Simple Note Taking Application for Web, iOS, Android: SimpleNote

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Simplenote is a free note taking application, that’s available across majority of platforms (iOS, Android, Mac, Kindle etc.). Besides, it can be accessed via any Web browser. Simplenote allows you to create unlimited notes, which are instantly synced to your Simplenote account in real-time, thus making them available across any device that you might use to access your account.

SimpleNote is basically as easy as it gets. There are not even any formatting options.

To reinforce your trust in Simplenote, it might be worth mentioning that it comes from Automattic, the company that has made and manages WordPress (and a lot of other cool products).

Head past the break to find out more!

Simplenote article header image

Note-taking is an essential activity for being productive at anything. Whether it’s jotting down important pointers during a college lecture, penning down ideas for that new novel, or anything else for that matter, taking notes enables us to quickly record, and then recollect important stuff. There’s a lot of great note taking applications out there, like OneNote and Evernote, that not just let you jot down notes, but do a lot more with them.

But what if you want a simple application that just lets you take notes, without the truckload of bells and whistles? Say hello to Simplenote, which might be just what you need.

Simplenote Note List

On a side note, I think I am on some sort of minimal goodies reviewing spree these days. First it was this simple To-Do app for iPhone, then my latest favorite GOM Audio player, and now Simplenote. Am I moving backwards in tech world? Guess not, ’cause keeping things simple and functioning out of the box does have its advantages. Just ask Apple!

What makes Simplenote great?

Simplenote is a great free (with optional paid account levels too) note taking application. Though it has many aces up its sleeve, the one thing that I like about it most is that it follows an ultra simple approach to note taking, staying true to its name. You just start typing a note, and everything is saved and synced (if you have network connectivity) in real-time. No fancy settings, no extraneous customizations, just plain and simple note taking goodness. All your notes are accessible from any device that you might use to access your account. You can even collaborate on your notes in real-time, and publish them for others to see. Isn’t that great? But hey, don’t just take my word for it. Let’s see what this thing has got.

Signing up for a free Simplenote account, and main web UI:

You can create a Simplenote account from either the web interface, or via the smartphone app. Signing up is ultra simplistic and all you need to provide is an email address and password, and hit “Create My Account”. Check out the screenshot below:

Simplenote account creation

Once the signup is done, you are straight away logged into your Simplenote account. That’s right! No activation email, no extra profile to set up, nothing.

The UI primarily consists of two panes. The left pane shows up all of your notes in a list, and the bigger right pane shows up the contents of the note currently selected.

Simplenote web UI

The top consists of a few icons that act as shortcuts for some primary features, and a search box at the left, which can be used to quickly search any note(s) by their contents or associated tags.

Icons bar

How To Create Notes, Add Tags, And Search Notes in Simplenote:

Creating a note in Simplenote is super simple. All you have to do is click the plus icon next to the search box, and start typing in the note editing area in the right pane. The first line automatically becomes the title of the note, and anything after that constitutes the body of the note.

Above the note editing area, there’s a space for adding tags, which are specific keywords that let you quickly search for any note by searching for its associated tag(s). You can add as many tags as you want, and each is separated by a space. As I mentioned before, there are no fancy features like custom fonts, colors etc. Just plain and simple note taking goodness!

Sample Note taking

Searching for note(s) is intuitive as well. All you have to do is enter the search string in the search box, and the relevant notes appear in the list in real-time. You can search for a note using its contents, or by the tags associated with it.

Sharing & Collaborating Features of Simplenote:

Collaboration capabilities seems to be something of a pre-requisite for any web service to be successful these days. And Simplenote is no different. It allows real time collaboration on notes, which means that you and your pal(s) can edit a note at the same time, with the changes being instantly synced.

Simplenote’s approach towards collaboration is also a bit unique. To share a note with others for collaboration, you have to add their email(s) as tag(s) to the note that needs to be collaborated upon. Once you do that, the recipient(s) receive an invite in their email. All they need to do is click on the link in the email invite, and they can edit them. And best of all, it doesn’t even require the recipient(s)to have a Simplenote account.

Check the following animated graphic, illustrating Simplenote’s collaborative capabilities:

Collaboration in Simplenote

Simplenote Apps for Android and iOS:

We spend more time working on our pocket supercomputers smartphones these days, than we do on our Computers. And Simplenote ensures that you can create and access notes easily even if you’re far away from your PC. It has dedicated apps for both iOS and Android platforms. The apps on both platforms work pretty much the same way, and have all the features that you get from the web version of Simplenote.

Here’s a visual overview of the Simplenote app for iOS:

All your notes are presented in a continuously scrollable vertical list. You can choose to have the preview snippet displayed with each note or not in the app settings: The top consists of the search box and the add new note icon, pretty much akin to the web version of Simplenote.

Simplenote iOS note list with preview

Tapping any note opens up the note full screen. You can either simply view the note, or start editing it by tapping over the note contents. The top consists of an I icon, that gives you handy information like word and character count, and also fires up the options that let you share or publish your note, or see its version history.

Simplenote iOS expanded note view

Swiping  the main screen to the right reveals shortcuts to essential options like Search, Tags, Trash and of course, the Settings menu. Check out the screenshot below:

Simplenote iOS right swipe options

Simplenote: Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • Ridiculously simple and straightforward, with an uncluttered UI.
  • Available across most platforms.
  • Real-Time synchronization of notes.
  • Collaborative and Sharing features.
  • You can export all your notes as a zip archive

Cons:

  • Not available for all platforms, notably Windows Phone.
  • Maybe a little bit too simplistic for those who don’t mind a little bit of customization options.

Conclusion

Note taking powerhouses like OneNote and Evernote are all well and good, but they don’t cut it for people who are looking to store just notes, and nothing else. To them, the laundry list of features like web clips, annotations etc. aren’t a replacement for the simplicity of a clean and unobtrusive UI. This is where minimalist apps like Simplenote come into play. With a clean and hassle free approach to jotting down notes electronically, Simplenote is the go-to solution for anyone who wants to just take notes, but wouldn’t mind a little bit of collaboration goodness thrown into the mix as well.

Personally, I think Simplenote could have used some additional features. Some formatting options, coupled with reminders for my notes, would have been great. It’s kinda too simple for me. I would love to have a service that is somewhere between Simplenote and Evernote. Anyone listening?

Try Simplenote Here.

Image Courtesy: Paul Watson via Flickr

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