Notebooks: Your All-in-One Journal

I take a lot of notes, whether it be for my work here at AppStorm or in other aspects of my day-to-day life. Whichever industry you work in, you’re likely to work with documents of some sort and the introduction of the iPad greatly improved one’s ability to be on-the-go with all of their notes and other documents in tow, organised.

However, for many projects, notes aren’t the only form of media that we need to work with. Instead, notes are joined by photos, videos, audio, webpages, diagrams, sketches and other files that can easily get lost when every one needs its own app with its own structure for organisation. Notebooks is here to solve that problem, offering to collect all your files of varying formats together into one app and be the “only notebook that you’ll ever need”. Let’s take a look and see whether it lives up to that claim!

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Multiple Files, Single App

Notebooks’ hallmark feature is allowing you to collect your notes, videos, photos, audio and sketches together and it doesn’t do this badly. Starting a new plain text note, document, voice memo or sketch is as easy as tapping through two buttons which is incredibly helpful if you’re using Notebooks to quickly form notes in a lecture or other fast-paced environment. Importing photos and videos is equally as straightforward.

Notebooks pulls together your text, video, audio and photo notes into one app.

Notebooks pulls together your text, video, audio and photo notes into one app.

I personally work with a lot of text content from the web, such as news articles and encyclopaedia entries, and Notebooks accommodates this fantastically by allowing you to create a new entry with the contents of your iPad’s clipboard. Sure, you could paste it into a note yourself if it’s to be part of a longer document but being able to quickly pull in a quote or a statistic into the app and move along is really convenient.

Notebooks features built-in tools for annotating imported and captured images.

Notebooks features built-in tools for annotating imported and captured images.

Whether you’ve worked with Markdown before or not, you’ll feel right at home in Notebooks with longer documents — in contrast to the shorter, plain text note format which the app also offers — being open to formatting from simple text style buttons atop the virtual keyboard or through the Markdown markup.

Sharing with Everyone

It’s common to expect productivity apps of any type to feature sharing options in some form; it’s almost a cliche to see Dropbox integration in an iPad app. Notebooks takes this to the extreme by integrating with a range of services, technologies and other iOS apps.

Notebooks supports the Markdown markup language.

Notebooks supports the Markdown markup language.

You can sync your documents with Dropbox, a WebDAV server or export over WiFi and iTunes, allowing for an appreciated ease when working cross-platform with Notebooks for Mac or PC. If the iPad is your only productivity device, Notebooks is still great but working with documents between platforms is far from difficult.

Furthermore, Notebooks natively integrates with a number of popular productivity, task management and printing apps on the iPad, such as Things, OmniFocus and WePrint. While the very nature of Notebooks is consolidation, the app cleanly integrations with your existing workflow if you’re using one of the supported apps already.

“Flat Design”

Notebooks runs smoothly on iOS 7 but its appearance doesn’t exactly fit in. By default, the app has a “Flat Design” option enabled which removes much of the lurid bevelling of the interface that can be toggled back on if your preference so wish. However, even with this option left active, the app continues to show its age aesthetically.

For example, notes are opened with a skeuomorphic background resembling a page of lined paper rather than foregoing the metaphors like the operating system itself did. It’s not too bad and certainly not a reason to stay away from the app, but I’d certainly not be disappointed to see a complete overhaul of the interface to a more minimalist, iOS 7-appropriate design.

Notebooks allows a significant amount of end user customisation of its UI.

Notebooks allows a significant amount of end user customisation of its UI.

Notebooks does leave a lot of it’s visual presence open to user customisation, however, which is both appreciated and expected. I found it very easy to modify key factors like typography through the app’s Settings and customising the default font greatly improved my experience. I was really impressed to realise the extent of how much the UI can be customised by the end user, taking a particular liking to customising which additional keys show up above the default virtual keyboard.

Final Thoughts

As a package, Notebooks does what it’s supposed to in a slick, intuitive package that isn’t compromised with lacking any basic features. It’s clear that apps dedicated to voice memos or photo annotation, for example, will generally offer some wider functionality above what exists in Notebooks but I’d be willing to take on that compromise for the sake of consolidation. The biggest issue I have with the app continues to be an interface which remains only okay for now and really needs a refresh before the next-generation of iOS.

Notebooks retails for $8.99 which is was unexpectedly steep for an app which competes with many featured-packed and cheaper rivals. In the long run, $8.99 isn’t that expensive if you plan to use the app to a significant extent but cheaper competition undeniably exists if you’re reluctant to part with more than a few dollars. Through the aforementioned native syncing features, Notebooks for iPad seamlessly integrates with it’s Mac, PC and iPhone counterparts, which you can grab as individual apps.


Summary

Notebooks is an all-in-one note-taking app for bringing together all your documents of varying formats into one location.

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