Recently, I spent some time testing out different online note-taking apps. I hit all of the usual suspects, include Evernote of course, as well as Catch Notes and OneNote. I have nothing at all bad to say about any of these apps. They all have their pros and cons, not the least of which is the fact that all of the apps sync with an online storage account so that you can retrieve those notes from any other device where you can get Internet access.
This is a great advantage for a note-taking app, but what if you just want a simple notepad-like app for your Android smartphone or tablet that just stores the notes on the device itself and doesn’t need to sync anything? Some people who use Android tablets do so in an environment where Internet access isn’t available most of the time. These people typically try to find apps that don’t really require Wi-Fi or 3G Internet access. In my particular case, I just wanted a simple note-taking app that I could use in meetings to replace the old-school notepad.
I tested out a number of device-based Android note apps like this, and eventually settled on the one that I consider the best of the best, called SuperNote. Don’t bother checking Google Play for the app – it was originally rolled out with the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime as part of the Android 3.2.1 Honeycomb update. Other devices running the latest Honeycomb have the exclusive SuperNote app.
It is very cool, and in many ways it actually blows even Evernote out of the water when it comes to interpreting words drawn right onto the tablet and placing those words into the document as a clean sentence. It is surreal to use at first, but once you get into it, it just becomes second nature.
Using SuperNote to Take Notes on a Tablet
To be honest with you, SuperNote was one of those native apps that I saw on the Prime when I first started using it, launched it quickly once, figured it didn’t really look like anything special and then moved on. Â I had no idea that I had just blown off one of the best tablet note-taking apps available today.
It wasn’t until months later, after I couldn’t really find a non-online note-taking app that I decided to take another, more thorough look at SuperNote. When you first launch SuperNote, it really doesn’t look amazing. You’ll see a blank notepage, a pace for “notebooks” on the left, similar to Evernote, and I figured that’s it. Boy was I wrong.
When you start up a new Notebook – which is used to contain all of the individual note pages that you create, you have the choice to make it a “Notebook” or a “Paintbook”. In both cases you can set up the page color, and in the case of the Notebook you can also set up the font size.
At first glance, note pages look pretty standard. I thought the lined page was kind of odd, considering that when you type your notes using the docked keyboard or the onscreen keyboard, you’ve just got your basic notepad-type text file.
It wasn’t until I put my finger to the screen and started really trying to understand how the drawing feature worked that I realized just how wicked cool this app really is. I thought that the drawing feature was to sketch pictures into the note page, but every time I drew a shape, it got shrunk down and placed into the next text line. I thought to myself, “How annoying!”
A few moments later, I realized what was happening. Basically, the application lets you use your finger – or even better, a stylus – to hand-write each word in the sentence. Forget the on-screen keyboard or even needing an attached keyboard, just pick up your stylus and write up your notes by hand. Each word gets resized and aligned so that it fits right between the line width for the line your cursor is on.
Once I realized what was going on, I really started flying with my note-taking. This is very cool. Not only can you quickly jot down notes just like you would with a regular sheet of paper, but if you feel like the notes aren’t quite clear enough, you can set the line width between three different darkness settings. Just adjust it to your liking.
A nice feature is that you can adjust the “Scribble recognition speed”. This applies to how long the Supernote waits before it takes the word you wrote and applies it to the next spot in the line. If you take a long time to move on to the next letter in a word, you might want to slow down this wait time so that it doesn’t grab partial words before you’re done writing them. Once you adjust this speed to match your writing style, hand-writing notes using Supernote just becomes amazingly intuitive and fast.
You can also quickly change the color of the text – typed or drawn – with the quick color-changer tool in the toolbar menu. The menu also has tools that let you adjust the line thickness and the line spacing.
Text not enough? You can also insert lots of other things into your notes as well – including annotations, photos, images from your gallery, video captures, and even voice recordings.
I thought it would be kind of cool to see if I could take a snapshot with my tablet camera from right inside the note-taking app, and then draw on the photo itself. That was surprisingly easy – you just choose “take photo” from the menu, snap your photo and it gets inserted right into your note. It brings you into the “paintbook” mode where you can edit your photo before it gets inserted into the note. Set the paintbrush to whatever colors you like and start drawing!
I handed over the reigns to my daughter for a few minutes and let her draw on my face. She’s quite the Picasso.
Once I got started building my “Notebooks” inside of SuperNote, it really started becoming a lot more apparent to me just how useful and valuable this note-taking app could be. I sorted out all my pics and drawings into a specific notebook just for those. I listed my home projects and to-do lists in its own folder, and so on. Now you can organize all of those notes that you used to just scribble on loose papers that ended up scattered all around your desk. Keep all those little scribbles and critical facts stashed right in your tablet or smartphone, set up so that you’ll be able to find them later.
I have to say that after playing around with all of the other Android note apps on the Android Market, I was shocked to discover that my favorite note-taking app of all ended up being the native app right on the native Honeycomb OS. So, if you’re in the market for a new tablet and note-taking is a key feature, I propose that you may want to look for a tablet with Honeycomb Android 3.2.1 or later. You’ll be glad you did.
Have you ever used the Honeycomb SuperNote app? What’s your take on its features and ease-of-use? Do you take your digital notes by hand? Share your thoughts and feedback in the comments section below.
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