Springpad vs Evernote: Why Visual Orientation Matters in an Online Notebook

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online notebook comparisonIt’s easy to understand why there are tons of online and software notebooks out there to choose from: mainly because there is so much information to manage, bookmark, and share in our online and mobile file cabinets. Clearly Evernote serves this purpose as a cross-platform notebook. It is supported by hundreds of other Internet services, mobile apps, and tools. But no matter how many times I’ve started using Evernote, I’ve never been totally happy with it. For me, it lacks the visual orientation that I find appealing in Pinterest, and now Springpad.

In my view, Web 2.0 has also been about the rise of the visual and the fall of the word. I don’t mean the disappearance of text; I mean that in the internet world, images drive content. This is one reason why Pinterest became so popular. Well, in many ways Springpad includes the best of both Evernote and Pinterest, and it’s why I may be turning to it as my notebook of choice. We covered Springpad back in 2008 when it was first released, but since then it has been redesigned with some significant new features.

Springpad Notebooks

Okay, let me cut to the chase. When I open Evernote, notebooks are displayed in a linear orientation, like this:

online notebook comparison

But in Springpad, notebooks are presented in a visual orientation, like this:

online notebook app

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Now admittedly, I just started using Springpad, but just as I like to use the visual layout of Pinterest to catalogue all the products, recipes, and  apps I like; I think I’ll become more inclined to use Springpad in the same fashion, but as a notebook for projects, notes, and text clippings.

Springpad includes a few viewing options for both the size of notebook icons, and their background color. These features provide visual variety and context which makes the notebooks layout more appealing. And like Pinterest, your Springpad notebooks can be privatized, shared, tagged, and categorized. However, though I currently have only a handful of notebooks, I can already see that it would be useful if there were an option to organize notebooks alphabetically.

Adding Smart Notes

Like Evernote, Springpad does have a web browser clipping tool to quickly bookmark URLs and copy selected text to a notebook. Springpad’s Smart Notebook feature allows you add just about any note or file to your Springpad as you can with Evernote. But Springpad has a few unique features that you might find useful. For one, you can perform web searches from within your account, so that selected results can be added directly to one or more of your notebooks.

online notebook app

Springpad also includes other types of note formats for creating a checklist or task, adding a contact, setting a calendar appointment or alarm, and adding just a plain note, photo, or even video file. To use these features, click on the type of note you want to add, type a title, and hit the return key. A text box or form will open so that you can add, tag and save the content to one of your notebooks. There’s also the ubiquitous social network sharing feature as well for your notes.

online notebook app

Springpad includes a smart search feature. In the Quick Add drop down panel, if you select Book, Music, Product, Recipe, TV Show, Wine or Place, Springpad will narrow the search results based on your selection.

online notebook application

One issue I have with the search feature, however, is that you can add only one item at a time. After you add an item, you must type and run the search term again. So this feature is definitely for quick, not advance, search results. Also, you can’t add plain text notes from your menu bar, as you can with Evernote. You have to open your Springpad account in the web browser to add a note.

Springpad Social Network

Though notebooks can be shared in Evernote, Springpad is again similar to Pinterest in that you can subscribe to the notebooks and clippings (“Springs”) of other Springpad users. Springpad’s Explore page introduces you to a fairly wide category of topics including Entertainment, Design, Tech, Home and Living, Business, Education, News, etc. You can also explore by tags.

online notebook application

When you follow a notebook, the contents of clippings and notes will show up on “Following” page. From there, you can browse and add selections to your own notebooks. This feature is very useful for collaborating on projects or simply taking advantage of the content other users have publicly added.

Mobile Springpad

Springpad of course does have apps for iOS devices and Android, and the features I describe above are also included in the mobile app versions.

online notebook comparison

I found that content added to my account syncs and updates between devices very quickly, and the UI is so smiliar that I know where to expect to find features and buttons. The mobile app also includes a browser plug-in so you can add clippings as you browse the net outside of the Springpad app.

While there are no “Spring it” buttons on popular web sites, the visual orientation and user interface of Springpad is a major attraction for me, and that alone will probably cause me to use the notebook service more in my day-to-day workflow.

For other notebook ideas, check out these articles:

Let us know what you think of Springpad. Have you given it a try? What features would like to see added?

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