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Note Taking App: A Tragedy

by on September 29th, 2010

As a student, the most exciting possibility that the iPad held for me, other than eBooks, was note taking. I’ve always been a pen and paper student, and I always got weighted down by massive amount of paper.

I’ve done lots of searching for apps, and I’ve tried a few. Part of the problem is performing an actual trial. You need the environment of a class to find out with the app will “hold water”. Trying out apps ahead of time didn’t save me any grief.

smartNote Free

Initially, this app blew me away. I really enjoyed the time spent creating separate notebooks for my classes, choosing cover colours, and page layouts. I liked the level of creativity and individuality I was able to put into my notes, and I loved the idea of being able to separate my notes for each class so easily.

The class was about to begin. I opened my newly downloaded smartNote app and impulsively chose a colour for my notebook cover and settled on yellow legal style paper for the inside. My finger went to the screen right away, as that is how I am used to navigating, and I was surprised to discover the draw function comes up automatically. After making a few test squiggles, I created a text box and settled down to write!

The text was huge!! I swear the students in the last row of the lecture hall behind me could see every word that I typed. While the professor took a question, I quickly managed to change the font size. It’s one thing to have everyone looking at you because you have an iPad, it’s another if they can read your notes.

I was typing away, writing down everything that I thought was important, as you do when you’re a student, and I noticed that I was getting close to the end of the page. Wanting to give this app a good old college try, I simply kept writing to see what would happen, assuming it would flip to a new fresh page.

And then the panic settled in. I was typing but I could see no words or characters showing up in my screen. I tried to use my finger to scroll down the virtual page, but I ended up drawing a big black line instead.

The professor was moving on, and I was missing valuable insights to assignments, and exams, and the nature of sociological theory. With only a few minutes of class remaining, I tried desperately to figure out where my notes went and why it didn’t go to a second page.

After the lecture was over, I went home and tried to figure out what went wrong. After copying the notes I could see on the screen into Pages, my tried, tested, and true app, I discovered that the invisible notes I had written, did in fact exist, but they existed further down on the page than I could see. When I deleted the notes at the top, the invisible notes started appearing from the bottom of the page.

I was able to save all my work after a vigorous retrieval process, but the damage had been done. I didn’t want to type away all class and not see what I was writing, and I didn’t want to have to go through such a hassle to read my notes afterward. I decided that this wasn’t the app for me.

Even now, I am tempted to open it up and use it, because the customization option is so unbelievably aesthetically pleasing, but it just wasn’t as easy to use as I needed it to be.

I haven’t given up hope for the perfect note taking app! This week I’ll be trying out Evernote in class, so check back next week for that story!

Anyone have any apps they recommend?

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Posted under: Reviews, Uncategorized

  • Sean

    You should definitely try Note Taker HD. It has a hefty $4.99 price tag but it’s definitely the best note taking app i’ve found yet. You can write directly on the page or you can use what they call “Edit 2″ mode where it magnifies a small portion of a line and you can write large at the bottom of the screen while it automatically shrinks your writing to fit on the lined page. The auto-advance mode ensures you can just keep writing without thought of having to move the “magnified” area across the screen.

    Definitely worth checking out!

  • http://twitter.com/Fehr Trent Fehr

    I use sound note for taking notes in meetings. So far, I really like it. I like that I can type key points while simultaneously recording audio, and afterwards I can touch each word and the audio automatically jumps to when the word was typed. It also has drawing support.
    The only downfall is the inability to format text.

  • Fafa

    course notes

  • Funnyunkle

    Simple text. Works well with drop drop box and has no frill text type. I use it in the field and works great. I have been very impressed at it’s integration and auto migration.

    Remember it is purely no frills.

    Good luck

  • AllenC

    The latest version of WhiteNote is awesome!! I highly recommend it as a consideration in your note taking app evaluations.