For many of us iPhone and other iOS users, Apple’s default Notes app is probably sufficient for pasting notes, writing lists, or for even maintaining a diary or journal. But believe it or not, I find the Notes app a little slow and cumbersome. You read correctly, just as my iPhone app is always on, I want that same quick access to the writing and sending notes.
I like clean, un-cluttered note apps that I don’t have to manage with folders, and that can also be used with other applications. Well, at least five note apps (Captio, Squarespace Note, Drafts, Pastebot, and Lumen Note) in the iTunes Apps Store allow you to quickly write notes in two or less taps, and with a lot less fuss than searching for pen and paper.
When I want to jot down an idea, the title of a book, a temporary address etc., I typically email myself with a single-tap app called Captio ($1.99). Captio launches with a clean sheet ready for you to type. When you’re done, just tap the Send button and your notes goes directly to your pre-designated email address.
In its last update, the developers also added the ability to attach a photo from your Photo library, or snap one from within the app. All your notes get stored temporarily in the device if you’re offline, and they also get archived in the File Drawer. Because notes are sent via Captio, I’ve marked that address as a VIP in Apple’s Mountain Lion Mail, so I can easily click and review them.
Squarespace Note (Free) can send self-email notes, but it requires no tapping at all. Just write a note, and then swipe the page down and release, to send. That’s it.
You can also setup this Note app to send notes to your Dropbox, Twitter, Facebook, and Evernote accounts. However, each account you select in the settings for the app will send your notes to all those services. So it’s best to set one service as default. If you want to send to a different account, you’ll need to switch before you swipe to send a note. Squarespace Notes also archives of your notes, but it does not allow you to attach photos or other files.
Drafts ($1.99) is another quick notes app in which you can directly email yourself (though it does take one extra tap–if that’s not too much trouble.) But this app goes further, allowing you to send notes to other places as well–e.g. Dropbox, Twitter, Facebook, Evernote, Day One, Pastebot, etc.
You also get a lot of other customization options for font style and size, as well as settings for managing and ordering the places you send notes to.
Each time you open Drafts, it starts you off with a clean page. However, you can set how long (from 30 seconds to Never) it should take for a clean page to appear after re-opening the app. So say you’re taking notes at a conference, you might select “Never” to keep that note page open throughout the day.
Drafts is a truly clean, and easy-to-use app for quickly capturing text. Currently though, the app does not allow you to attach photos or screenshots.
At this point, either of the above note-taking apps is efficient, but I feel the need to showcase a few other possibilities. Lumen Note ($1.99) is not a notepad, it’s a scratchpad. With Lumen Note, you don’t send stuff, you just write stuff, and all your notes are saved on a single sheet in the app.
You can also sync your notes to an online Lumen Note account. This will in turn sync all your Lumen Note notes between your devices. With this app, there’s no organizing files, adding tags, or tapping to start new pages. You just add as many notes as you like, and then when you no longer need them, clear them all out with a single tap. There’s no archive of notes and no ability to attach photos. Remember, this is a scratchpad, not a notebook.
Pastebot ($3.99) is not a notepad per se, it’s a clipboard manger that allows you to save text, URLs and image clippings captured in your iOS device. By default when you copy, say a piece of text, in an iOS device, it instantly gets replaced when you copy another item. The iOS’s clipboard doesn’t handle multiple clippings.
But Pastebot can. For ten minutes after it is launched, it will collect your clippings in the background when the app is closed. This time limit is imposed by Apple. When you’re notified that the ten minutes is up, you will need to re-launch the app to continue collecting clippings. Despite this limitation, this is cool little time saver if you’re doing some research using your iOS device. You can manually add text notes to Pastebot as well.
And for iOS power users, there’s a Pastebot desktop client that allows you to sync clippings between your Mac and iOS devices. Pastebot will work on all iOS devices, but it’s only optimized for the iPhone.
There are a few other quick note apps I could recommend, but the above are the ones I’ve used the most. Let us know which iOS note app you use and why. We’d love to read your feedback.