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Circus Ponies’ NoteBook: Underwhelming, Overpriced

by on December 27th, 2010

Type in “notes” in the App Store’s search box and pages and pages of note-taking apps will come up. They vary in cost, features and interface. Some allow you to add sketches, audio recordings, images and pdf files. Others sync seamlessly with your desktop or web-based notes.
Into this crowded field comes Circus Ponies’ NoteBook, priced at $29.99. Is it worth the premium price? As a long-time fan of the company’s Mac-based NoteBook, I was anxious to find out. As a graduate student, I used to use the Mac version almost daily to keep track of my courses and research (before I got my iPad). It would be great, I thought, if I could start using NoteBook again — on both my laptop and my iPad.

I’m sorry to say that NoteBook isn’t there yet. It does have some great features, including an extensive number of templates for new notebooks, automatic indexes and tables of contents, intuitive cut and paste, audio recording, sketching, and the ability to insert images and other documents such as pdfs, word processing files and the like.

But NoteBook has some flaws. Syncing is awkward. If you want to use a notebook you created on your desktop, you have to manually transfer it through iTunes or use a third-party sync tool like PadSync. Lower-cost apps such as use DropBox, SugarSync, Mobile Me and other web-based solutions, or wifi to seamlessly sync files, why can’t NoteBook, with its premium price, provide similar capability?
Another issue: some of the templates — such as the Journal and class notes ones — have a date field, but it’s not active. You have to manually enter the date of your entry. For $29.99 couldn’t Circus Ponies make it a live, updatable field? Other apps have this capability. Finally, it’s sometimes awkward to enter and edit notes in NoteBook, and the app is slow and unresponsive.
These problems wouldn’t seem too important if it wasn’t for NoteBook’s $29.99 cost. With so much competition in the note category, if you’re going to charge a premium price, you should deliver a polished product.

Circus Ponies is capable of creating great programs — the Mac version of NoteBook is evidence of that. But the iPad version isn’t there yet. I’ll stick with Codality’s free Simplenote until Circus Ponies gets its act together.

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Posted under: App Store, Reviews