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I think I can say with absolute certainty that there’s one type of app where iPad owners are app-solutely (sorry, terrible pun) spoilt for choice — and that’s note-taking apps. From Evernote to Simplenote, there are literally thousands of offerings out there on the App Store, all promising new ways for you to streamline your notes and make yourself more productive.
I guess I’m old-fashioned in the way I make notes: with my good old-fashioned Moleskine and a fountain pen. I’m not a dinosaur but I prefer handwritten notes and there’s something vaguely satisfying about opening up a notebook with loads of scribbled notes in it, complete with a load of vague diagrams and thoughts that made sense once upon a time. Normally, new note-taking apps don’t really grab my attention but given the amount of press and hype surrounding NoteSuite recently (it’s been featured on a score of different websites), I thought maybe this one could tempt me and coax me away from my old-fashioned technology?
Let’s find out if it did.
NoteSuite is available from the App Store for the special introductory price of $1.99 and if you’re an existing Projectbook user, then you can upgrade for absolutely nothing. The app kicks off with a quick tour that showcases NoteSuite‘s features, and if you enable iCloud from the Settings menu, you can sync all your notes with the Mac version, available separately for the introductory price of $4.99.
The main screen of NoteSuite is simple and uncluttered, which raised my hopes already. So many times do I see iPad applications (including ones for note-taking) that are a jumbled, unorganised mess but NoteSuite impressed me with its condensed and tidy interface.
You can capture almost anything with NoteSuite, from text to images and even audio. A useful feature about the iPad version is the ability to draw and handwrite directly on note pages and you’ve got plenty of tools at your disposal, from a felt-tip pen to a fountain pen as well as a wide range of different colours and nib thicknesses.
When it actually comes to taking notes, NoteSuite excels in pretty much every single area. One feature that stood out was the enhanced keyboard, as you can see in the screenshot below, which not only allows you to create lists and checkboxes with a single tap, but also enables you to format your text how you want it. You can choose between a number of different fonts and presets (heading, subheading and so on — which can also be customised) and if you tap on a word or sentence, you can also highlight it directly by tapping the Highlight button.
You can add photos, audio snippets and even e-mails to notes (if you’ve set up your e-mail account with NoteSuite from within the Settings pane — the app currently only supports IMAP accounts). NoteSuite also offers integration with several web-based services, such as Instapaper, Pocket, Dropbox, Google Drive and Box.net and allows you to attach individual files from these services directly to your notes, which can prove a lifesaver in the long run.
Tags can be attached to notes which allows you to find individual ones a lot easier. Unlike other note-taking apps, NoteSuite‘s built-in search function will actually allow to search within any documents imported into the app (notes aside, you can also work with Word documents, PDF files and PowerPoint presentations within NoteSuite), which can be a real bonus if you’re looking for a particular file but you don’t know its name or the tags you attached to it.
Managing Your To-Dos
Aside from taking notes, NoteSuite will also let you keep track of those all-important to-do lists. You can track both due and start dates, set reminders and match to-dos and projects with any relevant notes and documents, allowing you to keep track of everything. Any reminders created within NoteSuite can be assigned to specific people (if you’ve set these up within the app, which is extremely easy) and specific files attached to them, making the app extremely flexible for a wide range of circumstances.
Other Features That Impressed
Within the iPad version of NoteSuite (unlike the Mac version), you can annotate PDFs and even fill out PDF forms directly on your iPad, which can then be uploaded or e-mailed as necessary. You can also convert both MS Office and iWork documents from within the app which can then be annotated (an example here: you could convert a PowerPoint presentation so that you annotate it in a university lecture or meeting, for example). And with iCloud synchronisation, everything remains in perfect harmony with your desktop — a real bonus.
NoteSuite has shown tremendous improvement since Projectbook, its predecessor and it seems that the developers have ironed out the problems that bugged previous versions, such as no iCloud sync, a hit-and-miss search algorithm and only one default font. In terms of iPad note-taking apps, it is certainly one of the best we’ve ever reviewed (and believe me, we’ve seen our fair share!) and it’s well worthy of its modest $1.99 price tag.
The app earns a well-deserved 9 out of 10 rating for its impressive feature set, uncluttered interface and ease of use. One complaint, though, is that there is no iPhone counterpart — although the iPad version is great for making long notes in, say, a business meeting, there’s no way to scribble down something quickly when you’re on the move without having to dig into your bag to hoist your iPad out. Sure, it’s a tiny little issue, but given the flawless iCloud sync between versions it is something that could surely be implemented sometime soon.
That being said, NoteSuite is a possible candidate for the respected title of “Best iPad note-taking app” (at least in my opinion) and given the fact it’s currently on special offer at only $1.99, it’s well worth grabbing. Especially when you consider it’ll probably replace all those other apps you’ve got hanging on your iPad, such as Evernote, Reminders, Skitch and so on. It’s the Swiss Army knife of the note-taking app world — and it’s mighty impressive. Go and get it now: you certainly won’t regret it.