impressive business tool that had the added potential to be used by non-business oriented iPad owners. As it stands however, Remarks is walking an odd tightrope between the two, never quite deciding which side to fall on.
This is not to say that the app does not have its place. As an intermediate note-taking tool, it comes highly recommended. It is just a shame that some of the features that could really take Remarks to the next level – such as file sharing and collaborative work – coupled with the somewhat uninspiring look, are not more complete as this could propel the app into being something greater.