New writing apps are multiplying like rabbits, and the old standbys keep improving. Frankly, it’s hard to pick a bad app for your writing. That said, I want to throw some flowers on the stage for the iOS version of Notebooks App by Alfons Schmid. Only because I’m thankful for it and find it so useful. Thank you, Herr Schmid!
Here are ten reasons why I’ve been doing all my long- form writing, note-taking, and even some PDF management in Notebooks.
First, like 1Writer, iA Writer, Ulysses, and others, Notebooks allows me to write in Markdown. You don’t have to write in Markdown but it works great if you want to.
Second, Notebooks works well for any kind of writing: long essays, grocery lists, meeting notes, whatever. I’ve never liked having two or more apps for my writing because I just want to write without thinking where it goes. But you need to with most apps. Writing an essay in Apple Notes feels wrong, so does putting a grocery list in Scrivener. But either one feels fine in Notebooks.
Third, Notebooks offers flexible organization. You can dump everything in one place, or separate your writing into a million notebooks and sub-notebooks (notebook=folder). And because Notebooks will use the first words you type for a title, if you don’t choose a custom title, you can get writing right away without having to decide what to name your work.
Fourth, Notebooks’ search features are also strong, and you can use hashtags and other features to find things.
Fifth, the iPad version of Notebooks allows me to zoom the text with a finger gesture. This is really important for me because I often want to type in a certain size and then quickly increase the size of everything proportionally, for preaching or teaching, without fiddling with formatting.
Sixth, Notebooks lets me download style sheets, edit them, or write my own. I love this. I spent a little time getting things looking like I want and then never mess with it again. I just start typing and the formatting takes care of itself. This is a time multiplier.
Seventh, Notebooks offers a variety of syncing options. This is useful for all the obvious reasons. One option for syncing is through Dropbox. Using Dropbox allows me to share these files with others from the cloud. And there are many other ways to share directly from the app.
Eighth, with Notebooks I can also work with PDFs. I can download a PDF directly into the app, mark it with my Apple Pencil, and then email it out again without leaving the app. This feature is a few extra bucks add-on but totally worth it, especially since it also allows you to search the texts of PDFs as well. This makes Notebooks great for more than writing.
Ninth, Notebooks has a dual-pane mode on the iPad. This may not seem like a big deal, but I use it all the time. Within the same app, I can open a PDF I’ve marked and take notes about it in another window. Or I can brainstorm a quick list, then write from that list in another pane.
Tenth, Notebooks App features a lot more. It is also really fast. It has customizable timestamps, a web browser, fancy todo list capabilities, integrations with other popular apps, and more. To learn what else is possible, the app’s website has tons of information. And Jai Bentley-Payne of @appademic has written some long posts about Noteboooks.
Every now and then, I need to do some special formatting with a document and I’ll use Pages or Mellel. I also haven’t done any collaborative editing in a while, so I’m not tied to programs that have rich collaboration features.
But at the moment, my needs are pretty simple: I need a place to quickly write anything I want without fussing about formatting and still get good looking documents at the end. Notebooks is meeting those needs very well.