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Brief review of three Android notepad applications

Discussion in 'Other Smartphones and Mobile Operating Systems' started by SteveW, Jun 20, 2009.

  1. SteveW

    SteveW Battery mgmt is my life
    Senior Member

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Cambridge, MA
    My Phone:
    T-Mo G2, LG CU500
    Wireless Provider(s):
    T-Mobile
    Part 1: Note Me - Information management with tags

    I’ve recently been looking at a few simple text editing (notepad) applications on the T-Mobile G1. Primarily, I’ve been looking for an application that can replace Memo Pad on my trusty Palm T2. One goal in getting the G1 was to eventually retire the T2 to a place of honor on the shelf alongside my Palm Vx. As it is, I’m still carrying the T2 around in my computer bag, partly because it has a bunch of old text notes that I occasionally refer to.

    While this is probably obvious, what one wants from a notepad, as opposed to a word processor, is fast and simple text editing, with minimal formatting, but good control over file/information management and organization. Assuming you will accumulate lots of notes over time, you need quick ways of sorting and searching through them. After all, a notepad on a handheld device is where you jot down your brilliant ideas, the dimensions of a bookcase in IKEA, or notes from a business meeting. They’re usually short, but can be critically important. You may know roughly when you wrote the note, and what it’s related to. That’s about it.

    The classic Palm OS (at the moment being replaced by Palm’s new webOS) had a feature called Categories that many applications made use of. The contacts program, Address Book, allowed you to give a category to a contact. The notepad application, Memo Pad, let you assign categories to notes. Choosing the category from a list in the menu bar would show you only those contacts or notes in that category. In computer science terms, this is a filter, but millions of people who probably couldn’t articulate what an information filter is, could use this feature with ease. It just made sense and was consistent across applications.

    When I got my G1, three months after its release, none of the available notepad applications had anything like this feature. I found it a glaring omission. Now, almost eight months on, there are several notepad options on the Android platform (both free and paid), whose different approaches to information management can be summarized as: Tags or Folders.

    I wrote the first part of this piece using Note Me from Pocket Your World (free download in the Android Market). While I didn’t find everything about it immediately intuitive, there’s a lot to like about this application. It shows you a list of your notes with their titles and first lines of text (helpful if you don’t take the trouble to give notes memorable titles). Inside a note, it displays the title permanently at the top of the screen as well as the created and modified dates and times at the top of the note. It separates reviewing and editing. It has an extensive online User Manual – still a rarity in the nascent Android application marketplace. But most importantly, it has a core feature called Tags.

    Like categories on the classic Palm OS, you can manage a custom list of whatever tags make sense for you, and you can modify the starter tags the program comes with. Each note can be assigned one or more tags (seemingly as many as you like), an advantage over categories, which are one-at-a-time.

    On the Note Me home screen, you can see the tags associated with each note and pressing an icon activates the Filter function. This allows you to choose one or more tags to use as a filter. Check one, and only notes with that tag will be displayed on the home screen. Uncheck all, and all notes will be displayed. Since notes can have any combination of tags, checking only some tags in the filter only displays notes with that exact combination of tags.

    This leads to one feature request I have for the developers: I think it would be useful if the behavior of the filter could be altered (by a setting, perhaps) to be either the intersection of the sets (as it is now) or the union of the sets. So if I check the tags “Ideas” and “Personal”, I may want to show all notes with either Ideas or Personal, versus just those with both tags.

    As is however, Note Me is an extremely well thought-out application that, after a bit of acclimation, I found to be a pleasure to use.

    (continued)

    SW
     
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  2. SteveW

    SteveW Battery mgmt is my life
    Senior Member

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2002
    Messages:
    2,095
    Likes Received:
    53
    Location:
    Cambridge, MA
    My Phone:
    T-Mo G2, LG CU500
    Wireless Provider(s):
    T-Mobile
    Part 2: Folders, real and virtual

    G-Notepad from 648 Group and Note Everything from SoftXPerience (both free) take a different approach. They allow the user to create folders for organization, just as you would on a PC. However, in the case of Note Everything these are virtual folders; in the case of G-Notepad they’re actual folders on the SD card. While actual folders seem appealing at first glance, in practice neither the implementation in G-Notepad nor the mechanics of managing bunches of folders on Android myself (even with the help of ASTRO File Manager), was attractive.

    And while the SD card seems like a safer and more roomy place to store your trenchant observations, the Note Everything FAQ points out that these simple text files take up very little space. Personally, I’ve loaded around 20 third-party applications on my G1 and still have most of the 74 megabytes of user memory free. On my Palm T2, I used Memo Pad for more than 5 years and never came close to running out of internal memory.

    I wrote the second part of this piece in Note Everything. As mentioned, Note Everything creates a database for notes, with a virtual folders user interface. One consequence is that notes can’t be deleted, except by the application. I think this is a good thing. Even deleting a folder simply dumps its notes into the default folder. Searching for a text string in all notes is easy. And if you pay for Note Everything Pro (€2.99), you get backup to the SD card, along with a list of other features.

    In Note Everything, you always have the option of viewing all notes in a master list or selecting a single folder from your folder list. If you’re the organized type, who remembers and uses your folder logic, this is perfectly adequate, and really no different than on a PC.

    So which is best for organization and management of a large number of notes? While Note Everything is, in many ways, most like the classic Palm Memo Pad app, I’ve taken a liking to the Tags approach in Note Me. It’s extremely flexible since you can modify the list of tags at any time. Assigning multiple tags (or modifying the tags assigned) to a given note, just takes a few pokes of your finger. And I’m sure the filter will get even more customizable in future versions of the program.

    While a notepad application that creates documents on the G1 itself may not fit into Google’s cloud strategy, it’s nice to see a number of options for this extremely useful function appear for free. I think I’ll keep both Note Everything and Note Me around for a while and see if I run into any big limitations. One will end up being the repository for my old Palm Notes and the workhorse app for future writing while on the go.


    SW
     
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