In the past two hours, how many times have you glanced at your phone’s screen? Twice? Five times? I wouldn’t be surprised to hear if the number’s even higher (do tell me in the comments). Some people view this as an unhealthy addiction, but that’s a matter for another post. The fact remains we’re looking at that small screen all the time, making it an ideal location for noting things for later.
You could do this using floating sticky notes for Android, or you could use a more structured approach like Any.Do or another full-fledged app. But if none of these approaches appeal to you, why not use built-in Android notifications? That’s exactly what Notif lets you do.
This free utility for Android 4.1 harnesses the power of native Android notifications, letting you use them as flexible, powerful “notes to self”. There’s a paid $1 version too, but we’ll get to that later. Notif lets you create three types of notifications.
Text notifications are the simple notifications that have been around on Android for ages – an icon, a title, and some text. Here’s how you create one in Notif:
Notif comes with a limited selection of icons, but they’re all nice and clear (if you want more icons, the paid version has plenty).
Ready to go, a new text notification looks like this:
This is worth looking at, because creating an Android notification isn’t super-fast. You have to specify a title, an icon, text, a priority, and whether or not you want it to be persistent. Several of these items have defaults, though.
In use, the notification looks like this:
Well worth the trouble, if you ask me. Setting the notification as persistent means you won’t be able to swipe it away, making it all the more likely you’ll actually remember to do whatever it calls for.
If text notifications have been around forever on Android, image notifications are a recent Jelly Bean innovation. Notif’s second tab lets you easily create such a notification:
You can pick an image from your gallery or capture a new one; the other fields are just like for text notifications. On my device, an image notification looks like this:
This is actually one of the few disappointments I’ve had with Notif – on my device, the associated image was small and left-aligned, rather than take up the full width of the notification. This is despite the fact my ROM does support rich image notifications with full-width images. Worse still, Notif would occasionally freeze and crash when I added images from the gallery. Image notifications did work much of the time, but did not shine.
Moving on, let’s look at the third Android notification type, which is my personal favorite – Lists.
These are ideal for shopping, packing, or any other activity with lots of details. Tapping a list lets you edit it, shuffling items around or adding new ones:
The interface couldn’t be simpler, and it’s very effective. You can’t tick items off or create a hierarchy of nested items, and that’s a good thing in my book – notifications should be simple.
A recent addition to Notif is the History view, letting you restore past notifications with a single tap:
The free version supports up to ten history items, and oddly enough, did not include any image notifications in the list. Still, being able to restore list and text notifications is a nice touch.
Notif offers a single screen of settings:
So you get to pick between a dark or light Holo theme and set several starting defaults, which make creating notifications a quicker process. These defaults are especially important in light of the next point, which is the Notif widget.
The Notif Widget
There isn’t one. I just wanted to say this, because I think it’s one of Notif’s few oversights. To create a new notification, you must open Notif, pick the tab you’re after, and do some typing and picking. This is a disadvantage compared to, say, Floating Stickies. When you’re out in the street, the last thing you want is to start fiddling around with a complex interface just to make a quick note for later. What makes this oversight even stranger is that Notif does support speech recognition. You can dictate a simple note in two steps (title, then text).
Being able to dictate a note from the homescreen would be an obvious next step for Notif. Until then, the quickest way to add a new note is to open Notif, tap the microphone icon, and dictate it in two steps. Not a major annoyance, but worth noting.
Pro Version Benefits
Notif’s free version is definitely usable, and contains more than enough functionality to evaluate the concept. If you find it useful and want something with a bit more oomph, $1 will get you the ability to edit notifications, beam notifications to other devices (using Android Beam), pick one of 200 custom icons, create notifications from other apps, and create new notifications using the notification drawer – which might be even better than a widget for some users.
What I like about Notif is that it uses something you already have – the Android notifications drawer. I also like how holo-friendly it is, and that it doesn’t try to add extraneous features like cloud sync or other clutter. It’s a focused app that does one thing, and does it quite well.
Will you be using it? Do you have another app that shows custom notifications? Let me know in the comments!