Evernote is the world’s most widely used notebook application, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement. Letterspace and Fetchnotes are two alternative iOS notebooks that focus on quickly adding and accessing notes.
I use several iOS and Mac notebooks for different purposes, and I’m always willing to try out new ones. Though my Evernote account is brimming with notes and other content I’ve saved over the years, I mostly use it for ongoing projects and still prefer lightweight notebooks for quickly typing notes and pasting content from other sources.
My latest iOS notebook app of choice is the fairly new Letterspace, which doesn’t match Evernote for features, but focuses on aesthetics and unique features like using hashtags for filtering notes. Letterspace is similar to its predecessor, Fetchnotes, which is also based on the hashtag system.
If you’re looking for a supplement or an alternative to Evernote, let me — a notebook junkie — suggest one of these for pure simplicity and ease of use.
A Word About Evernote
In case you’re not familiar with Evernote (also check out our free manual), it’s a cross-platform digital notebook for saving notes, PDFs, webpages, and even video files within a hierarchy of notebooks and stacks (multiple notebooks). Individual notes can be tagged and filtered by search.
Evernote has over a hundred million users, and it’s supported by dozens of other apps, in addition to its own cross-platform clipping service which enables users to clip content directly to their Evernote account using a computer or mobile device, without launching the application.
Content in Evernote can be easily shared, and an upgrade to a premium account unlocks collaboration features that allow notes to be shared and edited by other users.
There’s no doubt about it – Evernote is the top digital file drawer for managing and sharing notes. But many users complain that Evernote can become a little bloated and slow to sync content between devices. Evernote also may not be the best solution for adding random notes not related existing notebooks and projects. Let’s see how Letterspace and Fetch can be useful alternatives.
Letterspace (free, iOS only)
As a dedicated paperless user, I read most digital content on my iPad and iPhone. As an active reader, I like to save quotes and jot down notes and ideas on the fly. For simple saving simple notes that don’t belong to a major project, I now use the iOS and Mac versions of Letterspace, because the application allows for tagging notes (using a hashtag) without the need to open notebooks or folders in other apps on my iPad.
So for example, if I’m reading an article in the magazine style app, Zite, I can select and copy a piece of content, and quickly paste it to Letterspace. The app includes a toolbar for quickly tagging one or more words that identifies what the note is about.
The side panel of Letterspace consists of all your individual hashtags for filtering notes. Each hashtag becomes a virtual folder.
In the latest update of Letterspace, users can tap on a tag, and when they add a new note, the tag is automatically inserted in the note. You can also place an @ character in front of a name in order to filter content by mentions.
Long-press on the side panel or an open note to create a new note. This saves the trouble of tapping the + button at the topic of the app.
Letterspace syncs content between its iOS and Mac versions via iCloud, and it supports the universal share sheet within iOS for exporting an open note to other iOS apps. In the Mac version, sharing is limited to Mail, Messages, and Airdrop, but notes can also be exported as a PDF or HTML document. Letterspace also includes options for changing the font size and style of text, and selected notes can be archived or trashed with a simple swipe.
Unlike Evernote, Letterspace doesn’t allow for collaboration with other users, and it lacks a online platform for sharing notes. In addition, Letterspace doesn’t allow for adding images, PDFs, or media files. Letterspace is simply for text notes, and for many users (like myself) that might be its main attraction.
My list of tags in Letterspace has already grown rather long, and the app doesn’t allow for grouping them. But I still prefer this app over Evernote for quickly adding content that I don’t want or need to save in Evernote.
It would be useful if Letterspace included an iOS widget, similar to what Evernote offers, for quickly sharing clippings from Safari, and a Mac Notification Center widget for quickly opening the app from within any other app.
Letterspace is free, but you can support the developers by making an in-app purchase of one or more color themes ($1.99 each). Themes are accessed by tapping the font symbol in composition mode, which is also where the font style and size can be changed. Currently, there’s unfortunately no Android version of the app.
Fetchnotes (free, also on Android) [No Longer Available]
Fetchnotes works similarly to Letterspace in that it’s a text-only note taking app, but it also provides online access to notes via a browser app. In addition, Fetchnotes has a reminders feature similar to Evernote, and notes can be shared with other invited Fetchnotes users.
I don’t find Fetchnotes’s UI as clean as Letterspace’s, but it does have some advantages over the former. When you create a new note in Fetchnotes, you can tap and pull up all your existing hashtags in the note editor, instead of having to type the hashtag. Like Letterspace, if you create a new note within a selected hashtag “folder,” it is automatically added to the new note.
The panel of hashtags in Fetchnotes are tucked away, which requires another tap to pull them up, whereas with the iOS version of Letterspace you simply swipe to the right to access all the hashtags.
If you want Fetchnotes to serve as a to-do manager, you can assign reminders, as well as share notes to and via other apps using the iOS share sheet. While composing notes, Fetchnotes also allows for sharing a note with users of the app, using their @username. The sharing feature also allows you to use an email address or mobile number, but that part didn’t seem to work too well for me.
Fetchnotes doesn’t have a Mac or PC version, but it does allow for registering an online account for accessing and syncing all your notes from a web browser. The online version also allows for adding adding one or more photos as well as a time reminder to notes. Photos can actually be added from different sources, including your computer, Google Drive and Dropbox.
For some users, Fetchnotes may not be as elegantly designed as Letterspace, but since it’s free, it’s worth downloading, especially for its additional features not found in the latter app.
Will You Switch?
There’s no shortage of notebook apps for iOS or Android, each providing unique features, cloud storage and huge numbers of users. I personally prefer and recommend apps that are simple, easy to manage and let you add and access your notes in a speedy manner – which is why both Letterspace and Fetchnotes are great options for those of you looking to supplement or replace your Evernote habit.
Let know what you think! Are Letterspace or Fetchnotes adequate for most notebook junkies?