ThinkBook: A Powerful Digital Notebook

From grade school to today a notebook is always a valuable resource. With the digital revolution occurring and the iPad creating an entirely new market, the power of a digital notebook has never been more apparent. Since the idea of a digital notebook is not new, the App Store is filled with numerous apps claiming to be the best notebook for the iPad. Some users prefer plain text with Simplenote, while others might prefer a cloud based anything bucket such as Evernote, but the need for a digital notebook is evident.

What makes a good digital notebook? I think this notebook needs to be highly customizable and easy to use. The notebook needs to have powerful features which make it easy to use in a variety of scenarios. Having these features will help an app mold to fit anyone’s workflow. In fact, the workflow of two individuals could be completely different but they might use the same app just because the app is able to mold to anyone’s workflow. ThinkBook is an app that could be perfect for just about anyone, let’s take a look!


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Learning Curve

You shouldn’t skip the tutorials of an app like Thinkbook. There is a learning curve to understand the full power and architecture of the app. While the app can be simple enough a user can figure out the gist of the app by using it over time, I think the true power of the app will be revealed by reading through the tutorial and manual. The manual is located within the app as a notebook placed on the homescreen.

The tutorial is always accessible by hitting the information button in the menu bar.

Design

ThinkBook lays out information in front of the user. Most of the screen real estate is used for taking notes and creating content. Access to the home button, back button, search, and tagging is in the menu bar on the left side of the screen. The home button will take a user back to the home page of the app, which has instructional content on how to use the app. Of course you can remove this information and keep all of your notebooks on this page. The back button will take the user back one screen after each tap until the home screen is reached.

The search functionality will search all of ThinkBook including data within notebooks. ThinkBook supports tagging notes as well to help keep things organized.

The home page

The home page holding my notebooks.

The content bar at the top of the screen shows the last used notebooks or pages within notebooks and always resides at the top of the current notebook. This allows quick access to switch between notebooks quickly. Whether you like this feature will depend on how you use the app. It’s nice to switch between notebooks, but if that’s not important to a user, they might prefer to have those pixels dedicated to viewing content in the notebook, especially when editing content.

The settings which can be accessed from the menu bar include some important options that are definitely worth mentioning. Notebooks can be backed up or restored from Dropbox. There are several different font options and font size choices also within the settings menu.

Settings Menu

The settings menu includes option for Dropbox backup and more.

A pleasant option I found in the settings was the ability to set what ThinkBook does after one tap. By default the app will do nothing with just one tap but the option to create a new note or new todo is also available.

The one tap setting that I enabled was to create a new note.

Also within the settings are theme choices. There are three choices which are Sky Blue, Black Pearl, and Polar White. The developers claim Polar White looks wonderful on the white iPad and I can agree that it does. The app was just updated with retina graphics which really makes it look great on the new iPad.

The Slider

The slider is what makes ThinkBook stand out from all the other notebook apps. The slider is a unique tool which can be used to accomplish several different tasks. Items can be dragged into the slider to move items within notebooks and in-between notebooks. To delete items from a notebook just drag an item into the slider and select delete notes. Inserting notes can be completed in the same way. Drag notes and items into the slider and choose the whether to insert all of the items, the first item, or insert copies.

The Slider

The slider is the multifunction tool of ThinkBook, allowing users to easily create and move notes.

As previously mentioned, a new tap can create a note or todo based upon your preference. The slider also has options to create a new note, todo, project, and question. While the note and todo are self explanatory, this is my first mention of the project and question functionality in ThinkBook. While a notebook can encompass several different categories, a project is aimed to be limited to an area of focus.

A project in ThinkBook

Project circles will shade depending on how many task are complete.

Of course ThinkBook can mold to several different work styles and user preferences, so if you like to have a notebook for a client, or an individual notebook for each of a client’s projects, either way would work. Projects can support todo’s which will shade the project circle until it is completely shaded when all of the actions are completed. The question functionality is a great way to document specific questions that were raised and document the answers below the question.

Functionality

While the features of ThinkBook might not be groundbreaking, the implementation of all of the items is unique and well thought out. Most of us probably already document notes in this sort of way with questions, answers, notes, and todos but ThinkBook takes what you are already using and makes it easier to format it all appropriately. The end result is a clean notebook and a quicker and more efficient workflow.

While entering content into ThinkBook the keyboard has an extra row with shortcut keys. The extra keys consist of the following items:

  • Note
  • Todo
  • Question
  • Indentation Controls
  • Cycle by Note (up/down)
  • Cycle by Word (left/right)
  • Cycle by Space (left/right)
The keyboard in ThinkBook

An extra keyboard row makes it easy to navigate between notes.

By allowing the option to cycle through content in several different ways items can be navigated more quickly and accurately when editing previous items. The indentation controls make it really easy to create outlines to supplement content in your notebooks as well.

The outline functionality and the slider are complimented by gestures which make it easy to format items in the outline and/or add items to the slider. A user can slide content into the slider if they slide their finger on the content from the middle of the screen to right edge. The left edge to middle of the screen can also be used to slide outline items – children will be nested under collapsable parent items.

Rethinking A Notebook

ThinkBook is in a crowded market. A lot of users already use different services and might be too integrated in their respective workflow to even warrant trying a new notebook app. ThinkBook stands out to me and I think it will have a promising future. My main concern with the app is more focused on the service. As previously mentioned ThinkBook can back up to Dropbox and even import notebooks from Dropbox but accessing notebooks from other areas is not smooth. Notebooks, pages, and projects can be exported to .txt files but this solution is not as great as a full dedicated Mac or iPhone client with iCloud syncing.

Even with the lack of iCloud ThinkBook stands out as a powerful notebook app. The app can help users stay more organized and enter notes more quickly by providing a lot of options on the slider and extra keyboard row. If you are note happy about your current project management app or note taking app, then ThinkBook is definitely worth a look.


Summary

ThinkBook separates itself in a crowded market by utilizing an innovative slider to manage and create notes, todos, and questions.

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