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If you just want to open a writing tool and get started writing without a lot of distracting bells and whistles, Simplenote may be just what you’re looking for. A staple text editor for the iPad and iPhone for quite some time, for the first time Simplenote is available for Mac OS X.
The desktop version shares the simple, minimalist design and orientation of the iOS versions, and it’s an ideal application for writing quick notes or tackling longer pieces of writing. In many ways it’s a better alternative to Apple’s far less modern TextEdit.
Like its iPad and iPhone counterparts, Simplenote for the Mac lives up to its name. The application launches quickly because it’s lightweight with the most essential features for getting writing done.
I’ve always liked how Simplenote allows you to save and manage your documents in the application itself so that you don’t have to have to save them as individual files in folders. Even the folder structure of Simplenote is simple. Instead of creating new folders, you add one or more tags to a document which puts it into a pseudo folder structure. Documents are moved around not by dragging and dropping them, but by changing the assigned tags.
There’s a sidebar that lists all your tags, next to which you get a list of documents in that “folder”. You can also click on All Notes to see all your documents. Right-click on a tag to rename or delete it, deleted documents get put into the application’s trashcan where they can be retrieved or permanently deleted.
If you click on a tag and then click the new document plus “+” button, Simplenote will automatically assign the selected tag to that document. When you click on a tag, a list of all the documents assigned with that tag will be revealed.
On the surface the above features are pretty much all you need to get started with Simplenote, but there’s more tucked under its hood. Under the small ellipsis item in Simplenote’s menu are six more features. First, there’s a word and character document counter and a button for pinning a document to the top of the list structure.
If you want to share and collaborate on a document, add the email addresses of your collaborators as tags, and recipients will receive an email and link to the document on Simplenote’s server. Simplenote sends the email automatically without you having to click a single button. Changes made to the document automatically get updated in your Simplenote desktop client, too.
Similarly, selecting Publish to Web… quickly shares a document. Simplenote provides you a shortened link that you can share. This simple text editor also has a history feature that I find easier to use than the same feature in Apple’s TextEdit and Pages apps. When you click the History button, it brings up a version slider that scrolls back to the various saved changes that were made as you wrote the document. Click the Restore button to save the version you want, or copy and paste specific pieces of text you want to re-use.
Keeping In Sync
Another advantage of Simplenote is that your saved documents can be synced and accessed from iOS and Android devices, as well as your Simplenote web account.
Simplenote for the iPad and iPhone was also recently updated with a clean modern iOS 7 design. It almost feels like you’re typing on paper. In addition to the same sharing and revision features in the desktop client, the app also allows you to share the entire contents of a document via email. Oddly, however, in Messages and Twitter, Simplenote also shares the entire content of a document, instead of a link to the document. I’m not sure if that’s what the developers actually intended.
I’ve added Simplenote to my Mac’s dock despite using MarsEdit for writing and sending articles to WordPress, and Scrivener for longer writing projects. Simplenote will be used for shorter pieces of writing and pages of notes that I find easier to use than launching Evernote. By the way, Scrivener documents can be synced with Simplenote, but it does require some setup. See the video tutorial on this Scrivener page.
There are several features that I hope will be added to Simplenote. For one I would like to be able to enlarge the text and change the font style, and though the app can be opened in full screen mode I would prefer a composition mode in which only the text editor window opens and hides everything else on the desktop. It might also be useful to include a link sharing feature to Twitter and Facebook.
Let us know what you think of Simplenote and what features you would like to see added.
Image Credits: PlaceIt by Breezi.