Notes, Notepads and Journals

This is a screenshot of my iPad home screen. The apps that get used most find their way here. I describe my iPod Touch as a magic Post-it-note. I describe my iPad as a magic piece of paper. Needless to say, but I’ll say it anyway, I don’t much use the iPod, except as a music player, and for Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock.

Now, a magic piece of paper. Really? Even that metaphor falls short of what the iPad is, as it binds imagination to one use – because I keep looking for a magic sketchbook, a collection of magic pages bound into a one inch thick bound black book of blank pages.

I keep one folder of note apps on the home screen because I keep looking for that black sketchbook. I have also a collection of sketching and painting apps. I fall back again and again on a very few basic ones because they are, basically, fast, responsive and simple. The others I keep around because they are, in one way or another, more capable.

So, on top, I keep Brushes, Penultimate, and Noterize. Brushes launches fast. So also does Penultimate. I drop right into drawing or painting or writing a note. Noterize presents me with choices, but by the time I’m there, I have roughly figured out what I want to do. The visual metaphor for these apps is straight-forward and familiar. They are sheets of paper, or books of pages of paper.

Now to the Note Record folder. I keep Good Reader there because I found myself popping back and forth between it and Note Hub for downloads. It was easiest just to keep the folder open.

Apple’s supplied app Notes is on the level of the three apps noted above – focused and unobtrusive, and still basically useful, and loaded with legacy information. It doesn’t draw.

Note Hub approaches the black book. Like some others I have tried, and some I haven’t tried, it sends it’s multimedia tentacles out into the web. It’s nice, for instance to be able to work a browser inside the app, and it works well enough as a simple sketchbook. You can lay the text boxes anywhere on a sketch. Could this look more like a traditional book? Yes. Could it record sound? Why am I asking it to do everything?

Muji Notebook: once again, clean and straight-forward. Book-like. Doesn’t export to iPhoto app, so it’s difficult to get an image here except as a screenshot. The drawing tools are okay as for the most part the drawing tools in any of these apps are intended as pens to interact within the text dominant modes of these apps.The handwriting recognition is a cute trick, intended more for Kanji than English. Once again good marks for the paper and book paradigm.

Notetaker HD. Ambitious. Powerful. Flexible. Interface gets in the way of doing things directly. I’m always busy thinking of how to get it to do something.

Notify: can’t you make this look like a book and paper? Smaller icons for tools and modes, spread them out. Man, it does everything, and sometimes it’s a bit to figure out. The unlimited page space is disconcerting. Where is my paper? Where am I in this huge space? The handwriting recognition is quick and even works with mine! Pinch scaling is jerky. Is that huge page space using up memory unnecessarily?

Notepiler: smooth drawing tools. Strange interface.

Notebooks: Expensive. Like Notetaker HD, you can’t use multiple modes on a page. It’s either text or ink. Love the links to pages.

Paperdesk: Losing out on interface flexibility as compared to other apps. Pens quirky and don’t respond to to transparency settings.

So I also have Chronicle, a good little diary app. I like the time stamps, but only every hour? Needs better frequency. Notebooks does this.

Nothing yet, singly, replaces a sketchbook. Everything shines in some other area where each is uniquely strong. Interactivity is limited, perhaps more by system sandboxing than anything else. The paradigm shift has to occur in the way I interact with the iPad itself. Use each app where it’s strong. Brushes, for painting. But why can’t I link or import directly into Chronicle or Notebooks, into a page combined with text? Geez, Notify! Make it look like a page!

I want time stamps. I want recordings. I use them infrequently, but sometimes they are the only suitable media. Single apps do a fine job. In-app recordings need to come out through iTunes, then imported back into Goodreader, but I can’t get them into anything because there’s no common accessible database.

I want to copy an image and paste it into a page of text, just like in Pages. Why not use Pages? It doesn’t have time stamps.

Notify is close, but it throws away linearity.

Everything reaches to interactivity, but none intertwine their fingers.

Update November 30

Most recent Muji Notes update, downloaded just this very day, has export abilities to iPhoto App. I also found Notes Plus which is remarkably flexible, unobtrusive, and intuitive. It has sound recording, a cool closeup writing trick and easy text as type entry modes,and all the appropriate export abilities. Cut and Paste is promised for an imminent update.


  1. Hi. Have you tried exporting from Muji Notes to Evernote? It won’t let me do it – it won’t even let me export to iPhoto. When I select any of the export options other than iTunes, it defaults back to iTunes. Have you experimented with that? :-/

    • I don’t use Evernote, and I don’t experience any of those export problems you mention. Works quite smoothly here.

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